The Skilled Worker visa, has replaced the Tier 2 (General) visa, is the main UK immigration route for non-UK resident workers. The visa is open to individuals who attain 70 points by meeting specific requirements such as skill and salary threshold, English language ability and having a qualifying job offer from a UK sponsor.
The applicable 70 points threshold for a Skilled Worker visa is made up of 50 points for mandatory or ‘non-tradeable’ criteria (ie; the job offer, speaking English and the requisite skill level for the job on offer), and 20 points for what’s classed as ‘tradeable’ criteria. Roles that fall below the required skill level of below RQF3, which is the equivalent of an A-level, will not be eligible for the skilled visa route.
The Skilled Worker visa general minimum salary threshold is £25,600 per year, unless the ‹going rate› for the particular role is higher. Every occupational code is assigned a going rate.
The salary level must be calculated by the hour and not just annually. Minimum pay can be no less than £10.10 per hour, even if the annual salary is above the required level. In some cases, where the job on offer will pay less than the general salary threshold or specific salary requirement for that role – but no less than £20,480 – the applicant may still be eligible to apply for a Skilled Worker visa by trading specific characteristics against a lower salary to attain the required number of points.
Provided their salary is at least £20,480 per year, the applicant can rely on a salary of 70% – 90% of the relevant going rate for the job, provided one of the following applies: where an applicant has a job offer in a specific shortage occupation; or they have a postdoctoral position in science or higher education; or they have a science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) PhD level qualification relevant to the job (if they have a relevant PhD level qualification in any other subject the salary must be at least £23,040); or they are a ‘new entrant’ to the UK labour market.
A new entrant is someone who is under 26 on the date they make their application and is applying for a maximum period of 3 years’ leave as a skilled worker, those sponsored in postdoctoral research positions, those in professional training or studying for professional qualifications, registration or chartered status or a recent graduate, or in professional training.
The required level of English is a minimum level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages scale for reading, writing, speaking and understanding English.
Most Skilled Worker visa applicants will need to prove they meet the English language requirement, unless they have already done so as part of a previous UK immigration application or if they are a national of one of a number of exempt countries.
Unless exempt, language ability must be evidenced by either having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English; having a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English; or passing an approved Secure English Language Test (SELT).
Applicants are exempt from the English language requirement if they are from:
Before the worker can submit their visa application, their UK sponsor must first issue them a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to confirm that the individual and role meet the sponsorship eligibility requirements.
The CoS is a reference number that the Skilled Worker visa applicant will need to provide with their Home Office application. Only licenced sponsors can issue a CoS. There are now two types of Certificates of Sponsorship: the defined Certificate of Sponsorship and the undefined Certificate of Sponsorship. These replace the old restricted and unrestricted CoS, which were applicable prior to 1 December 2020.
Sponsors will need to apply for a defined CoS. This is a specific application to the Home Office, and details of the specific job and salary will need to be provided.
For undefined CoS, sponsors will either be asked to submit a request for a yearly allocation in advance of April, or they will be allocated a quantity automatically. It is also possible to apply for additional COS during the year.
The skilled worker visa is usually granted for up to 5 years. At this point, the visa holder would need to apply to extend the visa or on completing the 5-year residency requirement, they may become eligible to apply for UK indefinite leave the remain.
Employers looking to employ either EEA or non-EEA nationals to undertake skilled work will have to hold a sponsorship licence to be able to sponsor migrant workers, before the individuals can apply for their visa.
To be eligible for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence the organisation must provide evidence that it is a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK, and that it is suitable to sponsor skilled migrant workers. In assessing suitability, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will consider if:
The organisation can offer genuine employment in the UK that meets the required skills threshold of RQF3 or above, and pay a salary of at least £25,600 or the going rate for the job, whichever is the higher.
The organisation is capable of meeting the sponsorship duties, where they have in place adequate HR systems and practices, and suitable key personnel, to do so. The key personnel are the people who will operate the sponsor management system (SMS), and be responsible for discharging the duties as a licensed sponsor.
The organisation, its key personnel and management are honest, dependable and reliable, where any history of immigration violations or relevant unspent criminal convictions relating to those involved in the day-to-day running of the business, or the key personnel named on the sponsor licence application, could affect its ability to sponsor overseas workers.