Important Update 4th December 2023

A statement made this evening by James Cleverley, the UK Home Secretary, will have a massive impact on Skilled Worker Visas in 2024 and beyond. In the statement, a series of amendments to the UK immigration system were announced. Amongst these changes was a proposal to increase the minimum salary threshold for Skilled Worker Visas from £26,200 to £38,700. This change will align it with the median salary in the UK. It’s important to note that Health and Care Worker visa routes are exempt from these changes.

In addition to the changes to the minimum salary threshold, changes have also been proposed to how shortage occupations are treated. Currently, roles on the shortage occupation list can be filled by overseas workers who are paid up to 20% less than the going rate salary. This so-called “cut price immigration” will be stopped by removing the going rate discount. The other change will be to the shortage occupation list, which will be reformed in light of the new salary requirements, with the expectation that fewer roles will be included on the list.

We appreciate these changes are concerning developments and may have far-reaching implications for many migrants. If you plan on applying for a Skilled Worker Visa in the next 12 months, we recommend contacting us at your earliest convenience to discuss your circumstances and how you should proceed.

What is a UK Skilled Worker Visa?

The UK Skilled Worker Visa is a visa category designed for skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland who want to work in the United Kingdom. It was introduced as part of the UK’s new points-based immigration system, which came into effect on December 1, 2020. This visa category replaced the previous Tier 2 (General) Visa.

The Skilled Worker Visa aims to attract highly skilled individuals to contribute to the UK’s workforce and economy. It offers opportunities for individuals with job offers from UK employers to come and work in the country. The visa allows successful applicants to live and work in the UK for a specified period, usually up to five years. After this time, the applicant should be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Applicants must meet certain requirements to be eligible for the Skilled Worker Visa. These include a valid job offer from a UK employer with a sponsor license. The job offer must meet the minimum skill and salary thresholds, ensuring that the position is at an appropriate skill level and offers a competitive salary. Applicants must also demonstrate proficiency in the English language and accumulate a minimum of 70 points across these different requirements. Should an applicant meet all of these criteria, then the application should be approved subject to the appropriate supporting documentation being supplied.

This guide will examine the eligibility requirements, process, and documents required for a skilled worker visa. This comprehensive guide should address any questions you may have, but if there are still outstanding questions, please feel free to contact our team.

What are the Eligibility Requirements for a Skilled Worker Visa?

There are various different components to a UK Skilled Worker Visa. Each of these needs to be addressed and satisfied for the visa to be granted:

  • Points-Based System Requirement: The Skilled Worker Visa operates on a points-based system. Applicants must accumulate a minimum of 70 points to be eligible. Points are awarded based on factors such as having a job offer from an approved sponsor, meeting the skill and salary requirements, and demonstrating English language proficiency.
  • Job Offer Requirement: Applicants must have a job offer from a UK employer with a valid sponsor license. The job offer must be at the required skill level, which generally means the job is classified at RQF (Regulated Qualifications Framework) Level 3 or above.
  • Skill and Salary Threshold: The job offer must meet the minimum skill and salary thresholds. Applicants must be offered a salary that meets or exceeds the general salary threshold (currently £26,200 per year) and the specific salary threshold for their occupation.
  • English Language Requirement: Applicants are required to demonstrate their knowledge of the English language. This can be done by passing an approved English language test, holding a degree taught in English, or in several other ways.
  • Sponsorship and Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS): The employer must have a valid sponsor license and issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to the applicant. The CoS contains information about the job and the individual, and it is required during the visa application process.
  • Maintenance Requirement: The applicant must be able to support themselves and any dependents upon arrival to the UK.

 

Points-Based System Requirement

To be eligible for a UK Skilled Worker Visa, you need to achieve 70 points under the points-based system. Points are allocated as follows:

CharacteristicsMandatory/TradeablePoints
Offer of job by approved sponsorMandatory20
Job at appropriate skill levelMandatory20
Speaks English at required levelMandatory10
Salary of £20,480 to £23,039 or at least 80% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)Tradeable0
Salary of £23,040 to £25,599 or at least 90% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)Tradeable10
Salary of £26,200 or above or at least the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)Tradeable20
Job in a shortage occupation as designated by the Migration Advisory CommitteeTradeable20
Education qualification: PhD in a subject relevant to the jobTradeable10
Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the jobTradeable20

It is important to note that some requirements are mandatory, while others are tradeable. You must achieve at least 70 points and satisfy all mandatory requirements in order for the visa to be approved.

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Job Offer, Skill, and Salary Threshold Requirements

For a role to be suitable for a Skilled Worker Visa, several different requirements need to be met:

  1. Job Offer: A valid job offer from a UK employer must be issued, and the employer must hold a valid sponsor license. The job offer must be for a position suitable for sponsorship under the Skilled Worker route.
  2. Skill Level: The job must be at an RQF Level 3 or above skill level. This means it should generally require a qualification equivalent to A-levels or above.
  3. Salary Requirement: The job offer must meet the minimum salary threshold. The salary offered must either meet the general salary threshold, which is currently £26,200 per year, or the specific salary requirement for the occupation, whichever is higher.
  4. Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS): The employer must issue you a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). The CoS contains information about the job and your details and is required during the visa application process.

The occupations suitable for a Skilled Worker Visa are subject to periodic review. There is also an array of circumstances where the minimum salary requirement can be varied based on the job role, the applicant’s educational background, and the specific circumstances of the offer. We’d suggest checking the government website for the latest information or contacting First Migration to discuss the specific circumstances of the application.

 

English Language Requirement

To meet the English language requirement for the UK Skilled Worker Visa, you must demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, and understanding English at a minimum level of B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale.

There are various ways to prove your knowledge of English:

  1. Secure English Language Test (SELT): You can take a SELT from an approved provider to demonstrate your English language skills. These tests are designed specifically for immigration purposes and assess your proficiency in English.
  2. Academic Qualifications: You may be exempt from taking an English language test if you have certain academic qualifications. These qualifications include a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher, or Advanced Higher in English. However, it is important that these qualifications were obtained by studying at a UK school before age 18.
  3. English-Taught Degree: If you have a degree-level academic qualification taught in English, you may also meet the English language requirement. However, if you studied abroad, you must apply through Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC) to confirm that your qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or PhD.
  4. Healthcare Professionals: For individuals working in specific healthcare professions, such as doctors, dentists, nurses, midwives, and veterinarians, the requirement to prove English language proficiency may be different. If you belong to one of these professions and have already passed an English Language assessment accepted by the relevant regulated professional body, you do not need to provide further evidence of your English language skills. However, if you are a veterinarian, there may be an additional requirement to demonstrate that you have passed an English Language assessment specifically with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
  5. Citizen of an English Speaking Country: You do not need to prove your knowledge of English if you’re a national of a majority English-speaking country. A full list is available on our English language knowledge centre guide.

Maintenance Requirement

To demonstrate your ability to support yourself in the UK, you must have a minimum of £1,270 in your bank account. This amount should have been available for a continuous period of at least 28 days. The 28th day must fall within 31 days before submitting your visa application.

Typically, you need to provide evidence of these funds unless:

  • You have been residing in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months.
  • Your employer is willing to cover your expenses for the first month in the UK, up to £1,270.

It’s important to note that your partner and children accompanying you must also demonstrate their financial ability to support themselves while in the UK. The additional maintenance funds required are as follows:

  • £285 for your partner
  • £315 for one child
  • £200 for each additional child

If your employer can support your financial needs instead, it must be explicitly mentioned in your Certificate of Sponsorship. Your employer should complete the ‘sponsor certifies maintenance’ section, located under ‘Additional data’ on your certificate.

Sponsorship and Certificate of Sponsorship Requirement

The Sponsorship and Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) requirements are important aspects of the UK Skilled Worker Visa application process. These requirements need to be undertaken directly by the employer. Here’s an overview of these requirements:

  1. Sponsorship: To apply for a Skilled Worker Visa, you must have a valid job offer from a UK employer with a valid sponsor license issued by the Home Office. The employer must be registered as a sponsor and have a sponsor license to sponsor skilled workers.
  2. Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS): Once the UK employer has offered you a job, they will issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). The CoS is a unique reference number assigned to your job offer and contains information about the role, salary, and other relevant details. It serves as evidence that the employer has offered you a genuine position.

It’s important to note that the employer generates the CoS through the Sponsor Management System (SMS), the online platform UK employers use to manage their sponsor duties and responsibilities. The CoS is not to be confused with a physical or paper certificate. It is a digital reference number used in the visa application process. You must provide the CoS reference number when submitting your visa application.

Skilled Visa Document List

During the application process for a UK Skilled Worker Visa, you will be required to provide the following documents and information:

  1. Certificate of Sponsorship Reference Number: Your employer will provide a certificate of sponsorship reference number, a unique identifier for your job offer.
  2. Proof of English Language Proficiency: You must provide evidence of your English language skills per the specified requirements.
  3. Valid Passport or Identity Document: You must submit a valid passport or another acceptable document verifying your nationality and identity.
  4. Job Title and Annual Salary: You need to provide details of your job title and the annual salary offered for the position.
  5. Job’s Occupation Code: Include the occupation code associated with your job, which helps identify the specific occupation under the Skilled Worker route.
  6. Employer’s Name and Sponsor License Number: Provide your employer’s name and sponsor license number, which can be found on your certificate of sponsorship.

Additionally, depending on your circumstances, you may be asked to provide other supporting documents, such as:

  • Evidence of sufficient personal savings to support yourself in the UK (unless your certificate of sponsorship states that your employer will support you financially).
  • Proof of your relationship with your partner or children if they apply with you.
  • Tuberculosis test results if you come from a country on the specified list.
  • Criminal record certificate if your occupation falls within certain fields, such as education, healthcare, therapy, or social services.
  • Valid ATAS certificate if your employer informs you that your job involves sensitive research at PhD level or higher.
  • UK PhD certificate or unique Ecctis reference number (formerly known as unique UK NARIC reference number) if your qualification is obtained outside the UK (for non-UK PhD holders).

Certified translations will be required if your documents are not in English or Welsh.

Skilled Worker Visa Rights and Entitlements

With a Skilled Worker visa, you have the following permissions:

  • Engage in eligible employment.
  • Pursue studies.
  • Bring your spouse and children as dependents if they meet the eligibility criteria.
  • Take on additional employment in specific circumstances.
  • Engage in voluntary work.
  • Travel outside the UK and return.
  • Apply for settlement (indefinite leave to remain) after living in the UK for 5 years and meeting other eligibility criteria.

However, there are certain restrictions:

  • You are not eligible for most public funds or the State Pension.
  • Changing jobs or employers requires updating your visa through the application process.

Upon successful application, you will receive a comprehensive list outlining the activities you are permitted or prohibited from doing with a Skilled Worker visa.

Skilled Worker Visa Application Fees

The fees applicable for a UK Skilled Worker Visa are detailed in the table below:

Application TypeUp to 3 YearsOver 3 Years
Applying from outside the UK£719£1420
Applying from inside the UK (switching, extending, or updating)£827£1500
Role on the shortage occupation list £551£1084

In addition to the application fees, other fees will be payable:

  • Biometric appointment fee – These appointments can be booked online for free if you book far enough in advance. However, a fee of up to £250 is payable for priority and last minute appointments.
  • Immigration Health Surcharge – All Skilled Worker Visa holders and any dependants are liable to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). This costs £624 per year for each adult and £470 per year for each child under 18.

You should confirm with your prospective employer who will be paying these fees before commencing an application to avoid any confusion.

Skilled Worker Visa Processing Times

After submitting your online application, verifying your identity, and submitting the necessary documents, you can generally expect to receive a decision back within three weeks. However, if your application requires additional time for document verification, an interview, or personal circumstances like a criminal conviction, you will be notified accordingly. It is possible to expedite the decision process by paying an additional fee, and you will be informed of this option when submitting your application.