Skilled Worker Visa Guidance

skilled worker visa

Do you meet the requirements to apply for the UK’s Skilled Worker Visa?

 
The UK Government created the Skilled Worker Visa route in December 2020. This new work visa route replaced what was previously known as the Tier 2 (General) Visa. The Skilled Worker Visa is the primary work-related visa category under the new Points-Based Immigration System available for those seeking to move to the United Kingdom.

At first, the Skilled Worker Visa process may seem daunting, but once you have confirmation of an eligible job from an approved employer it is overall a simple application for most individuals. It is important to ensure that you follow the correct steps to apply for your Skilled Worker Visa, as your ability to move to and work in the United Kingdom will depend upon the acceptance of your application by the Home Office. This article will outline common questions and concerns from international skilled workers who are applying for a Skilled Worker Visa.
 

What is the UK Skilled Worker Visa?

The UK Skilled Worker Visa is a work-based visa category that permits individuals to live and work in the United Kingdom while doing an approved job with an eligible employer. Previously, this visa was known as the Tier 2 (General) Visa and had more restrictive requirements that made gaining employment in the UK challenging. Since the introduction of the new Points-Based Immigration System in December 2020, there has been an overhaul of the work visa system. This means that anyone who wants to work in the UK must meet a number of requirements that assign points to applicants. If applicants meet the minimum number of points, they will be granted a visa. The new route provides greater flexibility in the ways an individual can meet the requirements of the Skilled Worker Visa route and a broader array of eligible occupations.
 

What does the UK Skilled Worker Visa allow?

A UK Skilled Worker Visa allows for specific activities throughout your visa. You can do the following activities:

  • You can work in your eligible job
  • You can study at a university or college whilst working in your job
  • You can bring your spouse/partner and children as dependants, if they meet eligibility criteria
  • You can undertake voluntary work
  • You may be able to undertake additional paid work for up to 20 hours a week, if the job is at the same level and occupation code as your primary job or in a shortage occupation
  • You can travel abroad and return to the UK
  • You can apply for settlement in the UK via Indefinite Leave to Remain after living in the UK for five years, if eligible

 

A UK Skilled Worker Visa does not allow for the following activities:

  • You cannot apply for most benefits, also known as Public Funds, or a new State Pension
  • You cannot change employers or jobs unless you update your visa permission with the Home Office

 

Who can apply for a Skilled Worker Visa?

Most individuals seeking to work in the UK will require a Skilled Worker Visa. Prior to 1 January 2021, nationals from the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein did not need to have a visa to live and work in the UK due to Britain’s membership in the European Union. Today, non-UK nationals seeking to live and work in the UK who are not members of the EU Settlement Scheme will be required to apply for and be granted a Skilled Worker Visa. Irish citizens do not require a UK visa to live and work in the United Kingdom.
 

Skilled Worker Visa requirements

To apply for a Skilled Worker Visa to move to the UK, you must meet a total number of 70 points under the following eligibility requirements:

  • You must be age 18 or over
  • You must have been offered a job with an eligible UK employer that will pay you the minimum salary requirement (20 points – Mandatory)
  • Your job must be eligible for a Skilled Worker Visa at an appropriate skill level (20 points – Mandatory)
  • Your job must pay you the minimum salary or ‘going rate’; this is generally at least £25,600 per year (20 points – Tradeable)
  • Your job must be with an employer who has been registered as an official sponsor by the Home Office and has an up-to-date Certificate of Sponsorship
  • Your employer must provide you with an official occupation code in line with your role and duties in the job
  • Your employer must have paid the Immigration Skills Charge
  • Your job must be a genuine vacancy within a company or organisation in the UK
  • You must speak English at a minimum B1 Level as identified by the Common European Framework of Languages (10 points – Mandatory)
  • You must have enough money saved to support yourself without relying on public funds or benefits
  • You must provide a criminal record certificate if required for your country of nationality or for your job type
  • You must provide an up-to-date Tuberculosis certificate if required for your country of nationality

 
If your job offer is less than the minimum salary requirement of £25,600 but more than £20,480, you may still be eligible for a Skilled Worker Visa if you meet one of the following conditions:

  • You have a job offer in a specified shortage occupation (20 points – Tradeable)
  • You have a PhD relevant to your job offer (20 points – Tradeable)
  • You have a PhD in a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subject relevant to your job offer (20 points – Tradeable)

 
If you are eligible for a minimum total of 70 points, you are eligible for a Skilled Worker Visa. Please note that the specific requirements may vary depending on the kind of job you have been offered in the UK.
 

How to apply for a UK Skilled Worker Visa

To apply for a UK Skilled Worker Visa, you must follow a series of steps to best assure that your application will be accepted by the Home Office. You can submit this application yourself, or you can hire an agent or representative to apply on your behalf. Your company or organisation for your new job may offer to submit this application on your behalf as part of their hiring and onboarding process.

First, you must have been offered an eligible job with a UK employer that is designated as an approved employer by the UK Home Office. This employer will be required to serve as the sponsor for your Skilled Worker Visa. The list of eligible sponsors, available on the Home Office website, lists thousands of registered employers around the UK.

Your job must also be included on a list of eligible occupations, available on the Home Office website. This extensive list includes a vast range of occupations such as engineers, business analysts, teachers, and much more. In general, your job must be at or above Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) 3 or above. In the UK, this is equivalent to A-Level education or above. If your job is included on the shortage occupation list, you will have fewer requirements and fewer associated fees for your Skilled Worker Visa. The shortage occupation list is a list published by the UK Government that outlines the occupations most needed at any given time in the UK. This list is regularly reviewed and changed. Your job must issue you with an occupation code in line with your job title and job description.

Your job must also be offering an appropriate salary per year in line with the kind of work you will be doing. In most cases, you must be paid either £25,600 per year or the ‘going rate’ for the kind of job you have been offered – whichever is higher. Every occupation code has a related annual ‘going rate’. You will need to research what this amount is in relation to your job offer in line with the lists available on the Home Office website. If you have a PhD in relation to your job field or your job is on the shortage occupation list, you may be able to decrease the minimum salary requirement to £20,480 per year. This may also apply if you work in the healthcare or education sectors.

If your job offer meets all of the above criteria, your new employer will issue you a Certificate of Sponsorship, an occupation code for your job, and a reference number for your Certificate of Sponsorship. This will be issued by the Human Resources department of your new employer.

Second, you must be able to prove your proficiency in the English language. For the Skilled Worker Visa, you must understand, write, speak, and read English at a minimum B1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale. You can prove your proficiency in English in one of the following ways:

  • You have successfully passed a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from a UK government-approved provider of the exam
  • You possess UK secondary school qualifications in English that you earned by studying before the age of 18 at a school in the UK
  • You are a national of a majority English language country from the following list:
    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • Australia
    • The Bahamas
    • Barbados
    • Belize
    • Canada
    • Dominica
    • Grenada
    • Guyana
    • Jamaica
    • Malta
    • New Zealand
    • St Kitts and Nevis
    • St Lucia
    • St Vincent and the Grenadines
    • Trinidad and Tobago
    • USA

 
Third, you will prepare all documents in preparation for submitting your Skilled Worker Visa application. Your documents must be in English or Welsh – if they are not, you will need to provide the original documents alongside certified translations. You will need to prepare the following mandatory documents and information:

  • Your Certificate of Sponsorship – this document will note your reference number, the name of your employer, and your employer’s sponsor licence number
  • Your annual salary, official job title, and job occupation code
  • Your valid passport with a blank page
  • Proof of your English language proficiency

You may additionally need to provide additional information such as the following, depending on your circumstances:

  • A PhD certificate if you studied in the UK or your Ecctis reference number if you studied outside the UK
  • An up-to-date Tuberculosis certificate if required for your country of nationality
  • A criminal record certificate if required for your country of nationality or for certain job types
  • An Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate, if you are researching or working at PhD level or higher in a job involving sensitive research subjects
  • Bank statements proving that you have enough personal savings for at least the past 28 days – at least £1,270 to support yourself financially in the UK – you do not need to provide this documentation if your employer has indicated on your Certificate of Sponsorship that they can support you
  • Proof of relationships, such as marriage certificates or birth certificates, of your relationship with your spouse/partner and children if they are applying with you as dependants
  • Certificates from countries you have lived in, depending on how long you lived in each country and your current age

 
Finally, once you have collected all of your documents you are ready to apply for your Skilled Worker Visa. You can apply from outside the UK, inside the UK if you are extending your current visa, or inside the UK if you are switching from a different visa category.
 

Applying for a Skilled Worker Visa from outside the UK

You will submit your Skilled Worker Visa application online. You must either submit your application from your country of nationality or a country where you have valid immigration permission. During the application, you will need to pay the full cost of the IHS fee of £624 per year of your visa.

For a 5-year visa, the total IHS fee would be £3,120. You will be issued an IHS number as proof of payment to input into the application. At the end of the online application, you will need to pay the application fee. This fee will range from £704 to £1,408 per person. If your job is a shortage occupation and/or you are from an EU country, you can pay less than this amount.

Next, you will need to book a biometrics appointment at a suitable visa application centre in your country of application. You can either upload your supporting documentation online before your appointment or pay an additional fee to have your supporting documentation scanned and uploaded at the appointment. You will have your fingerprints recorded, a photograph taken, and your supporting documentation confirmed at the biometrics appointment. Your passport will likely be sent to the UK government for an entry clearance stamp to be placed inside your passport.

After this appointment, you will normally receive a decision within 3 weeks. You may be able to pay to receive a decision more quickly than this. If your application is successful, you will be issued entry clearance in your passport which will note the first date you can enter the UK. Upon arrival in the UK, you will need to retrieve your Biometric Residence Permit. It will either be shipped to a local Post Office or sent via courier to your mailing address.
 

Applying for a Skilled Worker Visa from inside the UK

If applying from within the UK, you would generally be making an application either to switch into this category from another route, or you are extending your current Skilled Worker visa.

You will submit your Skilled Worker Visa application online. During the application, you will need to pay the full cost of the IHS fee of £624 per year of your visa. For a 5-year visa, the total IHS fee would be £3,120. You will be issued an IHS number as proof of payment to input into the application. At the end of the online application, you will need to pay the application fee. This fee will range from £610 to £1,220 per person. If your job is a shortage occupation and/or you are from an EU country, you can pay less than this amount.

Next, you will need to book a biometrics appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point anywhere in the UK. It will cost £19.20 to book this appointment. You can either upload your supporting documentation online before your appointment or pay an additional fee to have your supporting documentation scanned and uploaded at the appointment. You will have your fingerprints recorded, a photograph taken, and your supporting documentation confirmed at the biometrics appointment. For some applicants, you may be able to use a mobile phone application instead of attending this appointment. You will be instructed on what to do when you submit your online application.

After this appointment or use of the mobile application, you will normally receive a decision within 8 weeks. You may be able to pay to receive a decision more quickly than this. If your application is successful, you will be issued a decision letter or decision email from the Home Office. If your visa extension or visa switch is approved, your Biometric Residence Permit will be sent to your mailing address via courier.
 

Skilled Worker Visa dependants

You may be able to bring dependants to the UK on a Skilled Worker Visa. Their immigration status will be tied to yours throughout the duration of your visa. Dependants are considered the following:

  • A wife, husband, civil partner, or unmarried partner
  • A child under the age of 18
  • A child over the age of 18, if they’re currently in the UK as your dependant

 
As part of the supporting documentation for your Skilled Worker Visa, you will need to provide evidence of your relationship to each of your dependants such as marriage certificates and birth certificates. For children over the age of 16, you may need to provide more specific documentation.

You will need to provide evidence of additional funds to support your dependant family members. In addition to the £1,270 in savings you will need to show evidence of for your own visa application, you or your child or your spouse/partner will need to demonstrate receipt of the following amounts of money for the past 28 days:

  • Your spouse/partner: £285
  • Your first child: £315
  • Additional children: £200

 
Each dependant will need to complete a separate visa application and pay the correct visa application fee and IHS fee. Each dependant will need to include your Unique Application Number on their online visa application.
 

Can I extend my UK Skilled Worker Visa?

The Skilled Worker Visa can last up to 5 years before needing an extension. You can extend your Skilled Worker Visa as long as you meet the eligibility requirements. After 5 years on a Skilled Worker Visas, you may choose to apply for permanent residency in the UK rather than extending your current visa status.
 

Can I obtain UK permanent residency via a Skilled Worker Visa?

If you have lived in the UK for at least 5 years on a Skilled Worker Visa, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residence status, also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). This settlement status allows you to remain in the UK indefinitely without being subject to immigration control. As a permanent resident of the UK, you can work for any employer without limitations, engage in self-employment, or study at any university without needing prior permission from the Home Office. You may also access public funds and benefits as a permanent resident. However, it is important to note that your Indefinite Leave to Remain status can expire if you leave the UK for more than 2 years.

The general eligibility requirements for Indefinite Leave to Remain status through a Skilled Worker Visa are as follows:

  • You have lived in the UK legally for five years
  • You have not broken UK immigration laws over the past 5 years
  • You do not have a criminal record in the UK
  • You have not spent more than 180 days outside the UK in the past 12 months
  • You have successfully passed the Life in the UK Test
  • You speak English at a minimum B1 Level as identified by the Common European Framework of Languages
  • You meet the minimum salary requirement under the Skilled Worker Visa route for your specified job type

 
If you meet these requirements, you can apply online via ILR Form Set (O) to become a permanent resident of the UK. It currently costs £2,389 per person to apply for ILR, and your application will generally be processed within 6 months from the date of application. You can pay additional funds ranging from £500 to £800 to expedite your application.
 

Can I become a British citizen via a Skilled Worker Visa?

If you have lived in the UK for at least 5 years and successfully been granted UK permanent residence status, known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), you may be eligible to become a British citizen. This citizenship status gives you the same rights as any other British citizen and there are no limitations on your ability to live, work, and study in the UK. You can also access public funds and benefits as a British citizen.
 
Importantly, citizenship carries certain benefits not afforded to those who only possess rights of permanent residence in the UK. These benefits include factors such as:

  • Requesting a British passport
  • Voting in all elections – however, you might be able to do so in some elections depending on your existing nationality
  • Standing as a candidate for elections – however, you might be able to do so in some elections depending on your existing nationality
  • Leaving the UK more than 2 years at a time without losing residence rights
  • Obtaining British citizenship for your children if they were born outside the UK

 
To qualify for naturalised British citizenship through your Skilled Worker Visa, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must be 18 years or over
  • You have lived within the UK for at least 3 years before the date of your application
  • You have held legal permanent residence status via Indefinite Leave to Remain for at least 12 months
  • You have not been absent from the UK in the past 12 months for more than 90 days
  • You must be able to prove that you were in the UK exactly 3 years before the day the Home Office receives your application
  • You have successfully passed the Life in the UK Test
  • You speak English at a minimum B1 Level as identified by the Common European Framework of Languages
  • You must meet the ‘good character’ requirements

 
Having lived in the UK for at least 5 years on a Skilled Worker Visa, there are many political, social, economic, and practical benefits of becoming a UK citizen. You may want to apply for British citizenship due to these benefits, or simply because the UK is your home.

 

Skilled Worker Visa FAQs

What is a UK Skilled Worker Visa?

A UK Skilled Worker Visa is a points-based work visa category that allows you to live and work in the UK due to your skillset and knowledge. You can work in an eligible job with an approved employer. In most cases, you will need to earn at least £25,600 per year. After 5 years, you can apply for permanent residence in the UK via Indefinite Leave to Remain.

How much is the application fee for the UK Skilled Worker Visa?

Depending upon your specific circumstances, the application fee for the UK Skilled Worker Visa will range from £610 for visas applied for outside the UK up to 3 years in length related to shortage occupations to £1,408 for visas applied for within the UK for visas more than 3 years in length related to non-shortage occupations. If your job is a shortage occupation and/or you are from an EU country, you can pay less than this amount. You will also need to pay the full cost of the Immigration Health Surcharge which costs £624 per year of your visa.

Who can apply for a UK Skilled Worker Visa?

You can apply for a UK Skilled Worker Visa if you have been offered an eligible job with an approved employer. In most cases, you will need to earn at least £25,600 per year. You must be able to speak English proficiently and be at least 18 years old. You must also have enough money in savings to support yourself without relying on public funds or the benefits system.

What type of jobs are considered ‘skilled’ in the UK?

Many types of jobs are considered ‘skilled’ under the new Points-Based Immigration System. These types of jobs range from engineers to business analysts to teachers and much more. In general, your job must be at or above Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) 3 or above. In the UK, this is equivalent to A-Level qualifications or above.

 

Legal disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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