The Skilled Worker Visa is open to individuals of all nationalities (except British and Irish) who have an offer of an eligible skilled job in the UK from a Home Office-approved sponsor. The route can lead to settlement and applicants can be joined by dependent partners and children.
In order to secure a Skilled Worker Visa you will need to be sponsored to do a specific job, which meets certain skill and salary requirements, by an employer that has been licensed by the Home Office.
There is no cap on the number of people who can enter the UK on the Skilled Worker route.
Requirements for a Skilled Worker Visa
In order to qualify for a Skilled Worker Visa, you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:
- You are aged 18 or over;
- You have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship for the job you are planning to do;
- Your job offer is a genuine vacancy;
- Your sponsor has paid any required Immigration Skills Charge;
- Your job is at an appropriate skill level;
- You are competent in the English language to at least CEFR Level B1 (equivalent to IELTS 4.0);
- You will be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both a general salary threshold and the ‘going rate’ for the occupation;
- You have enough money to support yourself without relying on public funds;
- You have provided a criminal record certificate, if required; and
- You have provided a valid TB certificate, if required.
The exact requirements you will need to satisfy will vary depending on your circumstances. You may want to speak to an immigration lawyer for expert advice.
Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) requirement
In order to obtain a Skilled Worker Visa you must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship for the job you are planning to do. Your Certificate of Sponsorship will need to have been issued by an employer that is authorised by the Home Office to sponsor the job in question under the Skilled Worker route.
Your sponsor must be listed as A-rated on the Home Office’s register of licensed sponsors, unless you were last granted permission as a Skilled Worker and are applying to continue working for the same sponsor as in your last permission.
Your Certificate of Sponsorship must have been issued not more than 3 months before the date of your Skilled Worker application.
Your Certificate of Sponsorship must include certain mandatory information, including:
- details of your name, job and salary;
- a start date which is no more than 3 months after the date your Skilled Worker visa application;
- confirmation that the Certificate of Sponsorship has not been used in a previous application which was either granted or refused and has not been withdrawn by the sponsor or cancelled by the Home Office;
Genuine vacancy requirement
In order to be granted a Skilled Worker Visa, you will need to satisfy the Home Office that you are being sponsored to undertake a genuine vacancy and are capable of undertaking the role for which your Certificate of Sponsorship has been assigned.
If there are reasonable grounds to believe that the job you are being sponsored to do does not exist, is a sham or has been created mainly so that you can apply for a Skilled Worker Visa then your application will be refused.
The Home Office will also want to be satisfied that you have not entered into an arrangement whereby you will fill a temporary or permanent position, or undertake contract work which involves undertaking an ongoing routine role or providing an ongoing routine service to a third party who is not your sponsor.
Immigration Skills Charge requirement
Your sponsor must also have paid in full any required Immigration Skills Charge.
The Immigration Skills Charge is a charge for each foreign worker that a sponsoring employer seeks to employ. The Immigration Skills Charge must be paid each time a sponsoring employer assigns a Certificate of Sponsorship to a migrant.
Appropriate skill level requirement
In order to qualify for a Skilled Worker Visa, the job you are being sponsored for must be an eligible job at or above a minimum skill level.
Under the Skilled Worker Visa route, the role you are looking to fill must be skilled to at least RQF level 3, which is roughly equivalent to A-levels.
You do not need to hold a formal qualification in order to satisfy the skills level requirement. It is the skill level of the job that you will be doing that will determine whether the threshold is met.
The Home Office sets out eligible jobs, along with their skills levels, in an Appendix to the Immigration Rules. Each eligible job has an occupation code. You must be sponsored for a job in an eligible occupation code listed in the Appendix.
Your sponsor must choose an appropriate occupation code. If the Home Office has reasonable grounds to believe that your sponsor has not chosen the most appropriate occupation code then your application for a Skilled Worker Visa will be refused.
In assessing whether your sponsor has chosen the most appropriate occupation code, the Home Office will consider factors such as whether they have shown a genuine need for the job as described, whether you have the appropriate skills, qualifications and experience needed to do the job as described and the sponsor’s history of compliance with the immigration system.
English language requirement
In order to qualify for a Skilled Worker Visa you will need demonstrate English language ability on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in all 4 components (reading, writing, speaking and listening) to at least level B1 (intermediate).
Prospective employees applying for entry clearance or leave to remain as a Skilled Worker will satisfy the English language requirement if they:
- Are a national of a majority English-speaking country;
- Have passed a Secure English Language Test;
- Have been awarded a degree taught in English;
- Obtained a GCSE/A Level or Scottish Highers in English while at school in the UK; or
- Have already shown they met the requirement, of level B1, in a previous successful application for entry clearance or permission to stay.
Minimum salary requirement
Employers seeking to recruit under the Skilled Worker route must (subject to being able to trade points as set out below) pay their skilled workers a salary which equals or exceeds both a general salary threshold and the ‘going rate’ for the occupation (as set out in the relevant occupation code mentioned above), whichever is higher.
The general salary threshold under the Skilled Worker route is £25,600 a year. Therefore, in most cases an applicant for a Skilled Worker Visa must be paid a salary which equals or exceeds £25,600 a year and 100% of the going rate for the occupation, whichever is higher. The assessment of salary is based on guaranteed basic gross pay.
Some sponsored skilled workers applying under the Skilled Worker route may be paid less than the above amount, where they are awarded additional so-called ‘tradable points’ for other attributes:
- An applicant with a PhD qualification which is relevant to the job may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both £23,040 per year and 90% of the going rate for the occupation;
- An applicant with a PhD qualification in a STEM subject which is relevant to the job may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both £20,480 per year and 80% of the going rate for the occupation;
- An applicant with a job offer for a job in a shortage occupation may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both £20,480 per year and 80% of the going rate for the occupation;
- An applicant who is a new entrant to the labour market may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both £20,480 per year and 70% of the going rate for the occupation;
- An application for a job in a listed health or education occupation may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both £20,480 per year and 80% of the going rate for the occupation.
What is a ‘job in a shortage occupation’?
The Home Office maintains a list of skilled roles where employers find it difficult to secure adequate numbers of workers with the required skills to fill their vacancies. As set out above, if you have a job offer for a job on the shortage occupation list, the salary threshold requirement will be reduced.
Who is a ‘new entrant to the labour market’?
New entrants to the labour market include those under the age of 26 at the date of application (or switching from a Student Visa) and applying for a maximum of three years leave, those sponsored in postdoctoral research positions and those working towards professional qualifications, registration or chartered status. As set out above, if you qualify as a new entrant to the labour market then the salary threshold requirement will be reduced.
Subject to the exemptions below, you will need to have cash funds of at least £1,270 available.
You will need to have held the money for at least 28 consecutive days ending not more than 31 days before the date of your Skilled Worker Visa application.
You will be exempt from the financial requirement if you have a fully ‘A-rated’ sponsor who is willing to meet your maintenance costs up to the end of the first month of your employment, to an amount of at least £1,270, if necessary. Your sponsor will need to confirm this on your Certificate of Sponsorship.
If you are applying for permission to stay and have been in the UK with permission for 12 months or more at the date of application, you will meet the financial requirement and will not need to show funds.
Criminal record certificate requirement
If you are applying for entry clearance and being sponsored for certain jobs (broadly comprising jobs in the health, care, welfare and education sectors) then, unless it is not reasonably practical to do so, you will need to provide a criminal record certificate for any country in which, since the age of 18, you have been present for 12 months or more (whether continuously or in total) in the 10 years before the date of your application.
Do sponsors need to complete a Resident Labour Market Test?
Unlike its predecessor route, there is no requirement for employers sponsoring skilled workers under the Skilled Worker Visa route to undertake a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT). However, sponsors must still be seeking to fill a genuine vacancy.
Switching into the Skilled Worker Visa Route
If you currently have leave to remain in another immigration category, you may extend your stay by switching into the Skilled Worker route unless you have, or were last granted, permission as a Visitor, Short-term student, Parent of a Child Student, Seasonal Worker, Domestic Worker in a Private Household or outside the Immigration Rules.
Is there a cooling off period in the Skilled Worker route?
Under its predecessor route, those applying for entry clearance or to switch into the Tier 2 (General) route had to have not been in the UK as a Tier 2 (General) migrant during the past 12 months. Under the Skilled Worker route, the 12-month ‘cooling off period’ has been removed. There is no restriction on when applications to enter the Skilled Worker Visa route can be made.
How long does a Skilled Worker Visa last?
If your application for a Skilled Worker Visa is approved you will be granted entry clearance or permission to stay for a period ending 14 days after the end date of your Certificate of Sponsorship (which may be up to a maximum of 5 years after the start date of your Certificate of Sponsorship).
Dependants of Skilled Workers
Skilled Workers may be joined or accompanied by a dependent partner over the age of 18 and/or or a dependent child under the age of 18.
Is there a maximum time in the Skilled Worker route?
Under the former Tier 2 (General) route, those applying for entry clearance or to switch into the route had to satisfy a requirement to spend a maximum of six years in the route.
Under the Skilled Worker route, the six-year maximum length of stay in the route has been removed. There is no restriction on the length of stay.
Conditions of stay as a Skilled Worker
Skilled Worker Visa holders are permitted to work in the job they have been sponsored for. They may also undertake supplementary employment provided they continue to work in the job for which they are being sponsored. Study is also permitted, subject to the condition to provide an ATAS Certificate where required. Access to public funds is not permitted.
Skilled Worker to UK settlement
In order to qualify for Settlement as a Skilled Worker, you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:
- You have spent a continuous period of 5 years in the UK;
- The 5-year continuous period consisted of time with permission on any of, or any combination of, the following routes: Skilled Worker, Global talent, Innovator, Tier 2 Minister of Religion, Tier 2 Sportsperson, Representative of an Overseas Business or as a Tier 1 Migrant (other than as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Migrant);
- You have not been outside for more than 180 days during each year of the 5-year continuous period;
- You have passed the Life in the UK test (unless aged 65 or over);
- Your sponsor is still a Home Office approved sponsor;
- Your sponsor still requires you to work for them for the foreseeable future;
- You are being, and will be paid for the foreseeable future, at least the general salary threshold or the going rate requirement, whichever is higher.
ILR Salary Threshold Requirement
For most applicants, your salary must be at least £25,600 per year or the ‘going rate’ for the occupation (as set out in the relevant occupation code), whichever is higher.
However, the following applicants need only demonstrate that they receive a salary of at least £20,480 per year or the ‘going rate’ for the occupation, whichever is higher:
- If you were sponsored in your most recent application for a job in a shortage occupation or a specified health or education occupation code; or
- If your 5-year qualifying period for settlement includes time as a Tier 2 (General) Migrant during which you were sponsored for a job in one of the following occupation codes:
- 2111 Chemical scientists
- 2112 Biological scientists and biochemists
- 2113 Physical scientists
- 2114 Social and humanities scientists
- 2119 Natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified
- 2150 Research and development managers
- 2311 Higher education teaching professionals
Other salary reductions permitted through tradable points do not apply to settlement applications.
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.