UK Skilled Worker Visa – How to apply for a UK Work Visa

The Skilled Worker Visa, which has replaced the Tier 2 General Visa, provides a visa route for non-UK workers, enabling employers who are looking to fill gaps in their workforce to hire skilled workers from overseas, provided that they meet the necessary requirements. This article seeks to give a brief overview as to what this route is and how to use it.

What is the Skilled Worker Visa?

At the end of 2020, the UK Government introduced the Skilled Worker Visa, by making changes to the Tier 2 (General Worker) route. It allows employers to recruit non-UK resident workers for certain eligible skilled roles, with the requirement that an individual should attain 70 points by meeting specific requirements, such as English language ability, skills, salary level, and having a qualified job offer from a UK sponsor.

Eligibility requirements

To qualify for a Skilled Worker Visa an applicant needs to meet the criteria for the following areas by accumulating a minimum of 70 points, as summarised below and then explained in more detail.

Skilled worker requirementPoints:
Mandatory: 
Speak English to the required standard10
A job offer at skill level RQF3 or above20
Job offer from a licensed sponsor20
Tradeable Salary points: 
Salary of £20,480 to £23,039 or at least 80% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)0
Salary of £23,040 to £25,599 or at least 90% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)10
Salary of £25,600 or above or at least the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)20
Non-salary tradeable points: 
Education qualification: Ph.D. in a subject relevant to the job10
Job in a shortage occupation as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee20
Education qualification: Ph.D. in science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM)subject relevant to the job20
Job listed in education & health occupation / new entrant to the labour market and applicant’s salary equals or exceeds £20,480 per year or going rate of higher20

Which occupations qualify for a Skilled Worker Visa?

Under the new Skilled Worker Visa route, there is a wide range of recognised occupations. For a job to be eligible for this type of visa it must be on a list of eligible occupation lists, which is published by the government.

You can look up any job title or code using ONS Occupations Coding Tool. The tool provides various job titles and job descriptions, allowing employers to choose job titles that match the vacancy that they are trying to fill, for example: Chefs would fall under code 5434.

However, please note that you must then also look up the code under Eligible Occupation List, as not all jobs are eligible for a Skilled Worker Visa

What qualifications are needed when applying for a Skilled Worker Visa?

Under the Skilled Worker Visa route, the general minimum skill threshold has been lowered from RQF6 (degree level) to RQF3 (this is equivalent to A-levels). This change would allow employers to hire specialists who may not necessarily have very high academic qualifications but have a high level of other skills e.g Welding technician.

What are the minimum salary requirements for a Skilled Worker Visa?

The minimum salary depends on the type of job that has been offered but has also been lowered from the previous threshold of £30,000 to £25,600 per year. This does not mean, however, that an employer is allowed to undercut the local market, as the acceptable salary level would normally need to be at least:

  • £25,600 per year, or
  • £10.10 per hour, or
  • the going rate for the type of work,

The employer is expected to pay the higher out of the three options. The published codes for the occupations would normally state the going rates for that type of employment under Immigration Rules Appendix Skilled Occupations.

What are the English Language Requirements for a Skilled Worker Visa?

The required level of English for this route is B1, meaning that anyone with an English taught degree, or that is from a country whose nationalities that are exempt with English is a recognised first language is seen to have met this requirement.

Other applicants will be expected to sit and pass the English exam from an Approved English Test Centre, normally with the British Council if applying from abroad, or Trinity College London if they are already within the UK.

It is notable that applicants are now able to satisfy the English requirement by using their GCSE, A-Level or Scottish Higher certificates, which may have been gained through study at a UK school. This is a departure from the previous Tier 2 Skilled Worker Visa requirements, which only recognised English taught degrees.

Who can issue a Certificate of Sponsorship for a Skilled Worker Visa?

To be eligible for this visa, applicants must have a Certificate of Sponsorship; this is a digital reference number that is issued by an employer, who must have registered and been issued with a Licence to sponsor foreign workers. The reference number must be entered on the application form to complete the application process and is normally valid for up to three months.

A word of advice from an experienced UK immigration lawyer; not all job offers would be eligible for this visa and it would be prudent to check for yourself if the employer holds a valid licence by checking the government published Register of licensed sponsors.unfortuntelnely, I have heard of a number of scams purporting to offer a UK job; appliucants should not have to pay any money to be given a job in the UK and should confirm any offers by contacting the listed number of the company, as well as by checking the published list of sponsors, to avoid being conned.

What are the financial requirements for the Skilled Worker Visa?

Applicants on this route are required to be able to maintain themselves whilst they are in the UK, without access to welfare or benefits. There are two ways to meet this requirement:

  • One is for the applicant to have held £1,270 in their bank account for at least 28 consecutive days, with the 28th day within 31 days prior to making the visa application.
  • Alternatively the employer (the sponsor) that is issuing the Certificate of Sponsorship can certify maintenance, essentially guaranteeing to meet the worker’s expenses for the first month. This ought to be done when the Certificate of Sponsorship is being processed, by noting it on the online system.

NB: There is an exemption to needing to show savings if the applicant has been lawfully in the UK for the last 12 months.

Is it possible for applicants with a criminal record to apply for a Skilled Worker Visa?

Applicants for this route must declare any criminal offences, which may affect their eligibility for a visa under General Grounds for Refusal. In addition, applicants coming to undertake certain roles (in education, healthcare, therapy or social services) must have a Criminal Record Certificate, which will need to be submitted as part of the application if they are coming from abroad.

How to make an application for a Skilled Worker Visa:

This application is completed online and depending on where the applicant is, there may be a requirement for the applicant to attend an appointment, either at a Visa Application Centre from abroad or at the UK Visa and Citizenship Application center in the UK, for the purpose of enrolling their fingerprints and submitting their supporting documents (these document can also be uploaded online to avoid paying extra at the visa centre).

How much do Skilled Worker Visas cost?

The current fee for a Skilled Worker Visa depends on where the application is being made from and also the type of role. The cost ranges between £610 and £1,408. Applicants are also expected to pay for the Immigration Health Surcharge, which is currently £624.

It should be noted that there are special discounts for EU applicants, who would normally be charged £55 for the application. There is also a reduced fee for jobs that are on the shortage occupations list; of £464 for up to 3 years, or £928 for visas of more than 3 years.

What is the Shortage Occupations Jobs list for the Skilled Worker Visa?

Not all jobs are treated equally under the Skilled Worker Visa category; certain jobs in which the government acknowledges there is an acute shortage of workers in the UK job sector are listed on the Shortage Occupation list, allowing preferential treatment for those applying for Skilled Worker Visas.

The advantage of a job being under the Shortage Occupation list include:

  • If a job is on the list, you can be paid 80% of the job’s usual going rate to qualify for a Skilled Worker visa – meaning you can find a sponsored job more easily
  • Applicants score 20 tradable points if the job is on the Shortage Occupations list
  • The application costs much less – see above

The Shortage Occupations list is published by the government and is under constant review, allowing the government to adapt the list as the job market changes, as recommended by an independent Migration Advisory Committee.

How long are the processing times for Skilled Worker Visas?

The published waiting period for this visa is currently 8 weeks from the date of application for applicants within the UK, or 3 weeks for applicants who are abroad. There is also the possibility of applying for the fast track process for an extra cost, depending on where the application is being made from. It costs £800 extra for a decision within 24 hours from within the UK.

How long does a Skilled Worker Visa last?

The Skilled Worker Visa can last up to 5 years, at which point the migrant would be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.

It is notable that this is a welcome departure from the previous Tier 2 visa, which could only be granted for up to three years at a given time, with a maximum of 6 years for a subsequent extension.

The new Skilled Worker Visa allows you to apply for up to 5 years, with no limits to the number of extensions thereafter. However, should a Skilled Worker change employer or job roles, they would need to apply for a new visa before starting their new role.

What are the Skilled Worker Visa Requirements for employers?

For an employer to be able to sponsor someone for this visa, they must hold a valid Sponsorship Licence, issued by the Home Office. Normally this process entails them making an application to the Home Office and providing details of their business and reasons for wanting to hire foreign workers, with an emphasis that licenses are only issued to fill vacancies that cannot easily be filled by local UK residents and that vacancies must be genuine.

Employers also need to have HR monitoring systems, so that they can comply with the various duties that will be expected of them, such as monitoring the attendance of migrants who work for them and ensuring that migrants’ visa statuses are always up to date.

The Licence costs £536 for a small company (with an annual turnover of less than 10.2 million, or fewer than 50 employees). Once the employer holds the Licence, they are able to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (at a cost of £199 each) to suitable employees, who are then able to apply for a Skilled Worker Visa.

Can a worker with a Skilled Worker Visa bring family members to the UK?

Skilled Workers are allowed to bring family members, such as a spouse, unmarried partner, or children under the age of 18. Such family members are usually given a visa for the same duration as the main applicant and are required to pay the same fees as the applicant, as well as the Immigration Health Surcharge.

They are also required to show additional savings for maintenance; £285 extra for a partner, £315 extra for one child, and £200 for each additional child.

For example, a family consisting of the worker, a partner and one child would need an additional £600 in their bank account for maintenance, on top of the £1,270 that is required for the applicant).

Please note that applicants can apply for family member visas at the same time as their own Skilled Worker visa application, but also have the option of applying after the skilled worker has moved to the UK.

How is the Skilled Worker Visa different to the Tier 2 General Visa?

Although the Skilled Worker Visa has similarities to the Tier 2 General Visa, there is a notable relaxation to the previous rules in the following areas.

  • Lower minimum skill threshold – lowered from degree level to A-level equivalent.
  • Lower salary threshold – lowered from £30,000 to £25,600 (in general).
  • Allowances for ‘new entrants’ – this allows employers to pay up to 70% of the usual going rate for those aged under 26 at the time of application, recent graduates and trainees. This means that applicants who have graduated in the last two years are able to apply for this visa more easily.
  • No cap on the number of migrants entering the UK – the previous Tier 2 (General) Annual Limit of 20,700 visas for migrant workers has now been removed.
  • No Resident Labour Test Market (RLMT) requirement – this was a requirement under Tier 2, for which employers had to prove that they had advertised the job role across two different medias and had tried to recruit from within the UK before offering the job to a migrant. This added to the cost and delayed recruitment, even where there was an obvious shortage. This has now been abolished and replaced with a simpler requirement for the employer to show that there is a genuine vacancy that they are trying to fill.

What are the benefits to the Skilled Worker Visa?

This route offers benefits to the migrants and employers, as well as to the general public, as this visa allows employers to quickly and easily fill crucial job vacancies. This will be beneficial in the wake of labour shortages caused by both Brexit and Covid. It also enables skilled workers to be able to move to the UK and advance their career, either in the short term or on a permanent basis, with the option of bringing their family.

It is notable that this visa was brought in to start after the UK officially left the European Union, with the realisation that the UK has depended in the past on Freedom of Movement to attract expertise from our European neighbours.

This visa attempts to simplify the process by removing some of the barriers that existed with the old Tier 2 General visa while offering special discounts to attract European workers. It should open things up to workers around the world, which will benefit the general public in ensuring that industries continue to function as they used to and are not further hit by skill shortages.

What can be done if a Skilled Worker Visa application is refused?

Unfortunately, unlike many visa applications, the Skilled Worker Visa does not carry a right of appeal if an application is refused. However, it is possible to apply for an Administrative Review within 28 days of receiving the decision. This costs £80 and normally gets a decision within 28 days, but the matter will be reviewed by the same Home Office caseworker, thus the chances of success are normally small.

Alternately, a Judicial Review can be pursued under some circumstances, allowing an independent Immigration Tribunal to review the application where the decision is not proper in accordance with the law.

The latter option can be quite expensive and at times the process is long, thus it would always be best to seek professional legal advice from a UK immigration lawyer on whether this is the best option, or whether it would be more prudent to make a fresh application.

Why use Cross Border Legal Solicitor to assist with an application for a Skilled Worker Visa?

With more than 10 years of experience behind us and a personal understanding of the immigration process, we are experts in Immigration law and visa applications. We provide personal and effective support for your application process and handle the case from start to finish. We have assisted hundreds of happy clients – please see our testimonials – so you can be assured that with our assistance your visa application will run smoothly.

Our specialist immigration solicitor will offer you an honest appraisal of your options for free. There is no obligation to instruct us, but if you would like our assistance, we charge a reasonable fixed fee, which you are informed of upfront and can be paid in installments to suit your circumstances.

Please feel free to share and comment to raise awareness of these issues. Also, if you have been affected by any of these immigration rule changes and need a quick chat with a UK Immigration Solicitor, do not hesitate to contact Tito Mbariti for a free one-off, no-obligation general immigration advice consultation via either phone, WeChat, Facetime or Skype. 

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