In this article we look at the new Skilled Worker category of the Points Based System which has been introduced to replace its previous iteration, Tier 2 General.
The Skilled Worker route shares many similarities with the previous category with the main characteristics of the route being the same; namely, that an applicant must be sponsored to do a specific skilled job by a UK employer holding a sponsorship licence, must be paid a minimum salary and must meet basic English language and maintenance requirements.
The main changes are:
- The Skilled Worker visa applies to both EEA and non-EEA nationals wishing to work in the UK in a skilled post.
- The minimum skill threshold has been reduced from Regional Qualification Framework (RQF) level 6 (degree level) to RQF level 3 (A-level/or Scottish Highers). It is important to note that, as with the Tier 2 General, it is the skill level of the job the Skilled Worker will be doing which determines whether the threshold is met, not whether the individual holds a similar formal qualification.
- The salary threshold which applicants must be paid to secure entry into the Skilled Worker route has been lowered from £30,000 to £25,600 per annum. Employers must pay their skilled workers a salary at the going rate for the job or £25,600, whichever is higher.
- Skilled Workers in shortage occupations or listed health/education occupations can be paid at the lower threshold of £20,480 per year or the going rate for the job, whichever is the higher.
- Sponsored workers can be paid less if they can attain sufficient tradeable points through a combination of points available for salary, for shortage occupations or for a relevant PhD qualification.
- There is no longer a requirement for employers to demonstrate that they were unable to recruit from within the resident labour market, known as the Resident Labour Market Test. Employers must still be seeking to fill a genuine vacancy which meets the skill and salary thresholds of the Skilled Worker route, but the more onerous and expensive requirement to advertise vacancies according to a rigid set of criteria is no more.
- The 12-month “cooling off period” and six-year maximum length of stay in the route have been removed. This can be relevant for individuals who travel frequently for employment and are as such unable to qualify for indefinite leave to remain.
- The £35,800 salary threshold for settlement applications has been removed. Employers must continue to pay their skilled workers a salary which equals or exceeds £25,600 per year or the going rate for the job, whichever is the higher.
The well documented and much criticised annual cap which applied under Tier 2 (General) has been withdrawn. Together with the totality of the changes, the overhauled Skilled Worker route is an attempt to more flexibly meet the demands for skilled labour which will arise from the UK’s departure from the EU and the end of the Brexit-transition period.
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