On 1 December 2020, the UK introduced the Skilled Worker visa category of the Points Based System to replace the Tier 2 (General) work visa - applicants in the predecessor category should now be applying through this route for an extension of stay.
Whilst the Skilled Worker visa is similar in many respects to the previous category, three key changes were introduced which will expand the number and type of jobs which can be sponsored by UK employers.
The main changes are:
- a lowering of the skills threshold for sponsorship and the removal of the annual quota;
- a lowering of the minimum salary for entry into the scheme; and
- the removal of the resident labour market test and replacing it with a 'genuine requirement' test.
If you have an offer of sponsored skilled employment in an eligible job in the UK, you will require a Skilled Worker visa to work here.
You must have a Certificate of Sponsorship from an employer holding a sponsorship licence from the Home Office in the Skilled Worker category. You will then need to score a minimum of 70 points through the Points Based System to be eligible to apply for a Skilled Worker visa.
Points are awarded for sponsorship for a Skilled Worker visa through the following categories:
The Skilled Worker visa allows you to work for a named employer in a specific position. Once you have completed 5 years continuous residence with a Skilled Worker visa, you should become eligible for settlement provided your absences are within permitted limits.
RLegal solicitors can guide you through the complex evidential requirements and assist you with your application for a Skilled Worker visa from start to finish. We have over 20 years experience of lodging successful applications in this and its predecessor categories and are recommended by the Legal 500 in the immigration business category. We will take the worry out of the process and give you peace of mind.
Alternatively click on the links below for frequently asked questions.
To be eligible to apply for a Skilled Worker visa, you will need to show:
- you hold a Certificate of Sponsorship from an employer that holds a current sponsorship licence for Skilled Workers;
- the job on offer is 'genuine';
- your salary must be more than £25,600 (£26,200 from 12 April 2023) or the minimum salary set out in the Standard Occupation Codes, whichever is the higher (with exceptions for jobs in the Skilled Worker 'Shortage Occupation' list, healthcare positions, certain posts requiring a PhD where points can be transferable) or for 'New Hires' - see below;
- you can satisfy minimum English language requirements to level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale and
- you are capable of maintaining yourself in the UK according to a set criteria. Employers holding a Sponsorship Licence with an 'A' rating can simply certify they will be responsible for this. Individuals who have been in the UK for at least 12 months in another immigration category may be exempt.
Certificates of Sponsorship can be issued for people who have the qualifications and/or specialist skills required to undertake the job for which work permission is being sought.
To qualify for sponsorship for a Skilled Worker visa, the job should be considered to be at NQF level 3 (broadly equivalent to A level standard) and should appear on the Home Office’s list of eligible job types.
A Skilled Worker visa can be granted for up to 5 years and there is no upper limit on the amount of time an individual can stay in the UK in this category.
Certificates of Sponsorship can be issued to:
- Shortage occupations. These are posts which are identified by the Migration Advisory Committee and the Home Office within areas of recognised skills shortage. The shortage occupation list changes periodically depending upon the prevailing circumstances in the UK economy.
- New hires - those who are:
You will need to show that you have a good command of the English language to meet the requirements for Skilled Worker visa. This can be done by:
- being a national of a specified English speaking country;
- holding a degree which was taught in English through a UK university;
- have an overseas degree taught in English and in a majority English speaking country certified by ECCTIS.
- passing an approved English language test at CEFR level B1 in all 4 components (reading, writing, speaking and listening). This is equivalent to a score of 4.0 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS);
- have a GCSE, A level, Scottish NVQ level 4 or 5 in English studied at a UK school commenced before the age of 18.
Please note nationals of specified majority English speaking countries may be exempt from English language testing or are a doctor, dentist, nurse or midwife and have passed an English assessment through a regulated professional body.
Applicants must be able to demonstrate that they can support themselves and any dependants financially for the entire duration of their stay in the UK as Skilled Workers without recourse to public funds. In order to show this they must provide evidence of a consistent level of cash funds for a 28-day period within 31 days of the date of application.
The maintenance thresholds are:
- £1,270 for a single applicant.
- £285 for your partner
- £315 for one child
- £200 for each additional child.
A-rated sponsors can certify the maintenance on behalf of an employee and any dependants.
Applicants for a Skilled Worker visa and their dependents must each pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) of £624 per year in advance for each whole or part year of the visa - see more below under fees.
Outside the UK
Applicants not presently in the UK must apply for a Skilled Worker visa to enter the UK in the correct capacity. The application should be lodged at the nearest British Visa Application Centre. The process involves submission of an online application, uploading scans of specified evidence and attendance at a biometric appointment.
Applicants from certain specified countries may be required to undertake a tuberculosis test. Processing times vary enormously between countries and can be from 1-6 weeks or more.
It may be possible to have the application for the Skilled Worker visa expedited through a priority submission process.
Inside the UK
For those already in the UK in a long-stay visa category, it is usually possible to apply direct to the Home Office for a Skilled Worker visa through the standard, priority or super-priority service. A super premium service is also available where the Home Office will visit a location of your choosing to take your biometric data.
The process involves submission of an application with specified evidence and attendance at a biometric appointment.
You cannot apply to switch into the Skilled Worker visa category from within the UK if your current visa is as a:
- Parent of a Child Student;
- Seasonal Worker;
- Domestic Worker in a Private Household; or
Super priority applications are processed in 1 day.
Priority applications are processed in 5-10 working days.
Standard applications vary but are typically between 2-12 weeks.
Inside the UK
Skilled Worker visa - less than 3 years
- Standard application £827
- Priority application £500
- Super-priority application - £1000
Skilled Worker visa - more than 3 years
- Standard application £1500
- Priority application £500
- Super-priority application - £1000
Outside the UK
Skilled Worker visa – under 3 years £719
Skilled Worker visa – more than 3 years £1420
Some (but not all) British visa application centres around the world offer a ‘Priority Settlement Service’. This is an additional cost service that will place your application at the front of the processing queue. Use of this service may speed up the processing time for your application, however, the Home Office do not guarantee expedited treatment.
- Priority application £500
- Super priority application £1000
Shortage Occupations incur a reduced application fee which is the same whether applying from inside or outside the UK:
Skilled Worker visa (shortage occupation) – under 3 years £551
Skilled Worker visa (shortage occupation) more than 3 years £1084
There are further fee reductions for nationals of EEA and some Association Agreement countries. Your application fee will be automatically reduced by £55 if you are a national of:
Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden or Turkey.
Non-EEA nationals need to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) of £624 per year for each year of their prospective stay in the UK as Skilled Workers.
The IHS is payable even if you have private medical insurance.
In addition to the Certificate of Sponsorship, Immigration Health Surcharge and visa fees, there is an additional Immigration Skills Charge which is payable for Skilled Workers coming to the UK for more than 6 months. It is also payable for in-country applicants of less than 6 months duration.
The Immigration Skills Charge is not payable where the worker being sponsored:
- has a Student visa and is switching to a Skilled Worker visa; or
- will do a job with a PhD level standard occupation classification code.
The Immigration Skills Charge is payable at the point of assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship to a potential Skilled Worker. The amount to be paid depends on the size of the sponsor and the length of visa in question.
Period Small or charitable sponsors Medium or large sponsors
First 12 months £364 £1,000
Each additional 6 months £182 £500
If the worker will be in the UK for longer than 6 months but less than a year, you must pay for at least 12 months.
The full Immigration Skills Charge must be paid by the employer in full at the outset when issuing the Certificate of Sponsorship.
If you are still required by your employer and you continue to meet the requirements, you can extend your permission beyond 5 years or, alternatively, apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
Applicants must pay an Immigration Health Surcharge of £624 per year in advance for each whole or part year of the visa.
A Sponsored Skilled Worker can be accompanied by their spouse/civil partner/long term partner (unmarried) and dependent children under the age of 18.
Each dependant must pay an Immigration Health Surcharge of £624 per year in advance for each whole or part year of the visa.
Dependants will be granted permission to stay in the UK in line with the main applicant.
Once a Skilled Worker visa holder has completed 5 years continuous lawful stay In this category, they can apply for settlement provided that they are still required for the employment in question and that they are paid at or above the appropriate specified salary as defined by the Standard Occupation Codes.
If your absences exceed the permitted limits, you can still apply for an extension of permission with no maximum permitted stay in the Skilled Worker category.
Changes to the Immigration Rules introduced in January 2018 restrict workers to a maximum aggregated absence of 180 days in any 12 month rolling period throughout the qualifying 5 year Skilled Worker or Tier 2 residence. Whereas previously absences were calculated counting backwards from the date of application, this does not apply to absences incurred after January 2018 which can present an obstacle to ILR for individuals required to travel frequently for business.
- We are a full service law firm recommended by the Legal 500 in both the business and general immigration categories that can provide comprehensive legal advice from start to finish for those intending to apply through the Skilled Worker route.
- We will ensure that your application meets the legal requirements.
- We will assist with compiling the evidence required for this category and complete and submit all forms.
- We will book your biometric appointment.
- We will liaise directly with the authorities where possible.
To find out more about our Skilled Worker visa options, please contact us on +44 (0)20 7038 3980, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or use our online form.