What is the Skilled Worker Visa UK?
The UK Skilled Worker visa was introduced on the 1st December 2020 as a replacement for the Tier 2 (General) Visa. The UK Skilled Worker Visa is the primary route for foreign nationals seeking employment in the UK.
The Skilled Worker Visa route requires you to have gained sponsorship from an employer which is licenced by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). In addition to this, you must be sponsored for a job which is appropriately skilled and listed in the relevant rules as being eligible for the Skilled Worker route.
What is the difference between Tier 2 and Skilled Worker Visa?
Unlike the Tier 2 (General) Visa, the Skilled Worker route is more accessible to EU citizens who are looking to work in the UK. Additionally, many of the requirements for the Tier 2 (General) visa have either been relaxed or scrapped with the introduction of the Skilled Worker Visa UK, for instance:
- The Resident Labour Market Test has been scrapped.
- The general salary threshold has been reduced from £30,000 to £25,600.
- The minimum job skill level has gone from RQF6 to RQF3.
Can you bring dependants on a Skilled Worker Visa?
Yes if you are applying for a UK Skilled Worker Visa, your partner and children can also apply as dependants providing that they meet the eligibility requirements.
How long does a Skilled Worker Visa last?
The Skilled Worker route lasts up to 5 years. If you wish to remain in the UK then you must apply to extend the Skilled Worker visa. There is no limit on the number of extensions which can be made providing that the Skilled Worker requirements continue to be met.
What are the requirements for a UK Skilled Worker Visa?
To be eligible for a Skilled Worker Visa, you must meet a set of validity, suitability and eligibility requirements. These requirements are contained in Appendix Skilled Worker of the Immigration Rules.
Skilled Worker Visa: Validity Requirements
If you are applying to the Skilled Worker route, you must meet the following validity requirements:
Be at least 18 years old.
Submitted the appropriate application form.
Paid the application fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).
Provided any required biometric information or documentation to confirm your identity.
Have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (the Certificate of Sponsorship must have been issued by your sponsor no more than 3 months before you apply).
If you are switching to the Skilled Worker route, you must not have been granted permission on the following:
A Visitor visa.
A Short-term student visa.
A Parent of a Child Student visa.
A Seasonal Worker visa.
A Domestic Worker in a Private Household visa.
A person granted leave outside the Immigration Rules.
Skilled Worker Visa: Suitability Requirements
If you are applying to the Skilled Worker route, you must meet the suitability requirements. The suitability requirements essentially relate to your character and any immigration or criminal history.
Skilled Worker Visa UK Eligibility Requirements
The Skilled Worker Visa UK eligibility requirements build a points-based system. To be eligible for a Skilled Worker Visa, you must ‘score’ 70 points by meeting a variety of criteria. When it comes to the points-based system, 50 of the 70 points must be met by meet the ‘mandatory’ requirements – the other 20 can be met through the ‘tradeable’ points.
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Skilled Worker Visa: Mandatory Points
|Mandatory points - 50 required|
|You have a job offer from an approved sponsor and have been issued with a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).||20|
|The job is at the appropriate skill level (RQF3 or above).||20|
|English language skills at level B1 (intermediate).||10|
The sponsorship requirement
To be eligible for a UK Skilled Worker visa, you must meet the sponsorship requirements which consists of having a valid Certificate of Sponsorship from a licenced sponsor and meeting the genuine vacancy test.
A Certificate of Sponsorship is an electronic record, not a physical document. Each certificate of sponsorship has its own number which you can use to apply for a Skilled Worker Visa.
The Certificate of Sponsorship must have been issued no more than 3 months before the date of the Skilled Worker application and must include the following information:
- Details of your name, job and salary;
- A start date which is no more than 3 months after the date of the 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 UKVI.
There are two types of Certificate of Sponsorship: a defined Certificate of Sponsorship and an undefined Certificate of Sponsorship.
- Defined Certificate of Sponsorship: a defined Certificate of Sponsorship is for applicants based overseas.
- Undefined Certificate of Sponsorship: an undefined Certificate of Sponsorship is for applicants already in the UK who are looking to either extend an existing UK Skilled Worker Visa, or switch to the Skilled Worker route.
To meet the genuine vacancy test, the decision-maker must not have “reasonable grounds to believe” that the job your are being sponsored to do:
- Does not exist
- Is a sham; or
- Has been created mainly so the applicant can apply for entry clearance or permission to stay.
Skilled Worker Eligible Occupations
The job which you are being sponsored for, must be featured on the list of eligible occupations in order to be eligible for a UK Skilled Worker. Your sponsor must select the appropriate SOC code for your role. When doing so, your sponsor must ensure that your role matches the job description of the SOC code. To make this process easier your sponsor can using the ONS Occupation Coding Tool.
When an appropriate SOC code has been identified, it will need to be cross-checked with the eligible Skilled Worker occupations to ensure that the job in question features on the list of eligible occupations.
If UKVI has grounds to believe that the SOC code selected is not appropriate or has been selected merely because the “going rate” for the salary is lower than that contained in the most appropriate SOC code, the application may be refused.
Skilled Worker Skill Level
To be eligible for the Skilled Worker route, you must be sponsored for a job which is skilled to at least RQF3. RQF3 is roughly the equivalent to A-Levels.
Skilled Worker English Language Requirement
You will need to demonstrate English language ability on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in all 4 components (reading, writing, speaking and listening) of at least level B1 (intermediate).
The requirement may be met in a variety of ways, as specified in Appendix English Language. In summary, the Applicant may meet the requirement in the following ways:
- Being from a majority English speaking country
- Passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT)
- Having a degree taught in English
- Having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification at level 4 or 5 or, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher, in English (language or literature), from a school in the UK
- Having met the requirement at the level required for their current application in a previous successful application for entry clearance or leave to remain
Head over to our dedicated article to read more about the English language test to find out more about exemptions.
Skilled Worker Visa: Tradeable Points
As part of the Skilled Worker eligibility requirements, you are also required to gain 20 ‘points’ through tradeable points.
|Tradeable points - 20 required|
|The applicant’s salary equals or exceeds both £26,200, £10.75 per hour, and the ‘going rate’ for the job’s occupation code.||20|
The applicant has a PhD in a subject relevant to the job and their salary equals or exceeds £23,580, £10.75 per hour and 90% of the going rate for the occupation code.
10 points will be awarded for the educational qualification and 10 points will be awarded for the applicant’s salary.
|The applicant has a PHD in STEM subject relevant to the job and the applicant’s salary equals or exceeds £20,960, £10.75 per hour and 80% of the going rate for the occupation code.||20|
|The job is on the Shortage Occupation List and the applicant’s salary equals or exceeds £20,960 per year, £10.75 per hour and 80% of the going rate for the occupation code.||20|
|The applicant is a new entrant to the labour market and their salary equals or exceeds £20,960 per year, £10.75 per hour and 70% of the going rate for the occupation code.||20|
|The job is in a listed health or education occupation and the applicant’s salary equals or exceeds both £20,960 per year and the going rate for the occupation code.||20|
Skilled Worker Shortage Occupation List (SOL)
The Shortage Occupation List, lists the roles which UKVI recognises to be in short supply with the UK labour market. As a result of this, the roles on the SOL are afforded more relaxed criteria.
The roles on the Shortage Occupation List have been decided by UKVI, however, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) provided recommendations for the roles which should be on the list.
A significant change to the SOL occurred in 2022, when UKVI added care workers and home carers to the list, a category otherwise excluded from the Skilled Worker route altogether. The move was prompted in response to the MAC’s recommendations, allowing these workers to apply for the Health and Care visa. The Health and Care visa allows workers to come to the UK temporarily for a period of 12 months.
What does 'new entrant' mean?
The new entrant concession is designed to benefit younger individuals and includes the following category of applicants:
- Those under the age of 26 at date of application
- Those applying for a postdoctoral position in certain science roles
- Those whose job offer is for a UK regulated profession and the applicant is working towards one of those professions
- Applicants who are working towards full registration or chartered status with the relevant professional body for the job they are being sponsored for
- Applicants who last had leave with a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa
- Applicants who last had leave as a student which expired up to two years before application and completed or are expected to complete within 3 months of the application a Bachelor, Masters, or PHD in the UK.
Skilled Worker Financial Requirement
You will need to show that you have £1,270 in your bank account to show that you are able to financially support yourself. This money must have been in your bank account for at least 28 consecutive days and this period must be within 31 days preceding the visa application.
You will be exempt from meeting this financial requirement if:
- You have been sponsored by an A-rated sponsor who has certified on the Certificate of Sponsorship that they are willing to meet the maintenance costs up to the end of the first month of your employment, to an amount of at least £1,270, if necessary.
- 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.
How can Paragon Law help?
Paragon Law’s business immigration team has been ranked as top-tier department by the Legal 500. Our immigration lawyers help businesses from all sectors and of all sizes to recruit talent from overseas and have assisted countless individuals to acquire the visa they need to work in the UK.
Skilled Worker Visa Fees
The points-based system in action: the Skilled Worker visa
UK Skilled Worker Visa required documents
When applying for a UK Skilled Worker visa, you will need to provide the following required documents:
- Valid passport or other document which establishes the applicant’s identity and nationality
- Certificate of Sponsorship reference number
- Job title, salary, occupation code, name of employer and their sponsor licence number which will be found on the COS
- Proof of meeting the English language requirement
Other documents that you may need are:
- Evidence of the requisite finances, if necessary
- Tuberculosis test result if the applicant is from one of the listed countries
- A criminal record certificate if applying for entry clearance and being sponsored for certain jobs, in the health, care, welfare and education sectors
- A valid ATAS certificate if applying for a job researching a sensitive subject in one of the listed occupation codes
Conditions of stay
If you are granted leave under the Skilled Worker route, the following conditions will apply:
- You will usually only be able to work for your sponsor in the job which you have been sponsored for. However, you may undertake supplementary employment in limited circumstances where the job is in the same occupation code or on the shortage occupation list. If this is the case, then you cannot work for more than 20 hours per week. You will be working for more than 20 hours per week or working in a different occupation code, then you will need to apply to update your visa and get a new certificate of sponsorship.
- You can study in the UK (however, you will need an ATAS certificate before starting).
- You cannot claim public funds (benefits) in the UK.
How long does it take to get a Skilled Worker Visa?
Once you have applied for the Skilled Worker route and have proved your identity and provided the relevant documents you will usually get a decision within 3 and 8 weeks. If you have made you application from outside of the UK then you will usually get a decision within 3 weeks, but if you have applied from inside of the UK then you will usually get a decision within 8 weeks.
You can pay for a priority service where you will get a faster decision on your Skilled Worker application. In these cases a decision will usually be made within a week.
Switching to the Skilled Worker Visa
If you are in the UK on another visa, you may be eligible to switch to the Skilled Worker Visa. To be eligible to switch to this visa you must meet the following requirements:
Your job meets the eligibility requirements; and
You can speak, read, write and understand English.
If you are currently in the UK on a Student Visa, in addition to the eligibility requirements you must meet one of the following:
Completed the course you were sponsored to study; or
The start date of your job is after your course has finished; or
Studied for a PhD for at least 24 months.
However, if you are in the UK on one of the following you cannot apply to switch to this visa:
A Visit Visa;
A short-term Student Visa;
A Parent of a Child Student Visa;
A Seasonal Worker Visa;
A Domestic Worker in a Private Household Visa;
On immigration bail; or
You were given permission to stay outside the immigration rules.
Instead, you must make an application for a Skilled Worker Visa from abroad.
What score is needed for Skilled Worker Visa?
To be eligible to apply for the UK Skilled Worker Visa, you will be required to score 70 points on the UK points-based system. 50 of these must be made up from the mandatory points requirement and the other 20 must be gained through the tradeable points requirement.
How much is a Skilled Worker Visa UK?
The cost of a Skilled Worker Visa UK varies from £719 and £1,500, with the costs being dependent on a range of factors:
Applying from outside of the UK
If you are applying for the Skilled Worker Visa from outside of the UK, then it will cost:
- £719 for a visa for up to 3 years; or
- £1420 for a visa for more than 3 years.
Applying from inside of the UK
If you are applying for the Skilled Worker Visa from inside of the UK, then it will cost:
- £827 for a visa for up to 3 years; or
- £1500 for a visa for more than 3 years.
Your job is on the shortage occupation list
If you are applying for the Skilled Worker Visa and your job features on the shortage occupation list, regardless of applying inside or outside the UK, then it will cost:
- £551 for a visa for up to 3 years; or
- £1,084 for a visa for more than 3 years.
You will also need to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge at the time of application which is £624 per year.
- Correct at the time of writing - 4th October 2023.
Who pays for the Skilled Worker Visa?
The Skilled Worker Visa application is paid by the applicant (the employee). However, the sponsor (the employer) will be required to pay for the sponsor licence and the certificate of sponsorship.
How long is a Skilled Worker visa valid for?
If successful, the applicant will be granted entry clearance or permission to stay for a period ending 14 days after the end date of the COS and the visa can last up to a maximum of 5 years.
Thereafter it will need to be extended and unlike its predecessor, Tier 2 route which involved a maximum stay of 6 years, there is no limit on the number of extensions which may be sought.
Does the Skilled Worker Visa UK lead to settlement?
Yes, the Skilled Worker route leads to settlement in the UK. In order to qualify for settlement in the UK you will need to meet the following requirements:
- Have been in the UK for a continuous period of 5 years. This 5-year continuous period may consist of time with permission on any of, or any combination of, the following routes: Skilled Worker visa, Global Talent visa, Innovator visa, T2 Minister of Religion visa, International Sportsperson visa, Representative of an Overseas Business visa, Tier 1 Migrant (other than as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Migrant) or Scale-up visa;
- Have no absences of more than 180 days during each year of the 5-year continuous period;
- Have passed the Life in the UK test (unless exempt);
- Your sponsor must still be licenced and you will continue working for them for the foreseeable future;
- You are being paid and are due to be paid for the foreseeable future. Your payments must be at least the general salary threshold or the going rate requirement, whichever is higher; a reduction from the threshold of £35,800 under the previous Tier 2 regime.
Working in the UK
Establishing a business in the UK
Indefinite Leave to Remain