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Skilled workers visa Guide

Table of content

The new Points-Based System (PBS) includes a route for Skilled Workers which allows you to come to the UK to do an eligible job with a Home Office approved employer; following Brexit, this requirement now applies to both EU nationals – who arrived in the UK after December 2020 – and non-EU citizens; this visa has replaced the Tier 2 (General) work visa.

1. Eligibility

To be eligible for a Skilled Worker Visa in general, you must be awarded 50 mandatory points (for your sponsorship, job and English language skills) and 20 tradeable points (for salary and other attributes). In some cases (mainly entry clearance applications), applicants must also satisfy non-points requirements regarding tuberculosis testing, available funds and criminal records certificates.

So you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that you:

  • are aged 18 or over;
  • Intend to Work for an approved UK employer,
  • have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship for the job you are planning to do;
  • have a job offer covering a genuine vacancy;
  • have a job offer at an appropriate skill level;
  • are competent in the English language to at least CEFR Level B1 (equivalent to IELTS 4.0);
  • will be paid an appropriate salary;
  • have enough money to support yourself without recourse to public funds;

The exact requirements you will need to satisfy will vary depending on your circumstances.

2. Approved UK employer with a certificate of sponsorship

You must score 20 points for having a certificate of sponsorship (Cos) from an approved UK employer. Your employer, the sponsor, must hold a valid Skilled Worker sponsor licence and must have paid any Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) which applies to the application. Your employer will issue you a Cos which is an electronic record, not a physical document. It will have a reference number which you’ll need to provide for your visa application. You must apply for your visa within 3 months of getting your certificate of sponsorship.

Points may not be awarded for Cos if there are genuine vacancy concerns whereby the Home Office may have reasonable grounds to believe that the job you are being sponsored to do either does not exist, is a sham (for example, the job exists but you will not be doing it) or has been created mainly so that you can apply for permission

Genuine vacancy concerns may lead to a compliance visit to the sponsor’s premises and in such a case, your application will be put on hold pending the outcome of the checks.. If there are further suspicions to believe that you may be complicit in being sponsored for a vacancy which is not genuine, you may be invited to attend an interview. The implications for an applicant of a finding of deception can be significant.

3. Job at an appropriate skill level

You must also score 20 points for having a job at the appropriate skill level. The job must be at or above the minimum skill level: RQF3 level or equivalent (A level or equivalent qualification).

Points will not be awarded if there are reasonable grounds to believe the sponsor has not chosen an appropriate occupation code. Factors which may indicate this could include when either the job description appears to be a standard or template response used for other businesses and the application is in a high-risk sector or the applicant has been refused previously on similar grounds.

To support this assessment, the Home Office may, in particular, consider:

  • whether the sponsor has shown a genuine need for the job as described,
  • whether the applicant has the appropriate skills, qualifications and experience needed to do the job as described,
  • the sponsor’s history of compliance with the immigration system and
  • any additional information from the sponsor.

Concerns about exaggerated or incorrect jobs may lead to a compliance visit to the sponsor’s premises.

4. English language requirement

You must score 10 points for English language skills. You’ll usually need to prove your knowledge of English when you apply unless you did this in a previous successful visa application. You must be able to speak, read, write and understand English to at least level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale. The level of English language ability required is set as appropriate for each relevant route. For example, students at degree level must demonstrate their ability at level B2 (A-Level or equivalent) and skilled workers B1 (AS-Level or equivalent).

The requirement for migrants to speak English language supports integration, ensuring migrants can live and be part of the wider community in the UK. It also means migrants must demonstrate they have the ability required for the route and the role they are coming to the UK for.

The ways you can show you meet the English language requirement are:

  • being a national of a majority English speaking country;
  • having an academic degree taught in English – if you studied abroad, you’ll need to apply for confirmation through UK NARIC that your qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD;
  • passing a secure English language test from an approved provider;
  • having shown you meet the required level in a previous successful immigration application.
  • having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English
  • In some routes there are additional ways of meeting the English language requirement:
  • skilled workers who are sponsored as a doctor, dentist, nurse or midwife can rely on the assessment of their professional body as proof of their English language ability.
  • students who are studying a course at degree level or above at a UK Higher Education provider with a track record of compliance, can meet the English requirement if their sponsor assesses their ability.
  • students who are applying to complete a short-term study abroad programme in the UK, as part of a course equivalent to a UK degree being studied at a Higher Education Institution in the USA do not need to prove English language ability.

The list of majority English speaking countries has been extended to include Ireland (so applicants who are neither British nor Irish citizens and who have studied at Irish universities can rely on their qualifications to show they have met the English language requirement) and Malta.

5. Salary requirements

You’ll have to be paid the relevant salary threshold by your sponsor depending on the type of work you do. The general threshold is the minimum salary which applies regardless of the applicant’s occupation code, it is the same, regardless of how many hours a week you are sponsored to work and it cannot be pro-rated for part-time work. This will either be the general salary threshold of £25,600 or the going rate for your job, whichever is higher. Each occupation code has its own annual going rate and the assessment of salary is based on guaranteed basic gross pay.

The going rate is the minimum salary which applies for a particular occupation code, depending on the tradeable points option, applicants must be paid either the full going rate or 70%, 80% or 90% of the going rate. If you earn less than £25,600 – but no less than £20,480 – you may still be able to apply by ‘trading’ points on specific characteristics against your salary.

Meeting the mandatory criteria will earn you 50 points; you must obtain a further 20 “tradeable” points through a combination of points for your salary, a job in a shortage occupation or a relevant PhD. If you are paid the higher of the general salary threshold of £25,600 or the “going rate” for your particular job, you will get an extra 20 points.

A Skilled Worker may be awarded additional ‘tradable points’ for other attributes, when they have:

  • a PhD qualification which is relevant to the job, they may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both £23,040 per year and 90% of the going rate for the occupation;
  • a PhD qualification in a science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) subject which is relevant to the job, they may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both £20,480 per year and 80% of the going rate for the occupation;
  • a job offer for a job in a shortage occupation, they may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both £20,480 per year and 80% of the going rate for the occupation;
  • employment as a new entrant to the labour market, they may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both £20,480 per year and 70% of the going rate for the occupation;
  • a job in a listed health or education occupation, they may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both £20,480 per year and 80% of the going rate for the occupation.

Get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers to learn how to apply for your visa.

6. Financial Requirement

The majority of migrants coming to the UK from overseas must be able to demonstrate they have sufficient funds to support themselves and their families while in the UK. This was previously known as maintenance for Skilled Workers.

You must have at least £1,270 in your bank account available for at least 28 days in a row and day 28 must be within 31 days of applying for this visa to show you can support yourself in the UK. You’ll usually need to show proof of this when you apply, unless either

you’ve been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months or your employer can cover your maintenance and accommodation costs up to the end of the first month of your employment in the UK, to an amount of at least £1,270 which your certificate of sponsorship must confirm.

Your partner and children will also need to prove they can support themselves while they’re in the UK.

7. Tuberculosis certificates

An applicant must provide a valid TB certificate with their application, if they have been residing within a country listed in Appendix T of the Immigration Rules for more than 6 months immediately preceding the application.

8. Criminality and deportation thresholds

You’ll need to provide a criminal record certificate if you’re applying from outside the UK and you work in:

  • education, for example teachers, education advisers and school inspectors, childminders, teaching assistants,
  • healthcare, for example nurses, doctors, paramedics, managers, pharmacists, dentists and dental nurses, ophthalmic opticians,
  • therapy, for example psychologists, speech and language therapists, counsellors
  • social services, for example social workers, managers, probation officers, welfare and housing officers.

If you’ve lived in more than one country, you might need to provide a certificate from each country you’ve lived in, depending on your age and how long you stayed in each country. If you’re under 28, you’ll need a certificate from any country you’ve stayed in for a total of 12 months or more since you turned 18. If you’re 28 or over, you’ll need a certificate from any country you’ve stayed in over the last 10 years.

Your criminal record may affect the outcome of your application given that those seeking entry to the UK can be refused where they have:

  • a conviction with a custodial sentence length of at least 12 months;
  • committed an offence which caused serious harm;
  • are a persistent offender who shows a particular disregard for the law;
  • their character, conduct or associations means their presence is not conducive to the public good.

9. Switch to this visa

Under the Points-Based System, most migrants are allowed to apply to switch from one immigration route to another without having to leave the UK unless they are in the country on short-term visa such as visitors or seasonal workers. However, a migrant will still have to meet the requirements for their route and pay the relevant fees, charges and complete the appropriate application.

10. Application process and fees.

You must apply online up to 3 months before the day you are due to start work in the UK which is listed on your certificate of sponsorship.

You will need to pay the application fee and the healthcare surcharge for each year of your stay. The healthcare surcharge is usually £624 per year. If you’re applying from outside the UK, the standard application fee depends on whether you’ll be in the UK for up to 3 years – £610 per person or more than 3 years – £1,220 per person. If you’re applying from inside the UK to extend, switch or update your visa, the standard fee depends on whether you’ll be in the UK for up to 3 years – £704 per person or more than 3 years – £1,408 per person. You will pay a lower application fee if your job is on the shortage occupation list: £464 if you’re staying for up to 3 years and £928 if you’re staying for more than 3 years.

As part of your application, you’ll need to prove your identity; depending on where you’re from and what type of passport you have, you’ll either:

  • have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre – this is to get a biometric residence permit
  • use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan your identity document – you’ll also create or sign into your UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) account.
  • You’ll usually get a decision within 3 weeks; however, depending on where you’re applying from you can pay to get a faster decision.
If you wish to find out more about your immigration matters, our team of experienced lawyers is happy to assist.

11. Visa length, conditions of stay and settlement

Your visa can last for up to 5 years with no access to public funds before you need to extend it. You can apply to extend your visa as many times as you like as long as you still meet the eligibility requirements. To settle in the UK, you must have spent a continuous period of 5 years, consisting of time with permission in any of, or any combination of, the following routes:

  • Skilled Worker
  • Tier 2 (General)
  • Global Talent
  • Innovator
  • T2 Minister of Religion / Tier 2 (Minister of Religion)
  • T2 Sportsperson / Tier 2 (Sportsperson)
  • Representative of an Overseas Business
  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)
  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
  • Tier 1 (Investor)
  • Tier 1 (General)

The most recent permission must have been in either the Skilled Worker or Tier 2 (General) route. No certificate of sponsorship (CoS) or Immigration Health Charge is needed for settlement applications. Settlement gives you the right to live, work and study in the UK for as long as you like, and apply for benefits if you’re eligible.

12. Family members

With a Skilled Worker visa, you can bring your partner and children with you as your dependants if they’re eligible. However, they cannot apply to switch to your visa as your dependants if they are currently in the UK on temporally visa.

They will need to apply separately and if their application is successful, their visa will end on the same date as yours. You’ll need to provide evidence of your relationship when you apply. If your child is 16 or over, they must live with you (unless they’re in full-time education at boarding school, college or university), not be married, in a civil partnership or have any children and be financially supported by you.

Your partner and children must have a certain amount of money available to support themselves while they’re in the UK. You will need:

  • £285 for your partner
  • £315 for one child
  • £200 for each additional child

You – or your partner or child – will need to have had the money available for at least 28 days in a row. Day 28 must be within 31 days of you or them applying for this visa.

You’ll usually need to show proof of this when they apply, unless either you have all been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months or your employer can cover your family’s costs during your first month in the UK – this must be confirmed on your certificate of sponsorship. Each family member will need to complete a separate application and pay their visa fee. They’ll also need your application number.

13. Documents you might need

Depending on your circumstances, you might be asked to provide:

  • a valid passport or other document that shows your identity and nationality,
  • your certificate of sponsorship reference number,
  • proof of your knowledge of English,
  • your job title and annual salary,
  • your job’s occupation code,
  • the name of your employer and their sponsor licence number,
  • evidence that you have enough personal savings to support yourself in the UK, for example bank statements (unless your certificate of sponsorship shows your employer can support you),
  • proof of your relationship with your partner or children if they’re applying with you,
  • your tuberculosis test results if you’re from a listed country,
  • a criminal record certificate – if you’re working in certain jobs,
  • your UK PhD certificate or your unique UK NARIC reference number if your qualification is from outside the UK.

If your documents are not in English or Welsh you’ll also need to provide a certified translation.

14. Extend your visa

You must apply to extend your visa online 28 days before it expires. You can usually apply to extend a Skilled Worker visa or a Tier 2 (General) work visa if all of the following are true:

  • you have the same job as when you were given your previous permission to enter or stay in the UK
  • your job is in the same occupation code as when you were given your previous permission to enter or stay in the UK
  • you’re still working for the employer who gave you your current certificate of sponsorship

15. Update your visa if you change job or employer

You’ll need to apply to update your Skilled Worker or Tier 2 (General) work visa if:

  • you want to change your job and your new job is with a different employer,
  • your job changes to a different occupation code, and you’re not in a graduate training programme and
  • you leave a job that’s on the shortage occupation list for a job that is not on the list

You do not need to apply again if you stay in the same job, but your job is taken off the shortage occupation list. If you’ll be doing a different job for your current employer, you only need to apply to update your visa if your new job is in a different occupation code.

You must apply to update your visa if you take on a second job that is either more than 20 paid hours a week in addition to the job you’re being sponsored for or in a different occupation code.

You can do additional paid work on this visa as long as you’re still doing the job you’re being sponsored for. You can also do unpaid voluntary work. You can work up to 20 hours a week in a job that’s either in the same occupation code and at the same level as your main job or in a shortage occupation Due to coronavirus (COVID-19), there’s currently no limit on the number of hours you can work or volunteer if you have a second job as an NHS doctor, nurse or paramedic. If you’ll be working more than 20 hours a week or in a different occupation code, you’ll need to apply to update your visa so that you’re being sponsored to do both jobs.

For a free visa assessment, speak to us. To make an enquiry you can call our dedicated Immigration enquiry line on: +44(0)7869806506 or by email at info@kassolicitors.uk

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