UK Skilled Worker Visa | Your Essential Application Guide 2023/24

skilled worker visa

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UK Skilled Worker Visa

Overview of the Skilled Worker Visa

In our ever-globalising world, the ability to move and work across borders is crucial. The UK’s Skilled Worker visa is a pivotal pathway for skilled professionals aiming to work in the UK. This visa type, part of the UK’s points-based immigration system, replaces the former Tier 2 (General) work visa. It’s designed to attract skilled workers who can contribute to the UK’s economy, particularly in sectors experiencing talent shortages.

What is the Skilled Worker Visa?

Introduction to the Skilled Worker Visa

The Skilled Worker visa is a cornerstone of the UK’s immigration system, aimed at skilled workers from outside the UK and Ireland. It’s based on a points-based system, where points are awarded for meeting specific criteria like having a job offer, speaking English, and meeting the salary requirement. This system ensures that individuals who are most beneficial to the UK’s labour market are granted the opportunity to work and live in the country.

skilled worker infographic

Understanding the Points-Based System for the Skilled Worker Visa

The UK’s Skilled Worker visa operates on a points-based system, designed to assess the eligibility of applicants based on specific criteria. Applicants must score a total of 70 points to be eligible for the visa. Points are awarded for meeting requirements such as having a job offer, the skill level of the job, English language proficiency, and salary.

Here’s a breakdown of how points are allocated:

Requirement Points Details
Job offer by approved sponsor 20 Must have a job offer from an employer with a valid Sponsor Licence.
Job at appropriate skill level 20 The job should be at RQF3 level or above (equivalent to A-level).
English language skills 10 Proficiency in English at B1 level (intermediate) as defined by the Common European Framework.
Salary threshold 20 Must meet the minimum salary requirement, which varies by job type.
Job in a shortage occupation (optional) 20 Additional points for jobs on the UK Shortage Occupation List.

Applicants must score a total of 70 points to qualify for the visa. The points-based system ensures that only skilled workers who meet the UK labour market’s needs are granted visas.

Eligibility Criteria for the Skilled Worker Visa

Eligibility for the Skilled Worker visa hinges on several key criteria. Applicants must have a job offer from a UK employer holding a valid Sponsor Licence. The job offer should be at a skill level of RQF3 or above (equivalent to A-level). Applicants must also demonstrate English language proficiency and meet the salary threshold, which varies depending on the job type. Additionally, they need to show they can financially support themselves during their stay in the UK.

What are the Skilled Worker Visa Requirements?

Key Requirements

To qualify for the Skilled Worker visa, several stringent requirements must be met. First and foremost, a confirmed job offer from a UK employer with a valid Sponsor Licence is necessary. The job must be at an appropriate skill level (RQF Level 3 or higher) and pay a minimum salary that meets or exceeds either the general salary threshold or the ‘going rate’ for the specific job, whichever is higher. Proficiency in English at B1 level, as defined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, is also essential. Applicants must demonstrate they can financially support themselves without recourse to public funds and undergo relevant background checks.

Sponsorship Requirement

Role of the Sponsor

The sponsorship requirement is a critical component of the Skilled Worker visa process. Employers intending to hire foreign nationals must obtain a Sponsor Licence from the UK Home Office. This licence demonstrates the employer’s capability and commitment to fulfilling specific responsibilities, including ensuring that their foreign employees comply with the conditions of their visa. The employer acts as a guarantor and must ensure the visa holder’s role and salary are appropriate and meet the visa regulations.

Certificate of Sponsorship Requirement

Obtaining a Certificate of Sponsorship

A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is a digital record, not a physical document, which holds personal details of the applicant and information about the job they are offered. The CoS is pivotal in the visa application process, as it signifies that an employer has offered a genuine job that meets the salary and skill requirements of the Skilled Worker visa. The employer, upon receiving their Sponsor Licence, can assign a CoS to the employee, who then uses the unique CoS reference number in their visa application.

Skilled Worker Visa Skill Requirements

Overview of Skill Requirement

The skill requirement for the Skilled Worker visa ensures that the UK labour market attracts individuals in skilled professions. Jobs must typically be at or above RQF Level 3. The UK government provides a Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code list that outlines various jobs and their corresponding skill levels. This classification helps to determine if a job offer meets the skill criteria for the visa. It’s important for both employers and applicants to familiarise themselves with these classifications to ascertain eligibility.

Skilled Worker Minimum Salary Requirement

Salary Thresholds and Variations

The Skilled Worker visa mandates a minimum salary requirement, which is either the general salary threshold of £26,200 per year or the ‘going rate’ for the specific job, whichever is higher. However, there are variations to this rule. For example, if the job is on the shortage occupation list, the salary requirement is 80% of the going rate for that profession. New entrants to the job market, such as recent graduates, may also be subject to a lower salary requirement. It’s crucial for applicants and employers to check the latest guidance to ensure compliance with these requirements.

PLEAE NOTE* – As of November 2023, the UK government and Prime Minister are set to raise this minimum salary threshold requirements for employees from what the rate currently stands at (£26,200) to the newly proposed rate of £40,000. There hasn’t been an official date set, as to when this requirements change is set to be implemented, however at Primus we encourage establishments looking to employ over sees nationals to stay updated on the governments immigration policies.  

English Language Requirement

Language Proficiency Standards

Proficiency in English is a fundamental requirement for the Skilled Worker visa. Applicants must prove their knowledge of English by passing an approved English language test at B1 level (intermediate). Acceptable tests include IELTS for UKVI or Trinity College London exams. Alternatively, applicants can meet this requirement if they have an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised by UK ENIC as being equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or PhD.

Financial Maintenance Requirement

Demonstrating Financial Stability

Applicants for the Skilled Worker visa must demonstrate they can financially support themselves in the UK without access to public funds. They are required to have a specific amount of money available to them, which varies depending on their circumstances. The exact amount is subject to change, so it is important to refer to the latest Home Office guidance. This requirement ensures that visa holders do not become reliant on state support and can sustain their living expenses while in the UK.

Background Check Requirement

Types of Background Checks

Applicants for the Skilled Worker visa must undergo background checks to ensure they do not pose a security or criminal threat. These checks include criminal record checks from countries where the applicant has lived for a significant period over the last ten years. The UK Home Office also conducts checks against its own databases. A clean criminal record is vital for the success of the visa application, and any criminal history could lead to refusal.

Healthcare Professionals

Visa Requirements for Healthcare Workers

Healthcare professionals applying for the Skilled Worker visa have specific requirements to meet. They must be registered with the relevant UK professional body, such as the General Medical Council for doctors or the Nursing and Midwifery Council for nurses. These professions often have fast-tracked processes and may qualify for reduced application fees under the Health and Care Visa scheme, part of the Skilled Worker route. This facilitation reflects the high demand and critical role of healthcare workers in the UK.

How to Apply for a Skilled Worker Visa

How to Apply for a Skilled Worker Visa

  1. Instruct Primus Solicitors as Your legal representatives.
  2. Complete the online application form, providing personal information and sponsorship details.
  3. Gather evidence to meet visa requirements.
  4. Book a biometric appointment at a visa application centre.
  5. Attend the appointment to provide fingerprints and a photograph.
  6. Submit necessary supporting documents either digitally or at the visa application centre.

Skilled Worker Visa Supporting Documents

Skilled Worker Visa Required Documents:

  • Valid passport
  • Certificate of Sponsorship reference number
  • Bank statements to prove financial self-sufficiency.
  • Evidence of English language proficiency

How Much Does a Skilled Worker Visa Cost?

Breakdown of Application Fees:

  • Application fee varies depending on:
    • Visa length
    • Job’s inclusion on the shortage occupation list
  • Current fee range: £610 to £1,408.
  • Additional costs may include:
    • Healthcare surcharge for access to the UK’s National Health Service.
    • Fees for biometric information processing.
  • Consider potential costs for legal advice or document translation if needed.

Skilled Worker Visa Processing Times

Current Processing Timelines

The processing time for a Skilled Worker visa can vary depending on various factors, such as the volume of applications received by the UK Home Office and the specific circumstances of the applicant. Generally, a decision on a Skilled Worker visa application is made within 3 weeks for applications outside the UK and 8 weeks for applications within the UK. Applicants should plan their application submission, accordingly, considering these time frames and potential delays.

How Long Does a Skilled Worker Visa Last?

Visa Duration and Extensions

The duration of a Skilled Worker visa depends on the length of the job offer and can be up to 5 years before it needs to be extended. The maximum total stay allowed for a Skilled Worker visa is 6 years. However, holders of this visa may apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after 5 years of continuous residence in the UK, which allows them to live and work in the UK without time restrictions.

Changing Jobs or Employer as a Skilled Worker

Guidelines for Job or Employer Changes

Skilled Worker visa holders are permitted to change their job or employer, but they must apply to update their visa whenever they change jobs or employers. This process involves obtaining a new Certificate of Sponsorship from the new employer and possibly meeting the salary and skill level requirements for the new job. The visa holder must then submit a new visa application, detailing the change in employment.

Skilled Worker Visa Requirements for Employers

Employer Responsibilities

Employers looking to sponsor Skilled Worker visa applicants must hold a valid Sponsor Licence. They are responsible for ensuring that the job offered to the visa applicant is genuine and meets the skill and salary requirements. Employers must also maintain accurate records and report certain activities, such as if the employee does not show up for work. Compliance with these responsibilities is crucial to maintain the Sponsor Licence and avoid penalties.

Switching to the Skilled Worker Visa

Process for Switching Visa Categories

Individuals already in the UK on a different visa category may be eligible to switch to a Skilled Worker visa. To switch, applicants must meet the same requirements as those applying from outside the UK, including having a job offer from an approved sponsor and meeting the salary and skill level requirements. The switch must be applied for before the current visa expires, and the process involves completing an online application, providing supporting documents, and attending a biometric appointment.

Taking on Additional Work with a Skilled Worker Visa

Regulations on Additional Employment

Skilled Worker visa holders are permitted to take on additional work in some circumstances. This includes work in the same profession and at the same level as their main job, or for up to 20 hours per week in a job on the Shortage Occupation List. Any additional employment must not interfere with the job that the visa was granted for. It’s important to check the latest guidance or consult with an immigration expert to understand the specific rules and conditions.

Need Assistance with a Skilled Worker Visa Application? We Can Help

Legal Assistance Offer

Understanding the complexities of the Skilled Worker visa application can be challenging. Our team at Primus Solicitors is here to assist you every step of the way. From assessing your eligibility to guiding you through the application process and helping with document preparation, our experienced immigration solicitors offer professional advice to ensure your application is successful. Don’t hesitate to contact us for support with your Skilled Worker visa application.

Is Tier 2 the Same as the Skilled Worker Visa?

Clarifying the Visa Types

The Skilled Worker visa is the successor to the Tier 2 (General) work visa and shares many similarities but also has key differences. The Skilled Worker visa has a more flexible points-based system, and the job offer requirement is at a lower skill level (RQF3) compared to the Tier 2 visa (RQF6). Additionally, the Skilled Worker visa currently has different salary requirements and allows for more flexibility in switching employers and roles.

Who is Classed as a Skilled Worker?

Definition of a Skilled Worker

Under the Skilled Worker visa program, a skilled worker is defined as an individual who has a job offer in the UK at a skill level of RQF3 or above (equivalent to A-level qualifications) and meets the other visa requirements. This includes jobs in various sectors such as healthcare, engineering, IT, and education. The job must be with an employer who holds a valid Sponsor Licence and can issue a Certificate of Sponsorship for the individual applying for the visa.

Skilled Worker Visa FAQs

Common Questions and Answers

Q:Can I bring my family on a Skilled Worker visa?

A:Yes, Skilled Worker visa holders can bring dependents, including a spouse, partner, and children under 18.

Q:What happens if my Skilled Worker visa application is refused?

A:If your application is refused, you will receive a letter explaining the reasons. You may have the option to appeal the decision  or if not, you can reapply via a fresh submission.

Q:Can I switch employers while on a Skilled Worker visa?

A:Yes, but you must obtain a new Certificate of Sponsorship from the new employer and apply to update your visa.

Q:Is there a cap on the number of Skilled Worker visas issued?

A:No, there is no longer a cap on the number of Skilled Worker visas that can be issued each year, however, the UK Government are currently planning to make changes to the skilled worker route and as such, we at Primus encourage both individuals and UK based businesses to stay attenuative to the changing situation around the skilled worker route

Q:Can I apply for permanent residence with a Skilled Worker visa?

A:Yes, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain after 5 years of continuous residence in the UK on a Skilled Worker visa.

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