UK Skilled Worker Visa – Lexology

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Skilled Worker visa was introduced in December 2020 and has replaced Tier 2 (General) work visa. Tier 2 (General) visa remains valid for visa holders but the next visa extension will be granted under the Skilled Worker route. The two routes will be considered as one for the purpose of assessing eligibility to indefinite leave to remain.

EEA nationals who do not have status under the EU Settlement Scheme need to apply for the Skilled Worker visa in the same way as applicants from outside the EU. Irish citizens have the right to live and work in the UK under the Good Friday agreement and do not need a visa or EU Settlement status document.

Skilled worker visa leads to entitlement to indefinite leave to remain after five years in this immigration route or in a combination of qualifying immigration categories.

Job requirements for the skilled worker visa

To qualify for the Skilled Worker visa UK, you will need:

  • A job offer from a UK based employer who holds a valid sponsor licence
  • The job has to be on the list of eligible occupations (you may wish to check the relevant SOC code on the list of eligible occupations and the minimum pay level for the occupation)
  • The salary has to be above a prescribed threshold which will depend on the type of occupation, your level of experience or whether the job is included in the shortage occupation list
  • A ‘certificate of sponsorship’ has to be assigned to you by the employer with information about your proposed role and salary

You need all of the above in place before you can apply for a visa.

Minimum salary for the skilled worker visa

There are two applicable thresholds – a general one and a job specific threshold, also known as “the going rate” for the job; and it is the highest of the two that apples.

The general minimum pay threshold for the skilled worker visa is:

  • £25,600 per year

For PhD holders with a job offer relevant to their degree, the minimum pay threshold is:

  • £23,040 per year

For other PhD holders in a STEM (science, technology engineering and mathematics) subject, where the sponsored occupation is on the shortage occupation list, and for new entrants, the minimum pay threshold is:

  • £20,480 per year (£10.10 per hour)

The going rate can be found in the Immigration Rules Appendix Skilled Occupations. The four columns indicate the standard going rate, 90% of the going rate, which is applicable to PhD holders, 80% which is applicable to PhD holders in STEM subjects and shortage occupation jobs, and 70% applicable to new entrants.

Who qualifies as a new entrant?

  • Applicants under the age of 26 on the date of application.
  • Post Doc applicants in chemical, biological and physical sciences, humanities and social sciences and higher education teaching professionals.
  • Applicants sponsored to work towards a recognized professional qualification or working toward full registration or chartered status with the relevant professional body.
  • Applicants switching from Graduate Entrepreneur route.
  • Applicants with a valid Student visa who have either completed their studies toward a degree or expect to complete their studies within three months of the date of application, or have completed at least 12 months of studies towards a PhD.
  • Applicants who had previously studied in the UK and have successfully completed their studies at a degree level and whose student visa expired less than 2 years before the date of the application and there was no intervening visa between the student visa and skilled worker visa application. Visitor visa granted after the Student does not count as an intervening event.
  • Applicants whose most recent permission was under the Graduate route. This should be a valid Graduate visa if the application made within the UK or, if the application is made for entry clearance from abroad, the Graduate visa should not have expired more than two years before the date of the application.

Knowledge of English

You must be able to speak, read, write, and understand English.

The language requirement is met if you are a citizen of a majority English-speaking country or if you studied in the UK to a degree level or have completed A-levels in English. If not, you will be required to take a B1 English language test or get confirmation from NARIC that you studied at a University where the main language of tuition was English and that the degree is recognized or convertible in the UK.

List of majority English speaking countries

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA

Financial requirement (previously called maintenance requirement)

All applicants will automatically meet the financial requirements if they are applying for extension of leave having previously been in the UK for at least 12 months. Thus, all applicants switching from Student route, Graduate route or any other long term route and have a valid visa on the date of the application will most likely meet the requirement.

Where the above doesn’t apply, the employer can certify that they will be prepared, if necessary, to provide an amount of £1270 toward the applicant’s maintenance and accommodation up to the end of their first month of their employment.

In the alternative, the applicant will be required to demonstrate that they have held funds of at least £1270 in a bank account for at least 28 days before the date of the application.

How much does it cost?

The cost of the Skilled Worker visa consists of the following:

  • Application fee: the standard fee ranges from £610 to £1,408 depending on your circumstances
  • Healthcare surcharge: £624 per year

Additionally, if your employer has not certified maintenance and you have not been in the UK for the last 12 months you would need to show that you can support yourself financially when you arrive in the UK. This requirement is met if you show that you have held at least £1,270 in your bank account for 28 consecutive days.

How long the skilled worker visa is for (duration of grant)

Skilled worker visa is granted for the period indicated on the certificate of sponsorship. There is no minimum period. The longest is five years. It can be extended beyond the five years if, for any reason, you choose not to apply for indefinite leave to remain at the end of the five-year period.

The visa is linked to a specific employment with the named sponsor. If you change the sponsor or there are significant changes in your employment contract, you will need a new visa.

Additional employment outside sponsorship

You can take so-called “supplementary” employment without the need to apply for a second certificate of sponsorship if your second job is up to 20 hours a week outside your working hours for the sponsor and the job is either in the same SOC code or listed in Appendix Shortage Occupation list. You do not have to notify the Home Office about the supplementary employment.

Alternatively, if the second job does not meet the above requirement, you can get permission to take “secondary” employment. This will require a second certificate of sponsorship and an application for a variation of permission. You will receive a new approval letter which will state your primary and secondary sponsors and the employment end date for each.

Secondary employment cannot start before or at the same time as the primary employment and can only be added to an existing visa. Accordingly, secondary employment cannot continue beyond the date of primary employment.

Procedural and documentary requirements

All applicants will need the following:

  • your certificate of sponsorship reference number – your employer will give you this
  • a valid passport
  • your job title and annual salary
  • your job’s occupation code
  • the name of your employer and their sponsor licence number – this will be on your certificate of sponsorship

Other documents which may be needed in some circumstances but do not apply to all:

  • Proof of meeting the English language requirement;
  • Bank account statements showing the balance of £1270 maintained for at least 28 days (if the applicant is not applying from the UK after 12 months of prior residence and the sponsor is not certifying the financial requirement)
  • TB test certificate (for entry clearance applications from countries listed in Appendix TB of the Immigration Rules)
  • A criminal record certificate from every country where you have been resident for 12 months or more in the 10 years before the application – for entry clearance applications for applicants who are coming to the UK to work in education, healthcare, social services or therapy. Full list of SOC codes which require criminal record certificates is in Appendix Skilled Worker, paragraph SK16.1 of the Immigration Rules.

When and how to apply

You can apply for a Skilled Worker visa up to 3 months before the day you are due to start work in the UK.

The application is made online and the supporting documents are uploaded on the government portal. You may sometimes be asked to forward the original documents to the decision maker, but these requests are not frequent for the Skilled Worker route.

FAQs

How to find out if the job is on the shortage occupation list?

Shortage occupation jobs are listed in the Immigration rules, Appendix Shortage Occupation List.

How long does my “new entrant” status last?

New entrant status can be held for a maximum of four years. This includes time spent on the Graduate route or as Skilled Worker or a Tier 2 migrant. New entrant status cannot be granted for a part of the period of leave. In other words, your visa cannot be granted for a five-year period if you are relying on a reduced pay rate as a new entrant which has the maximum qualifying period is four years.

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