What are the Benefits of the New UK Skilled Worker Visa?
Applications for the new Skilled Worker visa opened on 1st December 2020, a month ahead of the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU). One of the main drivers for change to the work visa system was the ending of free movement between the UK and EU, meaning that European nationals coming here to work needed a work visa. In the formal announcement of the updated work visa system, the Home Office stated, “Applications for the new skilled worker visa open today (1st December), meaning the brightest and the best from around the world can now apply to work in the UK from 1st January 2021. Under the points-based immigration system, points will be awarded for a job offer at the appropriate skill level, knowledge of English, and being paid a minimum salary. Skilled worker visas will be awarded to those who gain enough points”. At first glance, the new Skilled Worker visa may appear rather similar to the Tier 2 (General) work visa, but there are some key advantages over the ongoing scheme which employers and non-UK workers should be aware of. In this article, we will explain the main benefits of the new UK Skilled Worker visa.
The Lowering Of The Skills Requirement
As part of the transition from the Tier 2 (General) visa to the Skilled Worker visa, the Home Office lowered the skills threshold from RQF level 3 to RQF level 6. The government guidance on this states, “The job must be at or above the minimum skill level: RQF3 level or equivalent (A level or equivalent qualification). Workers will not need to hold a formal qualification. It is the skill level of the job they will be doing which is important”. This means that non-UK migrant workers no longer need to have skills equivalent to degree level, rather they now need to meet a lower threshold which is equivalent to a post-school/college level qualification (A-Level in the UK). This, in turn, means that many more jobs have been added to the Skilled Worker visa eligible jobs list, including:
- Vehicle paint technicians
- Boat and shipbuilders and repairers
- Rail and rolling stock builders and repairers
- Electricians and electrical fitters
- Telecommunications engineers
- Roofers, roof tilers, and slaters
- Glaziers, window fabricators, and fitters
- Carpet fitter
- Ceramic tiler
- Flooring contractor
As the guidance points out, applicants do not necessarily need an RQF 3 qualification or higher, rather skill level needed for the role must be equivalent to this level.
The benefit for employees is that there are now greater opportunities to be sponsored for a visa in the UK than were previously available for those outside of the EU. And for employers, the lowering of the skills requirement means that they have greater flexibility to recruit for roles internationally.
The Lowering Of The Salary Threshold
Another of the key benefits of the new Skilled Worker visa is that the salary threshold has been lowered considerably. Under the Tier 2 (General) visa, the salary threshold was set reasonably high at £30,000. This acted as a barrier to entry for many who wanted to come to the UK. The salary threshold has now been lowered to £25,600, and in some cases, it is possible to have a lower income. Those with a PhD or occupations on the shortage occupation list can trade points under the new points-based system if their salary is below the threshold. The absolute floor, however, is set at £20,480.
The lowering of the salary threshold means that those in lower-skilled eligible occupations will now have a chance of securing a Skilled Worker visa.
The Requirement To Complete A Resident Labour Market Test
Under the pre-2021 work visa system, employers recruiting for a non-shortage occupation vacancy needed to complete a process of advertising the role within the UK for one month before offering it overseas. The purpose of this was to prove that no settled worker was available to do the job being given to a non-UK worker. In practice, this was a considerable burden for employers, especially where time was of the essence to get a new worker in place and able to start carrying out their job. Not only did it add time to the process, but it also added to costs and administration.
There Is No Longer A Cap On The Number Of Skilled Overseas Workers
Under the outgoing work visa scheme, there were set limits on the number of certificates of sponsorship a licensed sponsor could grant to overseas workers. Under the new Skilled Worker visa route, there is now no longer a cap on the number of workers permitted. As the Home Office guidance states, “anyone coming to the UK for work, including EU citizens, will need to demonstrate they meet a specific set of requirements for which they will score points. There is no overall cap on the number who can apply for this Skilled Worker route”.
The Fast-Tracked Skilled Worker Health And Care Visa
Within the new work visa system, it is now possible to fast-track applications for eligible healthcare roles. Applications are typically processed within just three weeks, and of significant advantage is that there is no need for the main application, their partner, or their children to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge. This can be expensive for many applicants, especially those with families, as it is charged upfront for the whole duration of the visa.
There is no doubt that the new Skilled Worker offers considerable benefits to both overseas employees and UK employers. Whether these benefits make up for the loss of free movement is debatable, but by making the system accessible to more people in a wider range of occupations, more people will be eligible for a UK work visa than in previous years.