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How Tradeable Points Are Scored And Assessed For Skilled Workers?

At the end of 2020, in readiness for the UK’s full departure from the UK, the Home Office went live with their new points-based immigration system for skilled workers. While it by no means represents a radical shift, the new Skilled Worker visa eligibility rules are different from those of the previous Tier 2 (general) visa. In addition to removing the cap on migrant workers and the need for employers to undertake a resident labour market test, the skill level and minimum salary requirements were both lowered. The new visa also made it necessary to score a minimum number of points for criteria such as having a suitable job offer, salary, and education. As part of the points-based rules, there is the option of ‘trading’ points to reach the minimum needed to apply for a Skilled Worker visa. In this article, we will explain how tradeable points are scored and assessed for Skilled Worker visa applicants.

What Are Points Awarded For Under The New Skilled Worker Visa?

Under the new immigration route, migrant workers are required to score a minimum of 70 points to apply for a Skilled Worker visa (note this may change in the future, so it is important to check the threshold when you apply).

  • An offer of a job from a licensed/approved sponsor: 20 points (mandatory)
  • A job at the appropriate skill level: 20 points (mandatory)
  • Speaks English at the required level: 10 points (mandatory)
  • A salary of £20,480 to £23,039 or at least 80% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher): 0 points (Tradeable)
  • A salary of £23,040 to £25,599 or at least 90% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher): 10 points (Tradeable)
  • A salary of £25,600 or above or at least the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher): 20 points (Tradeable)
  • A job in a shortage occupation as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee: 20 points (Tradeable)
  • Education qualification: PhD in a subject relevant to the job: 10 points (Tradeable)
  • Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job: 20 points (Tradeable)

As you will see, there are two types of points available – mandatory and tradeable. Mandatory points are those which applicants must score in order to apply. Tradeable points can be swapped in order to reach the threshold of 70 points.

The immigration guidance used by case officers assessing Skilled Worker visa applications states that if 20 tradeable points are not scored, then they must refuse the visa; “If an applicant scores fewer than 20 tradeable points, you must refuse the application and advise the applicant how you have considered the information provided against the tradeable points options and why they have not scored 20 tradeable points”. When determining your eligibility, the Home Office will only award tradeable points where the person applying has a valid offer of employment for which they have the necessary skills (and the role meets the skill level of at least RQF level 3); the Home Office guidance documentation states, “All the tradeable points options rely on the applicant having a valid certificate of sponsorship (CoS) and a genuine job which meets the skills threshold. You must not award tradeable points if you are not awarding the 20 mandatory points for sponsorship and/or the 20 mandatory points for a job at an appropriate skill level. You do not need to assess tradeable points further if an application falls for refusal for these reasons”.

Under What Scenarios Might A Skilled Worker Visa Application Rely On Tradeable Points?

The most likely scenario under which applicants will trade points is where they do not score enough points for their salary and can rely on the fact their role is on the shortage occupation list, or they have a PhD. For example, where an applicant scores zero points for their salary, having a PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the role for which they are being sponsored will help them reach 70 points. Or if their salary gains them ten points, but not the full 20-points, then having a PhD in a relevant subject (which is not in a STEM subject) would be enough to be awarded 70 points.

As as specialists in immigration law, we often see Skilled Worker applicants who believe that they do not score the full 70 points required, or they need to rely on trading points when this may not be necessary. It may be that they have used the wrong ‘going rate’ or occupation code or that they have incorrectly pro-rated their income based on how many hours they work each week. It is also possible that they can use the lower income threshold for a ‘new entrant’. We also see the opposite, whereby they may actually receive a lower salary than they think and hence may need to use tradeable points to make the difference. Either way, it is always useful to engage the services of an immigration Solicitor who can assess your eligibility, in addition to reviewing your application and accompanying documentation.

Wrapping Up

The new points-based Skilled Worker visa route provides some flexibility by allowing applicants to trade points for requirements they do not meet. In doing so, the Home Office has provided a way for migrant workers with highly desirable qualifications and in-demand skills to acquire a work visa even if they have been offered a lower initial salary. If you are unsure if you score the required 70 points, speak to an immigration lawyer before you apply. Having secured a job in the UK with a licensed sponsor, the last outcome your or your employer want is for you to receive a refusal or have your decision delayed. If you are considering applying to work in the UK in 2021, we wish you the very best of luck with your Skilled Worker visa application.

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