Replacing the Tier 2 (General) visa, the Skilled Worker visa UK scheme is now the primary immigration route for migrants from around the world who wish to come to the UK to work.
Contact our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or complete our enquiry form to discuss your UK skilled worker visa.
The UK Skilled Worker Visa immigration route, which replaced the Tier 2 (General) visa at the end of 2020, is a highly flexible scheme that enables international workers with the necessary skills to be sponsored by a licenced UK employer.
If you plan to come to the UK to work in a skilled role for a sponsoring business, you will need a Skilled Worker Visa. With a Skilled Worker Visa, you will be granted entry at the UK border for the purpose of working for your sponsor. The scheme is open to those with skills at RQF Level 3 (this is equivalent to A-level in the UK) or above in an eligible occupation.
The Skilled Worker Visa is a long-term visa and will be initially granted for a period of up to five years (this will depend on the duration of your Certificate of Sponsorship). It is important to note that your visa is only valid as long as you remain in the same role with your sponsoring employer. If you wish to change roles or employer, you will need to apply for a new Skilled Worker visa.
Under the Skilled Worker route, it is possible to extend your visa before it expires, and after a qualifying period of five years, apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) and British citizenship one year later. If you are considering applying for a UK Skilled Worker visa, you will need to secure a job offer and ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria, as outlined below.
With a Skilled Worker, you will be able to:
There are several notable benefits and differences of the newer Skilled Worker visa route compared to the pre-2021 Tier 2 (General) work visa, including:
To secure a Skilled Worker visa, you will need to meet the following eligibility criteria:
Further details on each of these eligibility criteria are explained below.
In order to make a successful application for a Skilled Worker visa, you must have a valid job offer from a licensed UK employer before you apply. This offer must be from an A-rated business on the list of licensed sponsors for a role on the list of eligible occupations, and meet the minimum salary requirements. You must also have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship from your UK employer.
Your job offer must be from a business listed on the Home Office’s list of licensed sponsors. It is also important to check that your employer is licensed to hire international workers under the Skilled Worker Route (licenses are issued according to the type of visa required) and that they are A-rated. B-rated employers are unable to issue new Certificates of Sponsorship until they meet the Home Office’s compliance requirements and are upgraded to an A-rating. It is advisable to check this is the case before applying to avoid the potential for a delay or refusal.
As outlined above, to apply for a Skilled Worker visa, you will need a valid CoS from your UK employer.
A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is a digital document that contains information about the role for which you are being sponsored, including your role title and type, your work start and end dates, gross salary, your sponsor licence number, and the date of expiry.
UK Visas and Immigration will only grant a Skilled Worker visa for roles that are on the list of eligible occupations2. You must also have the necessary skills and/or experience to fulfil the role for which you are being hired in the UK. To double-check if your occupation is eligible, you may need to request the standard occupation code (SOC) from your employer.
Applicants for a Skilled Worker role and visa must have skills that are at least equivalent to RQF level 3 (this is the same as an A-level qualification in the UK). This does not mean that you need to hold a certain level of qualification, rather that your skills are equivalent to RQF level 3 or above.
The minimum salary for Skilled Worker visa (formerly Tier 2 visa) is £25,600 per year or £10.10 per hour (whichever is higher). This is not always the case, however. If you are in an occupation with a higher “going rate”, then your salary will need to match this larger amount. The Home Office publishes a list of “going rates”3 for certain occupations. “Going rates” are set by the government and reflect the average amount paid for a particular job or occupation. If you are in an eligible healthcare or education occupation, your “going rate” will be based on the UK’s national pay scales.
There are also exceptions to the minimum salary requirement for a UK work visa, which means you may be eligible if you have a lower salary, as long as it is not lower than £20,480 per year or £10.10 per hour. You can be paid less than £25,600 if:
You will need to provide evidence in the form of a bank statement showing you have at least £1,270 for your first month in the UK. In some cases, it may be possible to ask your employer to provide a letter confirming they will cover this requirement for you.
As a Skilled Worker visa applicant, you will need to show that you have sufficient knowledge of the English language4; this can be achieved in 4 ways:
Some of the information and documents you may need to provide to support your Skilled Worker visa application include:
You will also be advised how you can prove your identity and supply your biometrics (i.e. fingerprints and photo) for your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). This can be done either by having your fingerprints and photo taken at a visa application centre in the country in which you are located or by using the Home Office’s mobile phone ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app. The app allows you to scan your identity documents and upload these to the Home Office.
Given the complexity of the Skilled Worker visa documentation requirements, we recommend seeking legal advice from an employment immigration Solicitor before submitting your application. Our team will ensure that all evidence necessary for your application is provided to UKVI and any errors or omissions are corrected. Call us on 020 3744 2797 for advice on your Skilled Worker visa.
The process of applying for a Skilled Worker visa from outside of the UK is completed online on the Home Office website. You will be in a position to complete and submit your application once you have your job offer, Certificate of Sponsorship, and the supporting information listed above. If necessary, you can complete part of the application and save your progress, allowing you to complete the process at a later date.
The application steps are as follows:
You can expect to receive a decision within 3 weeks of your application date if submitted outside the UK. If more information is needed to support your application, you will be contacted by UKVI.
If you hold a Skilled Worker visa and wish to change employers, you will need to apply for a new visa. This is the case if you wish to:
Assuming your current work visa is still valid, you will be able to apply from within the UK and continue living and working here until a decision is made by the Home Office.
It will also be necessary to apply for a new visa if you take on a second role with a different employer in a different occupation.
Your application to change job or employer can be made up to 3 months before the start date of your new role. It is important to apply as early as possible as it may take up to 8 weeks to receive a decision on your application. You should not start working for your new employer until you have received a positive decision on your application.
For more information, please visit our article changing employers on a skilled worker visa.
You will be able to extend your visa before it expires as long as you are still with the same sponsor/employer and you are still in the same occupation (this must be in the same occupation code as your current visa). If you plan to change your job or employer, you will need to apply for a new visa rather than extend your current visa.
It is possible to extend your visa as many times as you wish. When applying, you will need to pay the application fee, the biometric fee, and the immigration healthcare surcharge. If you plan to remain in the UK permanently and you have already spent 5 continuous years in the UK, you may be eligible for settlement (also referred to as indefinite leave to remain - ILR) - see the section on Skilled Worker Visa to ILR.
Once you have submitted your visa extension application, it will not matter if your visa then expires, as you will have the right to remain and work while your case is being decided. Decisions are typically made within eight weeks once you have submitted your application form, any supporting documents, and your identity information has been processed.
For assistance and advice on the Skilled Worker extension process, speak to one of our employment immigration solicitors on 020 3744 2797.
One of the main benefits of the Skilled Worker Visa is that if you do plan to stay in the UK permanently, rather than just extending your visa, you can acquire permanent residency by applying for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after 5 years. To do so, you must meet the continuous residence requirement, meaning that you must not have been outside of the UK for more than 180 days in any of the 5 years. Once you have indefinite leave to remain, you will not need to make any more visa applications or pay the immigration healthcare surcharge, and you will be able to apply for UK citizenship after 12 months.
It is important to note that the 5 years required to qualify for ILR can be made up of time on a range of visas, including the Representative of an Overseas Business visa, Innovator visa, Global Talent visa, Tier 2 visa (Minister of Religion or Sportsperson), or a Tier 1 visa. Time spent on the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur scheme cannot be included, however.
In addition, to qualify for ILR, you will need to provide evidence that:
The Skilled Worker visa is a long-term visa and will be initially granted for a period of up to 5 years (this will depend on the duration of your Certificate of Sponsorship). You can extend your visa as many times as you wish and apply for permanent settlement (ILR) after 5 years.
You can expect to receive a decision within 3 weeks of your application date if submitted outside the UK. Applications made in the UK can take up to 8 weeks to process.
If you lose your job on a UK Skilled Worker Visa you will need to take decisive action as you will not be able to remain in the country with your current immigration permission. You can either:
If you decide to apply for a new visa, you will be able to remain in the UK while your application is being processed.
Call us on 020 3744 2797for advice on your available options if you lose your job while on a Skilled Worker Visa.
To qualify for ILR as a Skilled Worker visa holder after 5 years, you will need to show evidence of continuous residence in the UK. This means that you must not have been outside of the UK for more than 180 days in any of the 5 years.
Skilled worker visa application fee is based on your individual circumstances:
Up to 3 years
More than 3 years
Inside the UK
Outside the UK
Job is on shortage occupation list
Healthcare surcharge (18 years or over)
£624 for each year
If you are an EU national and you hold EU Pre-Settled or Settled Status, you will not need a Skilled Worker Visa to work in the UK. If you do not hold either status, you will need a work visa for employment in the UK.
The Home Office guidance states that Skilled Worker visa holders can “study (with no limit on the number of study hours if it doesn’t interfere with the job they have been sponsored to do)”.
1 GOV.UK: Register of licensed sponsors: workers
4 GOV.UK: Skilled worker visa
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