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UK Skilled Worker Visa (Formerly Tier 2 Visa)

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.

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What is the 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.

What are the benefits of a Skilled Worker Visa?

With a Skilled Worker, you will be able to:

  • Work in the role for which you have been sponsored
  • Study
  • Bring your eligible dependant family members to join you in the UK
  • Work up to 20 hours per week in the same occupation code with a different employer (or in a shortage occupation)
  • Undertake unpaid voluntary work
  • Travel freely overseas and come back to the UK (bearing in mind if you plan to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the future, you will need to ensure you do not exceed 180 days outside of the UK in any consecutive year)
  • Apply for indefinite leave to remain after five continuous years in the UK

Skilled Worker Visa vs Tier 2 (General) work visa

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:

  • The skill level requirement has been lowered from RQF level 6 to RQF level 3 – this has significantly expanded the number of eligible occupations under this route.
  • The minimum salary requirement was lowered from £30,000 to £25,600 (it is also possible to receive a lower salary and still be eligible for a Skilled Worker Visa in a wide range of situations, as explained below).
  • The new Skilled Worker route is open to new market entrants (e.g. recent graduates).
  • There is no cap on the number of Skilled Worker visas available in the UK.
  • The requirement for employers to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) has been removed, making it easier and faster to recruit skilled overseas workers.
  • The cooling-off period which meant international workers leaving the UK had to wait a year before applying for a new work visa, now no longer applies.

UK Skilled Worker Visa requirements

To secure a Skilled Worker visa, you will need to meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Have a job offer from a UK employer
  • Your employer must be on the list of licenced sponsors1 approved by the Home Office
  • Your employer must have issued you with a valid “Certificate of Sponsorship”
  • The job for which you are being employed must be on the list of eligible occupations2
  • You must meet the skill level requirement
  • You must meet the minimum salary requirements
  • You must meet the English language requirements
  • You must have £1,270 in your bank account to show you can support yourself in the UK

Further details on each of these eligibility criteria are explained below.

1. Have a job offer from a UK employer

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.

2. Your employer must be on the list of licenced sponsors approved by the Home Office

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.

3. Your employer must have issued you with a valid “Certificate of Sponsorship”

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.

4. The job for which you are being employed must be on the list of eligible occupations

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.

5. Meet the skill level requirement

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.

6. Skilled Worker visa minimum salary requirements

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:

  • your role is in a shortage occupation, or;
  • you are under 26, studying or a recent graduate, or in professional training, or;
  • you have a science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) PhD level qualification, which is specific to your occupation, or;
  • you have a postdoctoral position in science or higher education

7. Have £1,270 in your bank account to show you can support yourself in the UK

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.

8. English language proficiency

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:

  • Passing an English language test
  • You will meet the English language requirements if you pass a Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) English test from an approved testing centre. This must be at least level B1 in reading, understanding, speaking, and writing.
  • Academic qualifications
  • You will also meet the English language requirements if you have a degree or other academic qualification which was taught in English.
  • Exemption: you will not need to meet the English language requirements if you are exempt, including if you come from any of the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, USA
  • If you have passed an English Language assessment approved by the relevant regulated professional body in your area of work.

UK Skilled Worker Visa required documents

Some of the information and documents you may need to provide to support your Skilled Worker visa application include:

  • Your passport (with a blank page)
  • Your Certificate of Sponsorship reference number
  • Your job title and annual salary
  • Your job’s occupation code
  • The name of your employer and their sponsor licence number (as shown on your Certificate of Sponsorship)
  • Evidence of sufficient personal savings to support yourself
  • Proof of your relationship to your spouse/partner and children (e.g. marriage and birth certificates)
  • A criminal record certificate (this is only necessary for certain occupation types involving vulnerable individuals such as healthcare and education)
  • Proof of your English language proficiency
  • TB test results (if you are from a country for which this is required)
  • UK PhD certificate or Ecctis reference if your PhD is not from the UK

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.

How to apply for a UK 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:

  1. Check your eligibility for a Skilled Worker Visa
  2. Secure a job offer from a licensed sponsor in the UK
  3. Receive your Certificate of Sponsorship from your UK employer
  4. Prepare the documents you will need to prove your eligibility for a Skilled Worker visa
  5. Complete the online application form - The form you will need to complete depends on if you are applying from outside the UK, or switching from a different visa within the UK.
  6. Pay the application fee, biometric fee, and healthcare surcharge (see below).
  7. Upload any documents required to support your application.
  8. Arrange a biometric appointment to have your fingerprints and photo taken.

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.

Changing employers on a Skilled Worker Visa

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:

  • Change employer
  • Change occupation
  • Change occupation code
  • Change from occupation on the shortage occupation list for one not on the list

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.

UK Skilled Worker Visa extension

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.

UK Skilled Worker visa to ILR

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:

  • You have passed the Life in the UK test (for those between 18 and 65)
  • You are still employed by the same sponsor licence holder
  • You still meet the minimum salary requirements
  • You have sufficient English language skills



Skilled worker visa FAQs

How long does a UK skilled worker visa last?

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.

How long does it take to get a UK skilled worker visa?

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.

What happens if you lose your job on a UK Skilled Worker Visa?

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:

  • leave the UK
  • apply to switch to a different type of visa while in the UK
  • apply for another Skilled Worker visa

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.

How long can you stay outside the UK 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.

How much does a skilled worker visa cost?

Skilled worker visa application fee is based on your individual circumstances:

Up to 3 years

More than 3 years

Inside the UK

£719

£1,423

Outside the UK

£625

£1,235

Job is on shortage occupation list

£479

£943

Other costs:

Biometric fee

£19.20

Healthcare surcharge (18 years or over)

£624 for each year

Do EU nationals need a Skilled Worker Visa to work in the UK?

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.

Can I study while working in the UK on a skilled worker visa?

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)”.


References:

1 GOV.UK: Register of licensed sponsors: workers

2 GOV.UK: Skilled worker visa: eligible occupations and codes

3 GOV.UK: Skilled worker visa: going rates for eligible occupation codes

4 GOV.UK: Skilled worker visa



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