Introduction
Eligibility requirements: points test
Mandatory points
Tradeable points
Non-points based eligibility criteria
Length of immigration permission
Extensions and switching
Settlements
Dependants
Visa application procedure


Introduction

The skilled worker visa route is designed for individuals who have been recruited to work in the United Kingdom in a specific job. The job offer must be from a Home Office approved sponsor, and for an eligible skilled occupation. A skilled worker can work in the United Kingdom for their sponsor in the job they have been approved to fill. They can also take limited supplementary employment in the same occupation at the same level, or in a shortage occupation, if this is outside their normal working hours and for up to 20 hours a week. They may also do voluntary work and study in the United Kingdom.

Eligibility requirements: points test

The applicant must meet a specific set of requirements for which they will score points. Some of these requirements are mandatory, others are "tradeable".

Mandatory points

The applicant must score 50 mandatory points from the parameters set out below:

  • A job offer from a licensed sponsor is worth 20 points. The job offer must also meet the following conditions:
    • The employer must be a Home Office approved sponsor licence holder for the skilled worker route.
    • There must be a genuine vacancy.
    • The applicant must have a certificate of sponsorship (electronic work authorisation assigned by licenced sponsors), which contains the details of their job offer.
  • The job must be at or above the minimum skill level Regulated Qualifications Framework 3 to score 20 points. The job must also meet other skill requirements, such as the following:
    • The job must be skilled to at least A-level or equivalent and listed by the Home Office as an eligible occupation.
    • The Home Office must accept that the occupation selected by the sponsor accurately reflects the job the applicant has been offered.
  • The ability to speak English language to an approved standard is worth 10 points. Other conditions include:
    • achieving a minimum level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages Level B1 in all four language elements (ie, reading, writing, speaking and listening); and
    • demonstrating that they meet this requirement in a range of ways, including (but not limited to) being from a majority English-speaking country, holding a degree taught in English or passing a Home Office-approved English language test.

Tradeable points

The applicant must score 20 points using one of the options listed. The going rate for the occupation below means the minimum salary for a specific job type as listed by the Home Office.

Minimum salary threshold
The salary must be at least £26,200, £10.75 per hour or the going rate for the occupation, whichever is higher.

PhD relevant to role
The salary must be at least £23,580, £10.75 per hour or 90% of the going rate for the occupation, whichever is higher.

Science, technology, engineering or maths
The salary must be at least £20,960, £10.75 or 80% of the going rate for the occupation, whichever is higher.

Job listed on shortage occupation list
This is an exhaustive list of jobs for which the government accepts there are labour shortages. If the job is in a shortage occupation, the salary must be at least £20,960, £10.75 or 80% of the going rate for the occupation, whichever is higher.

New entrant to labour market
The applicant will be considered a new entrant if they:

  • have held UK immigration permission under the student, graduate or tier one (graduate entrepreneur) routes within the past two years;
  • have completed an eligible course (or are within three months of completion);
  • have completed at least 12 months of a PhD;
  • are under 26 on the date of the application;
  • are working towards recognised professional qualifications, full registration or chartered status with the professional body for the occupation; or
  • are moving directly into a listed postdoctoral position.

The salary must be at least £20,960, £10.75 or 70% of the going rate for the occupation, whichever is higher. An individual can only have up to four years' UK immigration permission as a new entrant.

Listed health and education jobs
The salary must be at least £20,960 or the going rate for the occupation, whichever is higher.

Non-points based eligibility criteria

To be eligible under the skilled worker route, in addition to meeting the points test, the applicant must:

  • meet suitability criteria in terms of their previous immigration compliance, any criminal history or other character-related issues;
  • hold a certificate confirming they do not have active tuberculosis (TB), if they have been living in a high-risk TB country for at least six months before they apply;
  • meet a financial requirement through holding at least £1,270 in savings or having their employer certify that they will be maintained up to this amount for the first month of their employment (this requirement does not apply if they have been living in the United Kingdom for at least 12 months already); and
  • if their job is in a listed health or education occupation, provide criminal record certificates for all countries they have lived in for more than 12 months in the past 10 years.

Length of immigration permission

A certificate of sponsorship can be assigned for up to five years at a time under the skilled worker route, with immigration permission being granted to expire 14 days after the end date of the certificate of sponsorship.

Extensions and switching

If the applicant is already in the United Kingdom on another type of visa, they can switch to a skilled worker visa with limited exceptions (eg if they are in the United Kingdom as a visitor or in another short-term immigration category). The individual can extend their skilled worker visa if they are sponsored by a sponsoring employer and meet all the necessary criteria. There is no limit on the number of extensions or length of time a skilled worker can spend in the United Kingdom. A skilled worker visa can be extended for up to five years at a time.

Settlement

Settlement is possible once the applicant has spent five continuous years in eligible immigration categories. They must:

  • continue to meet suitability criteria;
  • be paid, for the foreseeable future, a minimum salary of at least £26,000 (or £20,960 in limited cases), £10.75 per hour or the going rate for the occupation, whichever is higher;
  • be required by the sponsoring employer to work for them for the foreseeable future;
  • pass the Life in the UK test; and
  • have fewer than 180 days of absences in any 12-month period, with limited exceptions.

Dependants

A skilled worker can be accompanied or joined by their spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner (where they have lived together for at least two years) and dependent children aged under 18 when they first apply. Unless the dependant has been living in the United Kingdom for at least 12 months already, they will also need to meet a financial requirement of:

  • £285 for a partner;
  • £315 for the first child dependant; and
  • £200 for each additional child dependant.

Dependants must meet suitability criteria, and TB and criminal record certificates may also be required.

Dependants may also qualify for settlement either at the same time or after the skilled worker. Important points to note are that a partner dependant must complete five continuous years as the skilled worker's partner dependant and must normally have fewer than 180 days of absences in any 12-month period. Child dependants aged 16 or over must not be living an independent life. Any dependants aged 18 or over must pass the Life in the UK test.

Visa application procedure

Certificate of sponsorship
This is assigned online by the sponsor via the sponsor management system. If the individual will be applying outside the United Kingdom, the employer will need to assign a defined certificate of sponsorship. This is a two-stage process:

  • Step one is sending an online request to the Home Office for permission to allocate a defined certificate of sponsorship. This should normally be granted within one working day, but the process may take longer if the caseworker requests further information. The purpose behind this step is to assess that the job is a genuine vacancy.
  • Step two comes once the defined certificate of sponsorship has been allocated, so the employer can assign this and make a payment for the Home Office fees.

Visa
The individual must apply for the skilled worker visa within three months of their certificate of sponsorship being assigned.

The application consists of the following stages:

  • The first stage involves submitting an application form and supporting documents online and making all the relevant payments.
  • The next stage involves attending an appointment to enrol biometric information and to submit any outstanding supporting documents. An applicant attending an appointment abroad must normally do so at the nearest visa application centre in their country of residence. An applicant who is already residing in the United Kingdom will need to attend an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service centre.(1)

Non-European Economic Area nationals applying from within the United Kingdom only can also use the UK Immigration: ID Check app to verify their identity.

For further information on this topic please contact Andrew Osborne or Supinder Singh Sian at Lewis Silkin by telephone (+44 20 7074 8000‚Äč) or email ([email protected]m or [email protected]). The Lewis Silkin website can be accessed at www.lewissilkin.com.

Endnotes

(1) EEA nationals applying outside or inside the United Kingdom with a biometric chip passport do not need to attend an appointment if they have used the UK Immigration: ID Check app to verify their identity.