Skilled Worker Visa

The Skilled Worker Visa is a UK visa that allows individuals with an eligible job offer to come to the UK and work for an approved employer.

At Synergy Immigration Solutions, we help individuals and sponsors navigate the application process.

Skilled Worker Visa

What is a Skilled Worker or Visa?

The UK visa system has undergone many different changes, most obviously, the removal of the tier system. The Skilled Worker visa has replaced the Tier 2 (General) visa, which allows skilled foreign nationals to move to the UK to live and work. 

There are strict eligibility requirements including English language proficiency, having a suitable job offer, meeting minimum salary requirements and personal circumstances, so it’s important to fully understand the eligibility requirements and application process before starting any UK visa application. Gaining a licence to sponsor foreign workers can be equally difficult, with numerous processes to go through to be approved. 

Getting help from a specialist UK visa agency is highly beneficial post-Brexit, as the process can be complicated to go through alone, and delays are expected within the decision process.  

Once a Skilled Worker visa or a sponsorship licence has been obtained, it’s important to maintain eligibility throughout the period of validity to prevent rights from being removed and allow individuals to work towards obtaining Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. 

Each individual has different personal circumstances, so gaining expert advice tailored to your needs from immigration specialists is beneficial for the success of your visa application.

Skilled Worker Visa Job Requirements

To be eligible for the Skilled Worker visa, you need to meet several requirements, mostly around your proposed job in the UK, but also about your ability to comfortably live in the UK. 

To apply for a Skilled Worker visa, you must

  • Have a job offer for a position on the government’s list of eligible occupations
  • Have a job offer from an approved UK employer (known as the sponsor) 
  • Have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from your employer detailing your proposed role
  • Meet the minimum salary requirements

The list of eligible occupations for the Skilled Worker visa is available online and changes according to the skills shortages in the UK’s job sectors, so it’s important to check which positions are available before applying for a visa or attempting to extend your visa. 

You must also be able to show your eligibility to a valid UK Skilled Worker sponsor so they can offer you a job and provide you a certificate of sponsorship for you to apply for the Skilled Worker visa. You must have these before your visa application, but having a job offer does not guarantee your visa application will be successful. 

Your certificate of sponsorship will also detail your proposed position in the organisation, including your proposed salary, which must meet the minimum salary requirements for that job. Each job’s minimum salary changes according to the ‘going rate’, for that job or industry, so check that your proposed salary is sufficient before applying for your Skilled Worker visa. A specialised visa agency can help you with this process to ensure your eligibility.

Skilled Worker Visa Personal Requirements

To be eligible for the Skilled Worker visa, you must also be able to prove:

  • You have sufficient knowledge of the English language across all areas (speaking, reading, writing and listening)
  • You have sufficient savings to cover your expenses while in the UK (unless exempt i.e. your employer will cover your living costs)
  • Do not have a significant criminal history that would make you a threat to the British public (each individual case will be assessed by the Home Office)

If there are any doubts about your suitability, you may be asked to attend an interview, for example, to assess your language abilities or discuss a criminal conviction. 

Certificate of Sponsorship

A visa sponsor will have to apply to create a certificate of sponsorship for a visa candidate, proving that they have been searching within the UK for suitable candidates and cannot find any, so they must employ a foreign national. If there is not enough evidence to suggest the sponsor needs to employ a foreign national for the position, their application to create a certificate of sponsorship may be refused. 

The sponsor will check each foreign candidate’s eligibility for the position and, if suitable, they will issue the certificate of sponsorship to the foreign national. 

The certificate of sponsorship is an electronic document that includes details of the job role and the candidate, including:

  • The type of work visa it’s for
  • The candidate’s personal information
  • The organisation’s contact details (including work address)
  • A job description
  • Proposed working hours
  • Proposed salary
  • Proposed start date of employment

Once a candidate receives their certificate of sponsorship, they must apply for a Skilled Worker visa within 3 months. As the certificate is an electronic record, the applicant will receive a reference number which can be entered in the application so the Home Office can see the details of the proposed job and the individual’s suitability for the role.

Eligible Occupations

The government has a list of eligible occupations for the Skilled Worker visa which changes according to labour shortages in the UK and the needs of the UK job market. If you intend to apply for a Skilled Worker visa, you should check the list to ensure there is a suitable position for your skills and experience available. 

The list of eligible occupations includes jobs in a range of industries, although the sought-after positions tend to be more senior, such as managers and CEOs, or highly skilled, so requiring expert qualifications and experience

Each job is given a four-digit code; if you have a job offer, you can receive the occupation code from your employer. If you don’t know the code, you can look it up in the CASCOT occupation coding tool

When looking for relevant positions, it’s important to note that not every job title is included, so searching for similar titles and reading the job description is crucial to ensure you match the relevant position. Furthermore, some jobs have very similar titles but differing skill level and occupation code, so while one may be eligible for the Skilled Worker visa, the other may not. 

Minimum Salary Requirements

Skilled Worker visas are for highly skilled and sought-after individuals so their wages must reflect this and the individuals must significantly contribute to the UK economy. As such, there is a minimum salary for all skilled workers, as well as what’s known as the ‘going rate’ for the specific job, and each skilled worker must receive the higher salary of the two. 

The minimum salary is currently set at £38,700 per year. The going rate changes according to the industry and level of seniority. You can find the going rates for each occupation on the government website which you should check before accepting your certificate of sponsorship to ensure that your proposed salary is sufficient before applying for the Skilled Worker visa. Your employer must pay you whichever is higher of the going rate or £38,700 for you to be eligible for the Skilled Worker visa, as well as ensure you’re being asked to work a legal number of hours per week according to UK law.

Financial Requirements

As well as needing to meet the minimum salary requirements, you will also have to meet other financial requirements to apply for the Skilled Worker visa. You must:

  • Pay the application fee (which differs according to the length of your visa)
  • Pay the immigration health surcharge (usually £1,035 a year)
  • Show sufficient funds to support yourself (unless exempt)

Moving to the UK can be costly, especially when factoring in a deposit for your accommodation, the first month’s rent, bills and living expenses, which may all need to be paid before you’ve received your first month’s salary. As such, each applicant is required to have at least £1,270 available in their bank account to show they can support themselves. If the visa applicant also intends to bring any family members to the UK with them, they must show they must demonstrate they have enough funds to support each family member. 

The money must be in the bank account for at least 28 consecutive days - sometimes known as the 28 day rule - within 31 days of applying for the visa. 

If you’re switching to the Skilled Worker visa and have been legally in the UK for at least 12 months, or are extending your Skilled Worker visa, you won’t need to prove you have these funds. You are also exempt from this requirement if your sponsor will cover the costs of your first month’s expenses, but they must show this on the certificate of sponsorship. There is a section on the form entitled ‘sponsor certifies maintenance’ under Additional data.

Skilled Worker Visa Changes in April 2024

The government announced plans to change various aspects of the visa system in Spring 2024, with the Skilled Worker visa facing changes to the minimum salary requirement. If you are extending your Skilled Worker visa or received your certificate of sponsorship before 4 April 2024, you may be able to meet the previous minimum salary requirements. 

Since 4 April 2024, the minimum salary for Skilled Worker visa applicants has been raised from £26,200 per year (or £10.75 per hour) to £38,700 per year. This sharp increase in the minimum salary was intended to deter employers from hiring foreign workers as part of efforts to reduce immigration to the UK and alleviate the nation's unemployment rate. New visa applicants will have to meet this new minimum salary requirement or the going rate for their position - whichever is higher.

English Language Requirements

  • To receive a Skilled Worker visa, you must be able to communicate effectively in English. If you are from one of the following English-speaking countries, you do not need to prove you have sufficient knowledge of the English language, as your nationality is enough:

    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • Australia
    • the Bahamas
    • Barbados
    • Belize
    • the British overseas territories
    • Canada
    • Dominica
    • Grenada
    • Guyana
    • Jamaica
    • Malta
    • New Zealand
    • St Kitts and Nevis
    • St Lucia
    • St Vincent and the Grenadines
    • Trinidad and Tobago
    • USA

     

    Other foreign nationals must be able to prove their ability to speak, read, write and understand English to a sufficient standard. The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is the framework used by the UK government to assess language fluency, as each grade assesses each component of the language. 

    The scale goes from A1 (basic language user) through A2, B1, B2, and C1 to C2 (proficient language user). Applicants for the Skilled Worker visa must have at least B2 level of English to obtain the visa, as this is considered to reflect a standard level of fluency in English to be able to use the language independently, but not always entirely proficiently across all topics. 

    Even if you’re not a UK national, if you have a GCSE, A level, level 4 or 5 Scottish National Qualification, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English obtained through study in the UK while under 18, this is sufficient to prove your knowledge of English. Otherwise, you’ll need to prove your knowledge of English by providing a certificate of:

    • A Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider
    • A degree (bachelor’s, master’s or PhD) or equivalent qualification that was taught in English

    Doctors, dentists, nurses, midwives and veterinarians also do not need to prove their knowledge of English if they have already passed an approved English language assessment. 

Being of ‘Good Character’

Being of ‘good character’ is typically a strict requirement when a foreign national is applying for British citizenship but it can still affect other visa applications. Anyone with a criminal history, regardless of the country will have this assessed when being considered for any UK visa, including the Skilled Worker visa. 

You should be transparent about any previous criminal convictions on your application for your Skilled Worker visa, as anything considered deceptive or dishonest will affect your visa application as well as any made in the future.

The Home Office will usually ask those under 28 for a police certificate from any country you’ve lived in since the age of 18 to show any criminal convictions, or the lack of when you apply for your Skilled Worker visa. They will consider:

  • Serious crimes
  • International crimes
  • Financial crimes
  • Immigration crimes or breaches of immigration law

While you may meet the other eligibility requirements, if you have any previous convictions in these areas or are considered a threat to British society, you may be called in for an interview or you may have your visa directly refused.

Who Can Apply?

If you meet all of the above requirements, have your certificate of sponsorship, sufficient funds and can provide evidence of your eligibility, you can apply for the Skilled Worker visa. Meeting each requirement also does not guarantee you will receive the visa, however, the Home Office will explain their reason for rejecting your visa if so. 

If you don’t meet all of the requirements and are not eligible for any exemptions, your application will be refused and you won’t receive a refund of your application fees, so employing the services of a visa agency can help if you’re not sure about your eligibility.

How to Apply for the Skilled Worker Visa

Like all visa applications, you must apply for the Skilled Worker visa online along with your supporting documents and pay the relevant fees when asked to do so. You should have scans of documents or electronic versions on your computer before you start your application to ensure you can attach your supporting documents while completing your application. 

Each applicant must complete their application themselves, so any dependants who may apply to join you in the UK must complete their own applications separately. However, you can help minors with their applications if necessary.

Providing Supporting Documents

Your certificate of sponsorship will have most of your personal details and details of your proposed job, so you must provide the certificate of sponsorship reference number when applying for your Skilled Worker visa. However, you must also provide:

  • Evidence of your knowledge of English
  • A current, valid passport
  • The occupation code for your job
  • The title and annual salary of your job
  • The name and sponsor licence number of your employer 

You will also likely be asked to provide:

  • Evidence of sufficient funds to support yourself in the UK (unless exempt)
  • Proof of your relationship to your dependants (if applicable)
  • A tuberculosis test result (if you are from or in one of the listed countries)
  • A police certificate (depending on your proposed job)
  • Certified translations of any documents not in English or Welsh

You’ll also need a blank page in your passport if you’re from outside of the EU or EEA countries for your visa to be printed in. 

Police certificates are necessary for anyone proposing to work with vulnerable people, so those working in the following sectors will be required to provide police certificates to show any previous criminal convictions:

  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Mental wellbeing
  • Social services

Anyone under 28 who has lived in more than one country will need a police certificate from each country they’ve lived in since the age of 18.

Paying the Application Fee

The application fee for the Skilled Worker visa changes according to how long you’ll be in the UK for. If your visa is issued for up to 3 years, you’ll have to pay £719. If your visa is issued for more than 3 years, you’ll have to pay £1,420. 

When you apply to extend your visa or switch from a different visa to a Skilled Worker visa, you’ll need to apply from inside the UK, in which case the visa application fees change. You’ll have to pay:

  • £827 for a visa up to 3 years
  • £1,636 for a visa for more than 3 years. 

Your dependants can apply for visas to join you in the UK at the same time as you, however, they will each need to complete a separate application and each pay the same application fee.

Paying the Immigration Health Surcharge

Each applicant and their dependants will also have to pay the immigration health surcharge in order to receive their Skilled Worker visa. This allows access to the UK’s public health services provided by the NHS which are free at the point of use. UK residents and British nationals can go to hospitals and see General Practitioners for free, as well as receive subsidised medicines and dental treatment. 

The immigration health surcharge costs £1,035 per year per person.

How Long it Takes to Get a Decision

Once you receive your certificate of sponsorship, you have up to 3 months to submit your application for your Skilled Worker visa. The certificate of sponsorship will include the date which you are due to start work, which will be 3 months from the issuance of the certificate. 

After submitting your application and supporting documents, it can take up to:

  • 3 weeks to receive your visa from outside of the UK
  • 8 weeks to receive your visa from inside the UK

Some individuals may require an appointment with an immigration officer, which will extend the visa processing time, so it’s best to start your application as early as possible to allow for any delays and interviews that may be necessary. You may also be able to pay for a faster decision if required. 

What to Do if There Are Delays

Since Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, there are often delays in visa processing, so you should try to account for them when starting your application. However, if the visa process is taking longer than expected, you can contact the Home Office for an update on your visa application. If documents are missing, you can then submit them to help hurry your visa process along. 

However, if the Home Office cannot offer you any information, a visa agency or specialised immigration lawyers can inform you of your rights and next steps to take. This can be especially helpful if you’re renewing your visa in the UK and your visa is due to expire soon.

How Long You Can Stay in the UK

Most Skilled Worker visas are issued for 5 years, however, they can be given for shorter periods than this. Towards the end of the visa, the visa holder should apply to extend their visa or switch to a different visa, as required. 

You can extend your Skilled Worker visa as many times as you wish, paying the application fee and immigration health surcharge each time. After 5 years in the UK with a Skilled Worker visa, you may also be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), also known as permanent residency.

Bringing Family With You

Applicants for the Skilled Worker visa can bring select family members (partner and children) to the UK with them as dependants if they are eligible. Each dependant will need to complete their own visa application, although their visas will likely end on the same date as the skilled worker.

Dependent partners must be either:

  • A husband, wife or civil partner in a relationship that is recognised in the UK
  • An unmarried partner who has been living with you for at least 2 years
  • An unmarried partner in a relationship of at least 2 years but not living together due to cultural or logistical difficulties

If you and your partner are not married, in a civil partnership or living together, you must prove that you communicate regularly, both take care of any children, support each other financially and spend time together such as holidays. 

Dependant children must be living with you (unless living in school-provided accommodation) and either:

  • Under 18
  • Over 18 but unmarried, not working and currently in the UK as your dependant (e.g. you’re extending your visa you had when they were under 18)

You must provide evidence from reputable sources of your relationship with your dependents when you submit your visa application, such as marriage certificates, birth certificates and joint bank statements. 

The Skilled Worker visa applicant or their dependants must also provide they have sufficient funds to support themselves in the UK, to the sum of:

  • £285 for a partner
  • £315 for a child
  • £200 for each additional child

New visa changes mean that care workers can no longer bring their dependants to the UK with them. However, their dependants can continue to live with them when extending their visas if they were in the UK before 11 March 2024. 

Switching to a Skilled Worker Visa

You can switch to a Skilled Worker visa if you’re already in the UK on a valid long-term visa, i.e. a visa lasting more than 6 months. You will still need to meet each of the eligibility requirements, however, if you’ve been in the UK for more than a year, you may not have to prove you have sufficient funds to support yourself. 

If you change from a Student visa to a Skilled Worker visa, you’ll also need to make sure you’ve either completed your course, or studied your PhD for at least 24 months when you apply.

Any family members in the UK with you will also have to switch their visas or leave the UK when their current visa expires. 

Changing Jobs in the UK

If the visa holder changes their job or employer while in the UK on a Skilled Worker visa, they will have to apply for a new visa with the new details. If any other details of their employment change, they should contact the UKVI with the new information.

Taking on More Work

Full-time hours for adults in the UK are generally considered to be 48 hours per week, however, you can opt out of this if you wish and work overtime if you wish, with no limits on how many extra hours you can work. You don’t need to apply for a new visa to do overtime. 

While on a Skilled Worker visa, you can work up to 20 hours a week in a different position alongside your main job (which you’re being sponsored for) as long as the additional work has an eligible occupation code. 

If you wish to work more than 20 hours per week in a different job, not including any unpaid voluntary work, you must update your visa to receive sponsorship for both jobs. To do this, you’ll need:

  • A certificate of sponsorship from your other employer
  • A letter explaining that you want to change your current visa

The letter must include your:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Current certificate of sponsorship reference number
  • Current visa expiry date

Failing to Maintain Eligibility

You must continue to meet the terms of your visa while living in the UK, so it’s essential to remain employed and not commit any serious crimes while living in the UK with a Skilled Worker visa. 

If you lose your job via dismissal, redundancy or your own resignation, you’re no longer meeting the terms of your visa and your employer must inform UKVI within 10 working days of your employment terminating. You will then have whichever is shorter of up to 60 days or until your visa expiration date to make alternative arrangements for your stay in the UK before being asked to leave the country or facing deportation. 

You can also face deportation if you commit a serious crime while in the UK, for example, immigration fraud or a crime which receives a sentence of at least 12 months in prison; the length of the sentence rather than the time served is the important figure here. 

It is therefore in your interests to remain employed and stay away from crime to continue to meet the terms of your visa and stay in the UK.

Extending Your Skilled Worker Visa

You can extend your Skilled Worker visa as many times as you wish. You must apply to extend your visa before your current visa expires to ensure you do not overstay your visa and risk deportation or problems re-entering the UK. 

If any of your job details have changed, for example, your occupation code or employer, you’ll need to apply to update your visa rather than extend it. Your dependants will also need to apply to extend or update their visas as well.

Sponsoring a Skilled Worker Visa

To sponsor a Skilled Worker visa, you’ll need to meet several eligibility requirements and have your application approved by the Home Office to be granted a sponsorship licence. 

The process of getting a sponsorship licence is thorough and can take a couple of months, but once your business is eligible, you’ll receive a decision within 8 weeks of your application. 

To be eligible for a sponsorship licence, your business must:

  • Run transparently and legally in the UK
  • Have a dedicated member of staff for your foreign workers
  • Demonstrate a genuine need to employ foreign workers for the role
  • Demonstrate the business’ financial viability
  • Pay the sponsorship licence fee (usually £536 to £1,476 depending on the size of the business and industry)

If your application is successful, you’ll have a review once a year to ensure your business still meets the terms of the sponsorship licence. 

Need Help with Your Application?

The Skilled Worker visa has many requirements, whether you’re applying as a worker, or looking to gain a sponsorship licence; to make things easier, why not get the help of a specialised UK visa agency such as Synergy Immigration Solutions

Skilled Worker Visa FAQs

The application process for the Skilled Worker visa can be complicated enough without regular changes by the government, so here are some frequently asked questions regarding the Skilled Worker visa.

Do the Changes Affect Healthcare Workers?

Healthcare and social care workers applying for the Skilled Worker visa can no longer apply for visas for their dependants (partners and children). Their circumstances also differ from other Skilled Worker visa applicants as they do not have to meet the minimum salary requirement of £38,700, but must be paid the higher of either the going rate for their position, or £23,200.

Do the Changes Affect Current Visa Holders?

Anyone currently in the UK with a Skilled Worker visa does not have to worry about the new visa changes taking place gradually over spring 2024, as the new rules only affect new applicants. Family members of care workers can continue living in the UK and wages do not have to significantly increase. When your visa is due to expire, you can also extend your visa without having to meet the new requirements.

 

However, if you wish to change jobs or occupation codes, you may have to apply for a new visa.

    Contact the Synergy Team