UK Skilled Worker Visa – How to Apply & Requirements

International workers who meet the requirements can work in the UK for approved UK businesses with the help of a UK skilled worker visa. By the end of 2020, the Tier 2 visa was superseded by the skilled worker visa. Those having skills in an appropriate occupation at RQF Level 3 (equal to an A-level in the UK) or higher are now eligible for the program.

The UK Skilled Worker Visa is a long-term work permit that can be issued for up to five years at first, depending on how long your Certificate of Sponsorship is valid for. It is crucial to remember that your visa can only be used as long as you continue to work for your sponsoring company in the same capacity. You must apply for a new skilled worker visa if you want to switch jobs or employers.

If you apply under the Skilled Worker route, you can apply for British citizenship one year later and indefinite permission to remain (ILR) after meeting the requirements for five years. You can also extend your visa before it expires. In order to apply for a UK skilled worker visa, you must first obtain a job offer and confirm that you match the requirements listed below.

There are other career paths you might pursue if the skilled worker visa isn’t right for you. For additional information, see our page on UK Work Visas.

Skilled Worker Visa vs Tier 2 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 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.
  • No Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) is required for skilled worker visa, 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 Eligibility and Requirements

Skilled worker visa eligibility requirements are:

  • 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: at least equivalent to RQF level 3
  • You must meet the minimum salary requirements: £26,200 per year*
  • 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

*The minimum salary for a skilled worker visa will increase to £38,700 per year starting on 4 April 2024, except healthcare workers and education workers on national pay.

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

The minimum salary for a skilled worker visa is currently £26,200. According to the latest announcement by Home Secretary James Cleverly, starting from 4 April 2024, this minimum salary of skilled worker visa will be increased to £38,700, but health and social care visa routes and education workers on national pay will be exempt.

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 £20,960 per year or £10.75 per hour. You can be paid less than £26,200 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

However, under the new plan, the salary discount applied to the going rate for jobs on the shortage occupation list will be discontinued soon.

Read Also: Canadian Work Permit & Visa Process

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 requires 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.

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.

For more information, you can check our guide for Skilled Worker visa extension

For assistance and advice on the Skilled Worker extension process, speak to one of our employment immigration solicitors on 020 3744 2797.

Read Also:  Jobs without a Work Permit in Canada

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
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