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Skilled Worker visa


The Skilled Worker visa category replaces the Tier 2 (General) visa as the main immigration route for skilled workers under the UK’s new Points-Based Immigration System. As the Freedom of Movement from the EU ended on 31 December 2020, both EU and non-EU citizens are now subject to the same immigration rules. This means that all foreign nationals coming to work in the UK must now apply for permission in advance.

In order to apply for a visa under the Skilled Worker route, migrants need to hold a job offer from an approved sponsor at the required skill and salary level.

Skilled Worker vs Tier 2 visa – what’s the difference


The new Skilled Worker route aims to provide a streamlined, simplified sponsorship process with quicker end-to-end visa processing times. Key changes include:

  • No cap – The cap that previously applied to Tier 2 (General) visas has been suspended, meaning there is now no limit on the number of skilled workers who can come to the UK.

  • No RLMT – Employers are no longer required to undertake a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) under the new rules.

  • Lower thresholds – The minimum skill threshold has been lowered from RQF6 (degree level) to RQF3 (A level) and the minimum salary has been lowered to £20,480.

  • No cooling-off period – Intra- Company Transferees can switch to the Skilled Worker Route from within the UK.

Points Based System


As part of the new Points Based System, applicants must score a total of 70 points to meet the Skilled Worker criteria.

The mandatory criteria the applicant must have:

  • A confirmed job offer from an approved sponsor (20 points).

  • The job must be at an appropriate skill level (20 points).

  • The applicant must speak English to an acceptable standard (10 points).

To make up the required 70 points, applicants can earn a further 20 “tradeable” points based on their salary, having a job offer in a shortage occupation or a relevant PhD.

Skills and salary thresholds

The lowering of the skills and salary thresholds means that businesses are now able to recruit overseas staff in a wider range of roles, which were previously excluded from the scope of sponsorship.

  • Skills threshold – Individuals applying to the Skilled Worker route will need to hold a job offer at a skill level of RQF3 or above, which is defined as A-level or equivalent. Formal qualifications will not be required, as it is the skill level of the job they will be doing which is important.

  • Salary threshold – When sponsoring an employee on the Skilled Worker or the Intra- Company Transfer route, you must pay them at least the minimum salary specified for that route, or the going rate (or, in some cases, a proportion of the going rate) for the occupation, whichever is higher.

Lower minimum salary rules apply for workers in certain health or education roles, shortage occupation roles, PhD holders and for “new entrants” at the start of their career. For example, new entrants are permitted on a salary 30% lower than the rate for experienced workers in any occupation, as long as the salary is at least £20,480. Another example is that workers in skill shortage categories can be paid 80% of the jobs usual going rate.

Sponsoring Skilled Workers


UK employers or ‘sponsors’ form an integral part of the UK’s Points-Based System. All businesses hiring workers from outside the UK’s resident labour market under the Skilled Worker route will now need to hold a Sponsor’s licence.

If your business is not already a licenced sponsor and you think you will want to recruit EU or non-EU migrants under the Skilled Worker route, you should apply for a sponsor licence now. Organisations with an existing Tier 2 sponsor licence will automatically be granted a new Skilled Worker licence with an expiry date in line with their current licence, and an appropriate allocation of Certificates of Sponsorship.

Defined and undefined CoS – what’s the difference?


Under the new rules, there are two types of Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS):

  • Defined CoS – For Skilled Workers applying for entry clearance from outside the UK

  • Undefined CoS – For Skilled Workers applying for permission from within the UK

Sponsors must submit requests for defined CoS’ to the UKV&I on a case-by-case basis. For in- country applications, sponsors will need to continue to request CoS allocations from the UKV&I.

Global Business Mobility Visa Requirements


The amount of time a Senior or Specialist Worker migrant may spend in the UK is 5 years in any 6 year period if you’re paid less than £73,900 a year or 9 years in any 10 year period, if you’re paid £73,900 a year or more. There is no English language requirement for GBM migrants. 

To qualify for a Senior or Specialist Worker visa, you must:

  • be an existing employee of an organisation that’s been approved by the Home Office as a sponsor

  • have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from your employer with information about the work you will do in the UK

  • do a job that’s on the list of eligible occupations

  • be paid at least £42,400 per year

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