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Skilled Worker visa

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This guide is split into the following sections:

Skilled Worker visa introduction

The Skilled Worker visa is the main UK visa route for skilled workers with a job offer coming to the UK to take up employment. The salary in some cases will need to be at least £25,600 per annum.  There are many exemptions to this and the salary can be as low as £20,480 per annum in some circumstances.  Since 1 December 2020 the Skilled Worker visa route replaced the Tier 2 General visa. Now that there are no restrictions on share ownership, it should be easier for business owners to now come under the Skilled Worker visa scheme.

In order to apply for the Skilled Worker visa you must have a job offer and a certificate of sponsorship from a UK employer with a valid sponsor licence.  There are many occupations under the Shortage Occupation List.which makes it easier to gain enough points.  Processing times for overseas Skilled Worker visa applicants should be much reduced as obtaining a Defined Certificate of Sponsorship should not take longer than about a day to obtain.

The Tier 1 General Visa Category for independent skilled immigration to the UK without a job has not been available for new applicants since April 2011.  Therefore for many skilled workers the only option is the Skilled Worker visa category, Intra-Company Transfer visa or in a small number of cases the Global Talent visa, which is similar to the previous Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa.  In some cases if a company is sending a senior employee to set up a new office in the UK the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa category may be worth considering.

Skilled Worker visa length of stay

You can apply for entry is up to 5 years. If you apply for a Skilled Worker visa under a lower salary rate if you are under 26 years of age, a student, or in a few other circumstances, the maximum initial period you can apply for is four years.  Towards the end of four years you will need to meet the points requirement to extend your Skilled Worker visa.

You can apply for indefinite leave to remain twenty-eight days before the five year period ends in the UK if you meet the residence requirements and wish to continue with your employment.

Skilled Worker maintenance funds

In many cases the Skilled Worker sponsor licence employer will guarantee maintenance which will meet this requirement.  Most employers are "A rated" and are allowed to do this.  Alternatively, Skilled Worker visa applicants as well as Intra-company transfer visa applicants must show that they have funds of at least £945, and that at no time over the last ninety days has the balance in their bank account gone below this figure.

Skilled Worker visa salary requirements

The job stated on a certificate of sponsorship must pay meet the points requirement:

  • Those who are under twenty-six years of age can come under the new salary rate of at least £20,480 or 70% to 90% of the going rate for the job, whichever is higher.
  • Those who have completed a degree in the UK or have three months or less to completion of any age (not necessary to have graduated), and wish to switch from a Tier 4 visa to a Skilled Worker visa can also come under the salary rate of £20,480 per annum, or the salary rate required under the points system. This also includes those who have completed twelve months of a course leading to a PhD, or those who have completed or have three months or less to completion of a Postgraduate Certificate in Education or Professional Graduate Diploma of Education.
  • Those who are 26 years of age or older and who does not come under one of the exemptions, will usually need to be paid £25,600, or the going rate for the job whichever is higher.  Under the new Skilled Worker visa system it is important to look at the new points system closely as well.

As mentioned above, usually you also need to have a look at the going rate for the job, usually at a RQF Level 3 occupations or higher, to confirm the minimum salary requirement. If the rate is higher in the going rate then, then taking into account the points system, you will need to pay a higher rate.  If the salary is close to the minimum hourly rate required, this will need to be considered as well. Further details of the minimum hourly rate can be found in going rates for eligible occupation codes.  The number of hours mentioned excludes lunch breaks.  If the hourly rate is lower than the minimum required then the Skilled Worker visa application is likely to be refused.

If you are currently based outside the UK and need to apply for UK entry clearance for a visa, or are currently in a visa category such as Tier 5 Youth Mobility that requires you to apply for Skilled Worker visa entry clearance then you will need to have a defined CoS.  Since 1 December 2020 there is no longer a quota of Skilled Worker visas for those who need to apply for visas from outside the UK.  

There are salary exceptions for certain groups, workers whose previous OR current permission to enter the UK fall under the following categories have different salary rules:

  • Religious workers, including ministers, missionaries, and religious order members.

  • You are being paid at least at NHS Band 3 and are sponsored as a pre-registration nurse or midwife.

Skilled Worker visa English language requirements

There are specific English language requirements to come under the Skilled Worker visa category.  It is interesting to note that there are no English language requirements for the Intra-Company Transfer visa scheme.  Those who are already in the UK and are applying from within the UK are more likely to have already met the English language requirement.  Nationals of majority English speaking Countries on the list below already meet the English language requirements.

Some people will need to take an English language test. Please note that, where relevant, tests by IELTS or other organisations must be the UKVI version of the test.  If it is not the correct version of the English language test the Skilled Worker visa application will be refused.

In most cases you will meet the English language requirements in the following ways:

  • By passing an approved English language test with at least CEFR level B1 in reading, writing, speaking and listening.  If you have an IELTS English language test certificate then it must mention UKVI in the certificate
  • By having an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised by UK NARIC as being equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD.  It should be noted that some degrees awarded outside the UK are not considered to be equivalent to an UK degree.  You will need to apply to UK NARIC for an evaluation.
  • By being a national of a majority English speaking Country on the list.
  • By having previously met the relevant English language requirements in a previous UK visa application.

English language exceptions based on nationality

If you are a national of a majority English speaking Country on the list below then you meet the English language requirements:

  • 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 in the past met the English language requirements for a UK visa category you will most likely not need to take another English language test.

Skilled Worker visa and new or additional employment

Skilled Workers on this visa who wish to leave their job and work for a new employer will need to update their Skilled Worker visa.  The new employer will need a Sponsor Licence and will need to make sure that the new employee gains enough points under the points system.  Skilled Worker visa holders are free to work for an additional 20 hours per week in the following circumstances:

  • In another job on the shortage occupation list or a job in the same sector and at the same professional level as the work for which the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) was assigned.
  • Outside the working hours covered by the CoS for the Skilled Worker visa.

Further information, help, and advice's team of specialists has over thirty years of experience in international visa services, and have helped thousands of people to study and work in the UK. We work in conjunction with OISC registered advisers who can submit your UK sponsor licence application and visa application to UK Visas and Immigration at the Home Office. 

For more information and advice on UK immigration law and UK visa applications please contact us on 0344 991 9222 or at