Skilled Worker Visa
A Skilled Worker visa allows you to come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job with an approved employer. This visa has replaced the Tier 2 (General) work visa.
To qualify for a Skilled Worker visa, you must:
- Work for a UK employer that’s been approved by the Home Office
- Have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from your employer with information about the role you’ve been offered in the UK
- Do a job that’s on the list of eligible occupations – each occupation will have its own occupation code
- Be paid a minimum salary – how much depends on the type of work you do
- You must be able to meet the Knowledge of English Language requirement
Approved UK Employer
You must have a job offer from an approved UK employer before you apply for a Skilled Worker visa. Approved employers are also known as sponsors, because they are sponsoring you to come to or stay in the UK.
If your employer is not currently approved, they can apply for a sponsor licence if they are eligible.
Certificate of Sponsorship
If you already have a job offer from an approved employer, your employer – also known as your sponsor – will check that you meet the eligibility requirements and they will give you a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ to prove this.
The certificate of sponsorship is an electronic record, not a physical document. It will have a reference number, which you’ll need for your visa application.
You must apply for your visa within 3 months of getting your certificate of sponsorship.
You’ll usually need to be paid at least £25,600 per year unless the ‘going rate’ for your job is higher than this. Each occupation code has its own annual going rate. Check the going rate for your job in the going rates table.
If you work in healthcare or education, there are different salary rules if you work in some healthcare or education jobs, where the going rate is based on national pay scales.
If you do not meet the usual salary requirements, and you do not work in healthcare or education, you might still be eligible if your annual salary will be at least £20,480. You can be paid between 70% and 90% of the usual going rate for your job if your salary is at least £20,480 per year and you meet one of the following criteria:
- your job is on the shortage occupation list – A ‘shortage occupation’ is a skilled job where there is a shortage of workers in the UK. – If your job is on the shortage occupation list, you can be paid 80% of the job’s usual going rate and pay a lower fee for your visa
- you’re under 26, studying or a recent graduate, or in professional training
- you have a science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) PhD level qualification that’s relevant to your job (if you have a relevant PhD level qualification in any other subject your salary must be at least £23,040)
- you have a postdoctoral position in science or higher education
Knowledge of English
You must be able to speak, read, write and understand English to at least level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale.
You can prove your knowledge of English by:
- passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider
- having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English
- having a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English – if you studied abroad, you’ll need to apply for confirmation through UK NARIC that your qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD
You will not need to prove your knowledge of English if you’re a national of a majority English Speaking country.
If you’re being sponsored to work as a doctor, dentist, nurse or midwife, you do not need to prove your knowledge of English if you’ve already passed an English Language assessment that is accepted by the relevant regulated professional body.
How long you can stay
Your visa can last for up to 5 years before you need to extend it. You’ll need to apply to extend or update your visa when it expires or if you change jobs or employer.
If you want to stay longer in the UK, you can apply to extend your visa as many times as you like as long as you still meet the eligibility requirements.
After 5 years, you may be able to apply to settle permanently in the UK (also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’). This gives you the right to live, work and study here for as long as you like, and apply for benefits if you’re eligible.
How long it takes
You can apply for a visa up to 3 months before the day you are due to start work in the UK. This date is listed on your certificate of sponsorship.
As part of your application, you’ll need to prove your identity and provide your documents.
You may need to allow extra time if you need an appointment to do this. You’ll find out if you need one when you start your application.
Once you’ve applied online, proved your identity and provided your documents, you’ll usually get a decision on your visa within:
- 3 weeks, if you’re outside the UK
- 8 weeks, if you’re inside the UK
If you need to go to an appointment, you may be able to pay for a faster decision. How you do this depends on whether you’re outside the UK or inside the UK.
You, your partner or children will each need to:
- pay the application fee
- pay the healthcare surcharge for each year of your stay
- prove you have enough personal savings
If you’re a doctor or nurse, or you work in health or adult social care, you may be eligible to apply for the Health and Care Worker visa instead. It’s cheaper to apply for and you do not need to pay the annual immigration health surcharge.
If you’re applying from outside the UK, the standard fee depends on whether you’ll be in the UK for:
- up to 3 years – £610 per person
- more than 3 years – £1,220 per person
If you’re applying from inside the UK to extend, switch or update your visa, the standard fee depends on whether you’ll be in the UK for:
- up to 3 years – £704 per person
- more than 3 years – £1,408 per person
If your job is on the shortage occupation list
You and your family will pay a lower application fee if your job is on the shortage occupation list.
The fee for each person applying is:
- £464 if you’re staying for up to 3 years
- £928 if you’re staying for more than 3 years
The fee is the same whether you’re applying from inside or outside the UK.
You’ll also have to pay the healthcare surcharge for each year of your stay – this is usually £624 per year.
Money to support yourself
You must have at least £1,270 in your bank account to show you can support yourself in the UK.
You will need to have had the money available for at least 28 days in a row. Day 28 must be within 31 days of applying for this visa.
You’ll usually need to show proof of this when you apply, unless either:
- you’ve been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months
- your employer can cover your costs during your first month in the UK, up to £1,270
Your partner and children will also need to prove they can support themselves while they’re in the UK.
If your employer can support you instead
Your certificate of sponsorship must confirm this. Your employer will need to complete the ‘sponsor certifies maintenance’ section on your certificate. This is under ‘Additional data’.
What you can and cannot do
With a Skilled Worker visa you can:
- work in an eligible job
- bring your partner and children with you as your ‘dependants’, if they’re eligible
- take on additional work in certain circumstances
- do voluntary work
- travel abroad and return to the UK
- apply to settle permanently in the UK (also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’) if you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years and meet the other eligibility requirements
- apply for most benefits (public funds), or the State Pension
- change jobs or employer unless you apply to update your visa
Your partner and children
Your partner and children can apply to join you or to stay in the UK as your ‘dependants’ if they’re eligible. If their application is successful, their visa will end on the same date as yours.
A dependant partner or child is any of the following:
- your husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner
- your child under 18 – including if they were born in the UK during your stay
- your child over 18 if they’re currently in the UK as your dependant
You’ll need to provide evidence of your relationship when you apply.
Your partner and children must have a certain amount of money available to support themselves while they’re in the UK.
You – or your partner or child – will need:
- £285 for your partner
- £315 for one child
- £200 for each additional child
You – or your partner or child – will need to have had the money available for at least 28 days in a row. Day 28 must be within 31 days of you or them applying for this visa.
You’ll usually need to show proof of this when they apply, unless either:
- you have all been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months
- your employer can cover your family’s costs during your first month in the UK – this must be confirmed on your certificate of sponsorship
If your partner or child is applying at a different time to you, they’ll only need to prove they have enough money to support themselves if they have been in the UK for less than 1 year.
Children born in the UK
If you have a child while you’re in the UK, they do not automatically become a British citizen.
You can apply online for their dependent visa. You must do this if you want to travel in and out of the UK with your child.
You’ll need to provide a full UK birth certificate for each child, showing the names of both parents.
You must apply for their dependent visa before they turn 18 if they want to stay in the UK.
Extend your visa
You can usually apply to extend a Skilled Worker visa or a Tier 2 (General) work visa if all of the following are true:
- you have the same job as when you were given your previous permission to enter or stay in the UK
- your job is in the same occupation code as when you were given your previous permission to enter or stay in the UK
- you’re still working for the employer who gave you your current certificate of sponsorship
Your partner or children will need to apply separately.
Please note that some health workers and their families will get their visas extended for free because of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Makka Solicitors provides reliable and competent immigration advice on Skilled Workers and Sponsorship Licence applications. Please refer to our Fees page for full details of all of our fees for immigration applications.