Do I qualify for a skilled worker visa?
With the introduction of the new points based Immigration system those looking to come to the UK for work are asking the question ‘do I qualify for a skilled worker visa?’ Likewise employers are asking whether they will be able to recruit workers from non-EEA or EU countries after the end of free movement on the 31 December 2020 and the introduction of the points based Immigration system. In this article we answer some of your questions on the skilled worker visa.
UK work visa and Sponsor Licence solicitors
London based OTS Solicitors specialise in business immigration law. Their expert team of work visa and sponsor licence solicitors have substantial experience in applying for visas and sponsor licences. For information on the new skilled worker visa and employer sponsor licences call the work visa and Sponsor Licence immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us here. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or by telephone appointment.
Which nationalities can apply for the skilled worker visa?
The skilled worker visa replaces the Tier 2 (General) visa that non-EEA nationals applied for in order to come to the UK for employed work. Under the new points based Immigration system non-EEA nationals and EU citizens will be treated equally so there are no separate visa routes depending on your nationality. All nationalities (save for the British and Irish) will need to apply for the skilled worker visa and the Home Office won't distinguish between nationalities when assessing eligibility for the skilled worker visa or allocation of points under the new points based Immigration system.
When can you apply for a skilled worker visa?
Although non-EEA and EU citizens can apply for the skilled worker visa from the 1 December 2020 onwards there are different start dates as the end of free movement for EU nationals doesn’t occur until the 31 December 2020. Therefore, whilst non-EEA nationals can secure their skilled worker visas from the 1 December 2020 onwards EU citizens can apply from the 1 December 2020 with a view to their skilled worker visas being issued for the 1 January 2021.
Immigration solicitors say that if you are an EU national who is planning to come to the UK to work in January 2021 then ideally it would be best to bring your plans forward so you arrive to live and work in the UK before 11 pm on the 31 December 2020. That way you can then apply for pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme and be able to live and work in the UK free from Immigration control and without the need for a skilled worker visa. That means you won't be restricted to jobs with employers who hold a Home Office issued sponsor licence. If you are an EU national in that position it is best to speak to a settled status solicitor to check your eligibility to apply for pre-settled status.
What happens if I entered the UK on a Tier 2 (General) visa?
If you are a non-EEA national who entered the UK on a Tier 2 (General) visa then your visa remains valid until its expiry date. If you want to extend your work visa then you will need to apply for a skilled worker visa rather than renew your Tier 2 (General) visa. Your sponsoring employer can sponsor you on their Sponsor Licence on either a Tier 2 (General) visa or a skilled worker visa.
What is the definition of ‘skilled’ for the skilled worker visa?
The new skilled worker visa defines ‘skilled’ at RQF 3 level rather than at the current RQF 6 level. That means the required skill level has been reduced from graduate degree to A level standard qualification or equivalent.
Work visa solicitors stress that you don’t actually need to have an A level or similar standard qualification as it is the job that requires that skill level rather than you being required to hold a specific qualification. That means that if you have the equivalent of one or more A level qualifications you wouldn’t qualify for a skilled worker visa to work in lower skilled Employment, such as a general labourer on a construction site or a pot washer in a restaurant.
Do I require a sponsoring employer if I meet the skills qualification?
Whether you hold a PhD, a degree or A level standard qualification your skills and qualification don’t affect the need for you to find an employer who will sponsor you and allocate you a Certificate of Sponsorship under their Sponsor Licence. The Certificate of Sponsorship is vital so that you in turn can then apply for your skilled worker visa.
The need to find an employer who holds a Home Office issued Sponsor Licence (or is in the process of applying for one) limits your Employment options. However, immigration solicitors anticipate that many more UK employers will need to apply for a sponsor licence given that after the end of free movement UK employers will no longer be able to recruit EU nationals without having a Sponsor Licence thus restricting their pool of potential recruits. Employers should also be encouraged to apply for a Sponsor Licence by the abolishment of the Resident Labour Market Test for skilled worker visas as the Resident Labour Market Test for Tier 2 (General) visa workers made the sponsorship recruitment process very complex and time consuming.
What are the eligibility criteria for the skilled worker visa?
To successfully apply for a skilled worker visa you must score seventy points on the points based Immigration system. Fifty points are mandatory and twenty points are described as ‘tradeable’.
You can get your fifty points by:
- Job offer and Certificate of Sponsorship from an employer with a Home Office Sponsor Licence
- Meeting the RQF level 3 skill threshold
- Meeting the English language threshold – either through sitting the English language test or being exempt from the need to do so.
For your additional twenty points you can secure your tradeable points in a number of different ways, such as:
- Twenty points for meeting the minimum salary threshold of £25,600 or the going rate for the job whichever is the higher figure
- Ten points for a salary of at least £23,040 or ninety percent of the going rate for the job, whichever is the higher figure
- Twenty points for the job being listed on the UK Shortage Occupation List
- Ten points for having a PhD qualification if the PhD is relevant to the job that you are applying for. Tradeable points can be claimed for a job on the Shortage Occupation List or a PhD, but not both.
If you are what is referred to as a ‘new entrant’ then it is a bit easier to qualify for a skilled worker visa as the minimum salary threshold is reduced to £20,800 or seventy percent of the going rate for the job, whichever is the higher. You will be a new entrant if you are:
- Under the age of 26 when applying for the skilled worker visa
- Switching from the student or graduate routes or
For some regulated professions and jobs working towards a recognised professional qualification or moving directly into a post-doctoral position.
What are the alternatives to a skilled worker visa?
There are plenty of alternatives to the skilled worker visa. Immigration solicitors can look at your circumstances and assess your best visa options, such as:
- Health & care visa – this visa is part of the skilled worker route but is designed for those securing jobs in eligible health occupations such as the National Health Service, social care sector or employers providing services to the NHS. Visa applicants benefit from fast-track entry, reduced application fees and an exemption from the Immigration health surcharge
- Intra-company transfer visa – this existing visa enables employees of overseas based companies to transfer to the UK for work. This route may become more attractive as the Immigration Rules are changing on Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer visas because if you want to switch from a Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer Visa to a skilled worker visa you will be able to do so within the UK. Under the new Immigration Rules Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer visa holders are limited to remaining in the visa category for a maximum of five years in a six year period (nine years in the case of high earners). However the old cooling off rules have been abolished making this a more attractive visa option for both overseas based businesses and employees
- Unsponsored visa routes - primarily for those looking to set up business in the UK or invest in the UK economy or bring their skills or talent to the UK. The visa opportunities include the start-up visa, innovator visa, investor visaand global talent visa.
If you are unsure about your best UK visa option or have questions about whether you will qualify for the new skilled worker visa then it is best to take legal advice from work visa solicitors to ensure that you make the right visa application for your circumstances and that best meets your settlement goals.
UK work visa solicitors
For expert advice on your skilled worker visa application and visa options call the work visa solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us here. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or by telephone appointment.