Skilled Work Visas – New Rules
The new skilled worker visa is being introduced as part of the UK points based Immigration system and will replace the Tier 2 (General) visa. Whilst the end of free movement for EU citizens will occur on the 31 December 2020 and the full introduction of the new UK points based Immigration system will take place on the 1 January 2021, the skilled worker visa will come into effect at 9 am on the 1 December 2020.
UK work visa and Sponsor Licence solicitors
London based OTS Solicitors specialise in business immigration law and have an expert team of work visa and sponsor licence solicitors with experience in applying for work visas, business visas and sponsor licences. For information on the new skilled worker visa or on your existing Tier 2 (General) visa or for answers to Sponsor Licence questions 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.
Are Tier 2 (General) visas still valid after the introduction of the skilled worker visa?
If you are in the UK on a Tier 2 (General) visa then your visa remains valid until its expiry date. You don’t need to apply to switch to the new skilled worker visa route now as your current visa remains valid.
You will only need to take action before the expiry of your Tier 2 (General) visa if:
- You want to change employer – this involves finding an employer who has a Home Office issued sponsor licenceand you making a new work visa application as you can't switch job keeping the same visa
- Your current employer has their Sponsor Licence revoked meaning that they can no longer continue to sponsor workers on work visas – the Home Office gives a limited amount of time (normally sixty days) for you to find a new employer who will sponsor your Employment so you can get a new work visa. If you can't find a new sponsoring employer and you don’t have any other visa alternatives then you have to leave the UK. Once you have left the UK there may be visa options that you can apply for from overseas. The best thing that you can do is take specialist immigration legal advice as soon as you are told that your employer’s Sponsor Licence has been revoked
- Your current employer makes you redundant as unfortunately your right to live and work in the UK is based on your Tier 2 (General) visa and your sponsorship by your sponsoring employer. If you are at risk of redundancy it is best to take expert employment law advice as well as Immigration law advice in case you are made redundant as you may have alternative visa options.
When does the new skilled worker visa come into operation?
Work visa applicants are confused about whether they should be applying for a Tier 2 (General) visa or for a skilled worker visa because they have read that the new UK points based Immigration system isn’t being introduced until the 1 January 2021. The new skilled worker visa is being introduced early for some, in a two stage roll out process, namely from the 1 December 2020 you can submit a skilled worker visa applications for:
- EU citizens starting work on or after the 1 January 2021 and
- Non-EEA citizens starting work after the 1 December 2020.
There are two different start dates depending on whether you are an EU citizen or a non-EEA national because the free movement for EU citizens doesn’t end until 11pm on the 31 December 2020. It is only after the 31 December 2020 that the same Immigration Rules will apply equally to EU and non-EEA citizens. However, if an EU national comes to live in the UK prior to the 31 December 2020 and applies for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme by the cut-off date (currently the 30 June 2021 unless they qualify for an extension) then they can continue to exercise free movement rights indefinitely by virtue of their settled status and will remain free of Immigration control.
Switching to a skilled worker visa
If you do need to switch to a new skilled worker visa then the switch rules are straight forward. To switch to the new skilled worker visa you must be in the UK when applying to switch and you can't be in the UK as a seasonal worker or domestic worker in a private household or on a visit visa or a short-term student visa or parent of a child student visa or in the UK outside of the Immigration Rules. You still need an employer to employ you who has a sponsor licence but any UK employer who has a Sponsor Licence to sponsor Tier 2 (General) visa holders can sponsor skilled worker visa holders without needing to apply for a new skilled worker Sponsor Licence until their existing Sponsor Licence is due to expire.
If you are in the UK on a Tier 2 (General) visa then your skill level to apply for a skilled worker visa should not be an issue because the skill level needed to apply for a skilled worker visa is A level standard, referred to as RQF 3. That skill level is lower than the current skill level of RQF 6 (degree level) set for the Tier 2 (General) visa.
There is a minimum salary required for the skilled worker visa and the Immigration Rules say that the minimum salary required for a skilled worker visa is £25,600 or the going rate for the job, whichever is higher. However, income exceptions apply so it is therefore best to take legal advice on whether your proposed skilled worker visa job and salary meet the criteria for a skilled worker visa. For example, a lower salary may still qualify you for a skilled worker visa if you have a relevant PhD qualification or if you will be filling a recognised shortage occupation role on the shortage occupation list.
To secure a skilled worker visa you need to achieve seventy points under the new UK points based Immigration system. Some of the seventy points are tradeable so extra points can be obtained if the job is on the shortage occupation list or you have a relevant PhD so you may meet the eligibility criteria for a skilled worker visa even though the advertised job is at a lower rate of pay than £25,600.
The introduction of the new points based Immigration system is confusing for employers as well as those currently in the UK on Tier 2 (General) visas and new applicants (whether from non-EEA countries or EU citizens) for the skilled worker visa. For expert advice on your Immigration options, your skilled worker visa application or help with a Sponsor Licence application then contact the work visa and sponsor licence solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us here. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or by telephone appointment.