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The New Skilled Worker Visa

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In any other year there would have been a massive amount of publicity and media comment about the planned skilled worker visa. Amidst a global pandemic, in many business quarters, the end of free movement and the introduction of the new skilled worker visa, hasn’t been high on the agenda. However immigration solicitors say, in just four months’ time, whether or not the UK leaves the EU with a Brexit deal in place, the government has said that it intends to overhaul the UK Immigration system and introduce a new skilled worker visa. In this blog we look at the new skilled worker visa.

Immigration and skilled worker visa solicitors

Whether you are in business in the UK and are interested in the planned skilled worker visa or you are an individual wondering if you will meet the eligibility criteria for a skilled worker visa the UK immigration solicitors can answer your questions on the skilled worker visa. Call the immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us here. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or by telephone appointment.

The skilled worker visa

After the 1 January 2021, and the end of free movement, then whether you are from a non-EEA country or you are an EU citizen you will need a visa to enter the UK to live and work. The notable exception to this requirement is if you are from the EU and you enter the UK prior to the 31 December 2020 and apply for pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme by the cut-off date.

For non-EEA nationals, used to the UK visa process, the new skilled worker visa may come as a welcome change as there are some positives in comparison to the current Tier 2 (General) visa. However, for EU citizens looking to settle in the UK after the 1 January 2021, and for UK employers used to employing EU nationals without red tape or hassle, the proposed new skilled worker visa may take some getting used to.

The first point to note is that the skilled worker visa doesn’t take into account where the visa applicant originates from but is instead based on ‘skill’ as well as there being an available UK sponsored job vacancy that meets the minimum salary threshold for the skilled worker visa.

Are you a skilled worker?

Immigration solicitors tend to look at workers as either skilled or non-skilled. That is only because Immigration Rules and standard occupational classification codes for jobs (SOC) define who is classified as ‘skilled’.

Therefore, if you are a work visa applicant or a HR director seeking advice about the new skilled worker visa, don’t be surprised to be asked about the skills you have or the work skills that you think a new employee will need to fill the job vacancy.

The question of who is a skilled worker is a very important consideration for immigration solicitors and UK business owners as well as work visa applicants because if a visa applicant is looking to secure a work visa under the new points based Immigration system (due to be implemented in January 2021) there is only a skilled visa route. In other words, if you or the job, don’t meet the required skill level there is no alternative ‘lower skilled’ work visa route available. That is a blow to EU nationals who, until the 1 January 2021, have no restrictions placed on their right to work in the UK or choice of jobs. Equally, it will present a challenge to many UK employers used to being able to recruit EU workers without worrying about the need for a Home Office issued sponsor licence to sponsor the worker or whether the job vacancy meets the criteria for a work visa.

Immigration solicitors say that is why it is best that both UK business owners and work visa applicants understand what is meant by ‘skilled’ when it comes to the new skilled worker visa.

When the new skilled worker visa comes into operation the skill level set for eligibility criteria for the work visa will be NQF Level 3. This is the equivalent of an English A level qualification. At the moment, to meet the eligibility criteria to apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa an applicant has to be educated to NQF Level 6. That is the equivalent of education to bachelor's degree level or above.

Just because you have the required qualifications doesn’t guarantee you a skilled worker visa as the Immigration Rules say that the visa applicant must be recruited to do a job which is at a particular level of skill. That means that although a skilled worker visa applicant may meet the NQF Level 3 standard they won't necessarily get a visa unless the job they are applying for requires skills to NQF Level 3 standard or above.

It is worth noting that the job title isn’t what is considered to see if a job falls within the skilled work visa category. For example, the title ‘head of research’ isn’t sufficient as it is all about what the job actually entails the visa holder to do on a day to day basis.

The new skilled worker visa route

This new work visa will replace the current Tier 2 (General) visa route. Visa applicants will need:

  • A job offer from a UK based employer who has a Home Office issued skilled worker sponsor licence
  • To meet the skill and minimum income threshold
  • Meet the English language requirement
  • A minimum score of seventy points on the Home Office points based Immigration system.

To achieve the seventy points some points can be traded. For example, a PhD qualification relevant to the job will result in additional points.

The skilled worker visa and the salary threshold

There are complicated Immigration Rules on the salary threshold for the skilled worker visa but the key point is that the job must pay either:

  • A salary of £25,600 gross per year or
  • The going rate for the job role.

Whichever is the higher of the two.

However, you can still get a skilled worker visa even if the job doesn’t offer a salary of £25,600 per year if you can trade points if, for example, you have a PhD in a subject that is relevant to the job on offer.

In addition, if you are classed as a ‘new entrant’ you may meet the eligibility criteria for a skilled worker visa even if your salary is only £20,480 or above or seventy percent of the going rate for the role, whichever is the higher. New entrant status applies to those who are:

  • Under the age of twenty six when applying for the skilled worker visa
  • Switching from the student visa or graduate visa routes or
  • If you are part of some regulated professions and you are working towards a recognised professional qualification or moving into a post doctoral job position.

Does the skilled worker visa lead to settlement?

The good news is that time spent in the UK on a skilled worker visa will count towards the period of continuous residence for an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

How can OTS Solicitors help?

If you are planning to come to the UK to work or if you are an employer looking at their recruitment needs in 2021 then now is the time to take expert legal advice on the new skilled worker visa so you are ready for January 2021.

UK Immigration and skilled worker visa solicitors

OTS Solicitors specialise in business immigration and employment law and are recommended in the two leading law directories, The Legal 500 and Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession.

The expert lawyers provide specialist employment law and immigration advice for visa applicants, UK business owners and HR staff looking to understand the new skilled worker visa and points based Immigration system.

For expert immigration and employment law advice that you can trust, call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us here. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or by telephone appointment.

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