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UK Employers Frequently Asked Questions on the Skilled Worker Visa

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For a discussion about sponsor licence applications or about the skilled worker visa or to book an appointment with a member of our business immigration team call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

Can my business recruit skilled workers from overseas on a skilled worker visa?

If your business wants to employ skilled workers from overseas your business will need a Home Office issued sponsor licence to enable you to recruit skilled migrant workers. The worker then needs to apply for a skilled worker visa.

Securing a Sponsor Licence for an entrepreneur or an SME business isn’t as difficult as you might think as expert immigration solicitors, using priority services, can secure a Sponsor Licence within a week of submission of the Sponsorship Licence application.

What overseas employees can a SME company recruit without the employee needing a skilled worker visa?

The rules on skilled worker visas and the need for UK employers to hold a Sponsorship Licence are the same whatever the size of your company and don’t differ whether you’re a small start-up or a multinational company. Workers who aren’t subject to Immigration control and who therefore don’t require work visas are UK settled workers or EU nationals who entered the UK on or before the 31 December 2020 and who have either applied for pre-settled status or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme or are eligible to do so before the cut-off date for EU Settlement Scheme applications on the 30 June 2021.

How can my business prove the skilled worker visa job is a genuine vacancy?

Under the old Tier 2 (General) visa UK employers had to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test before being able to recruit migrant workers on a work visa. That test was used to establish that there were no suitable UK settled workers available to fill the post. A sponsoring employer no longer has to go through the hassle of conducting a Resident Labour Market Test but an employer does have to be able to show that the job is a genuine vacancy.

The new Immigration Rules say that Home Office officials should refuse visa applications if there are reasonable grounds for thinking the job is a sham or has been created primarily so the skilled worker visa applicant can apply for a work visa to enter the UK. If a Home Office official has reasonable grounds for thinking that the job doesn’t exist or is a sham this may result in a Home Office sponsor licence compliance audit and implications for the continuation of an employer’s Sponsorship Licence.

Can a UK employer hire skilled migrant workers on skilled worker visas as agency workers?

If your company knows that it needs to recruit staff but there aren’t sufficiently skilled settled workers the company may think that they can avoid the hassle of applying for a Home Office Sponsor Licence by recruiting staff through an agency that holds a Sponsor Licence to recruit skilled migrant workers. The Immigration Rules say that a skilled worker visa holder can't be hired or contracted out on a permanent or temporary basis to a third party who isn’t the sponsor of the visa holder.

If you do need a sponsor licence then one can be secured, depending on the complexity of the application and with the right paperwork and the use of specialist business immigration solicitors, in a week or so. In addition the duties imposed on an employer under a Sponsor Licence may not be as onerous as employers fear if the company uses a sponsor licence management service to manage the Sponsor Licence.

How many points does a skilled worker visa applicant need under the points based Immigration system?

At the moment UK employers are uncertain about whether job applicants will qualify for a skilled worker visa under the new UK points based Immigration system. Skilled migrant workers need a minimum of 70 points, made up of 50 mandatory points and 20 tradeable points.

The mandatory points for the skilled worker visa are:

  • Job offer from a UK employer with a Sponsor Licence - 20 points
  • Job at the required skill level - 20 points
  • Knowledge of English through their country, qualification or passing English language test - 10 points.

The tradeable points can be achieved in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Salary is higher than £25,600 and the going rate for the job (the going rate is set by officials rather than individual UK employers) - 20 points
  • Job is on the Shortage Occupation List - 20 points
  • Job applicant has a PhD qualification in a STEM subject that is relevant to the job applied for- 20 points
  • Job applicant has a PhD qualification in a subject relevant to the job applied for- 10 points.

The tradeable points can be achieved in other ways so if a UK business isn’t certain whether a job candidate will meet the 70 points required for their skilled worker visa the best option is to ask an immigration solicitor.

What conditions are imposed on a skilled worker visa?

It’s important that both the Sponsor Licence holder and skilled migrant employee understand the conditions imposed on a skilled worker visa. They are:

  • The skilled migrant worker can't access state benefits or other public funds
  • Registration with the police may be required if the skilled migrant worker is a national of one of a specified number of countries and they will be in the UK for more than six months
  • The only work the skilled migrant worker can do is the work or job referred to in their Certificate of Sponsorship, working for their sponsoring employer plus supplementary Employment provided that the sponsored worker is still employed by the Sponsor Licence holder and also voluntary work.

What is the skilled worker visa application process?

To apply for a skilled worker visa a skilled migrant needs a job offer from a sponsoring employer as well as a Certificate of Sponsorship. The visa application is then made online together with the relevant supporting paperwork and fees.

If a skilled worker visa application is successful the visa (‘entry vignette’ within the applicant’s passport) will facilitate the job candidate’s entry into the UK. The visa holder must enter the UK before the vignette expires or they will have to re-apply for a skilled worker visa. Within ten days of arrival in the UK the skilled migrant worker needs to collect their Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) from a UK Post Office. The BRP sets out the length of their entry leave.

Although an employer has provided their new skilled worker with a Certificate of Sponsorship the employer still needs to carry out right to work checks in accordance with the right to work legislation before the new employee commences their Employment.

Does a skilled worker visa applicant have to be overseas to apply for a work visa?

A skilled worker visa applicant can apply for their visa from within the UK or overseas. If the application is made from outside the UK the skilled migrant worker must make their application from the country they’re residing in. This doesn’t have to be their country of nationality or origin but the visa applicant can't simply be a visitor in the country.

If a skilled migrant worker is in the UK on a visit visa they can't apply for a skilled worker visa but instead will need to return overseas and make their application from overseas. However, unlike the old Tier 2 (General) visa, there is no cooling off period between returning overseas after working in the UK on a skilled worker visa and being able to make a new work visa application, provided that the visa applicant has secured sponsored Employment and meets the eligibility criteria for the skilled worker visa.

For a discussion about a Sponsorship Licence application or skilled worker visas or to book an appointment with a member of our business immigration team call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us here.