What is the Minimum Salary a UK Employer can pay an Employee on a Skilled Worker Visa?
If your business has a Home Office-issued sponsor licence or is planning on applying for a sponsor licence, it is important to understand that overseas recruits won't secure a skilled worker visa unless the job they are recruited to do pays the minimum salary threshold. The complicating feature for UK business owners is that the skilled worker visa salary threshold depends on the nature of the job and the circumstances of the visa applicant.
Our immigration solicitors understand the frustrations of sponsor licence compliance and getting the minimum salary threshold right for the sponsored jobs your company is recruiting to fill from overseas-based job candidates. Our Sponsorship Licence lawyers can help your business understand the basics and are on hand to answer your sponsor licence queries.
UK and London-based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers
The minimum salary threshold for the skilled worker visa
When you recruit a job applicant who needs a skilled worker visa to secure the right to live and work in the UK, the next stage in the recruitment process is to allocate the job applicant with a certificate of sponsorship to use when applying for their work visa. This certificate (that isn’t a certificate but a Home Office-issued reference number) contains the essential information to enable a Home Office official to decide whether your recruit qualifies for the skilled worker visa by securing 70 points under the points-based immigration system.
As well as providing salary information, the certificate of sponsorship contains the job title, the standard occupational classification code, and hours of work. The job title and code are vital because the minimum salary threshold is not universal but based on the SOC code as well as individual features, such as whether the recruit qualifies as a new entrant.
What is the minimum salary payable to a skilled worker visa holder?
Whilst there is no upper salary limit for a skilled worker visa holder, there is a minimum salary limit. As Sponsorship Licence lawyers, we are finding that our business immigration solicitors are asked for guidance on minimum salaries as increasingly UK companies are turning to sponsor licences to recruit from overseas because their EU workforce has returned to the EU for family or other reasons or has retired. EU workers can no longer easily be replaced because of the end of free movement and the closure of the EU Settlement Scheme to most new applicants.
In the pre-Brexit days, restaurant owners and construction firms did not have to worry about the minimum salary threshold and the red tape of applying for a sponsor licence and recruiting workers on skilled worker visas but we live and work in different times. Firms recruiting at the lower end of the skill level required for the skilled worker visa need to understand the minimum salary so they can work out whether overseas recruitment is justified and if they can pass on any increased staff costs to their end consumer.
Under the skilled worker visa route, applicants must be paid the higher figure of:
- The minimum salary of £20,480 or
- The ‘going rate’ or a specified percentage of the published going rate for the job
The going rate for the job
The going rate for the job is not set by your firm despite your knowing the specifics of what the job entails and how much you can charge for your goods or services in your location in the UK. Instead, the going rate for each specific job with a standard occupational classification code has a published going rate. Each going rate is a national figure with no regional variations or London weightings. After you have worked out the standard occupational classification code for your vacancy you then need to consider the applicable percentage of the going rate. If the percentage figure is more than £20,480 then that is the minimum salary threshold your business must pay your recruit to meet the salary eligibility criteria for the skilled worker visa.
The minimum salary for a skilled worker visa applicant
Although our business immigration solicitors have said that the lowest salary for the skilled worker visa is £20,480, the reality is that the Home Office normally imposes a minimum salary of £25,600. Why the difference?
There are 3 reasons why your business can pay the lower figure of £20,480:
- The visa applicant is a new entrant or
- The job is on the shortage occupation list or
- The visa applicant has a relevant PhD qualification
Who qualifies as a new entrant for a skilled worker visa?
A ‘new entrant’ is either a worker under the age of 26 or a skilled worker visa applicant who meets all the following criteria:
- Their most recent visa was a student visa and the visa expired less than 2 years before their skilled worker visa application and
- The student visa was for an eligible qualification, namely a UK bachelor’s degree, a UK master’s degree, a UK PhD or other doctoral qualification, a Postgraduate Certificate in Education, or a Professional Graduate Diploma of Education and
- The applicant completed (or is applying no more than 3 months before expected to complete) their qualifying course or they are studying for a PhD and have completed at least 12 months of study in the UK towards their PhD
A visa applicant may also fall within the definition of a new entrant if:
- They are in a postdoctoral position in a specified occupation code (such as chemical scientist, biochemist, physical scientist) or
- The job offer is in a UK-regulated profession and the visa applicant is working towards a recognised professional qualification in the profession or
- The visa applicant is working towards full registration or chartered status in the relevant professional body for the sponsored job
If a job candidate is classed as a new entrant the minimum salary threshold is the highest of:
- £20,480 gross per year (or £23,040 for some candidates relying on a PhD qualification to secure new entrant status)
- £10.10 per hour
- 70% of the going rate for the job or 80% of the going rate if the new entrant qualifies because their job is on the government-issued shortage occupation list or 80% or 90% of the going rate if the applicant has a relevant PhD. If the job applicant’s PhD qualification is relevant to the job, the minimum salary threshold is the highest of £23,040 gross per year or 90% of the going rate for the job. If the visa applicant holds a PhD qualification in a STEM subject relevant to the job, they can be paid a minimum salary threshold of £20,480 gross per year and or 80% of the going rate for the job
Including allowances when calculating a skilled worker visa holder’s pay
The Home Office has recently produced updated guidance on whether your business can include various guaranteed allowances payable to your sponsored employee when calculating whether the gross salary on offer meets the minimum salary threshold. It used to be the case that sponsor licence holders could include various allowances when calculating the pay of a skilled worker visa holder but you cannot include the following payments:
- Employer pension and NI contributions
- Payment of the skilled worker visa application fee and the immigration health surcharge
- Guaranteed overtime, shift allowances, and bonuses
- Private health cover costs
- Company car provision
- Accommodation, travel, and cost of living allowances
- Golden hellos
Checking the minimum salary threshold for a job is not always straightforward. Our Sponsorship Licence lawyers can help you with job specifications and standard occupational classification codes, certificate of sponsorship allocation, minimum salary threshold queries and can meet all your sponsor licence management needs.
UK and London-based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers