Whether you’re a UK employer who’s unable to meet your recruitment needs without recruiting skilled migrant workers or an employee requiring a work visa, you need to know about the skilled worker visa and the eligibility criteria under the UK points based immigration system.
Our corporate immigration solicitors assist UK businesses, ranging from start-ups to SMEs to multi-nationals, on their immigration law requirements so they can successfully apply for or renew their Sponsorship Licences to enable them to recruit highly skilled migrant workers on skilled worker visas in compliance with the latest UK immigration Rules and UK points based immigration system.
Who needs a skilled worker visa?
If you are planning to come to the UK to work the likelihood is that you will need a skilled worker visa. The visa is commonly referred to as a high skilled worker visa or highly skilled migrant visa and replaces the Tier 2 (General) visa.
If you’re a UK employer looking to recruit employees from overseas or you’re looking to come to work in the UK it is best to take immigration law advice on whether as an employer the company needs a Home Office issued Sponsorship Licence and whether as an employee you need a skilled worker visa.
An employee won't need a skilled worker visa if they’re:
- A British citizen by birth or through making a British citizenship application
- A settled worker - for example, with Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK
- An EU national who has applied for pre-settled status or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
- An EU national who entered the UK to live or work before the 1 January 2021 and who’s eligible to apply for pre-settled status under the Settlement Scheme by the deadline date
The immigration Rules on high skilled workers are complicated. If you have questions about whether you require a skilled worker visa or a job candidate needs a work visa it is best to take immigration law advice so you or your company are not caught out by the immigration Rules.
For example, if a highly skilled changes their employer they’ll need to apply for a new visa rather than simply transfer their skilled worker visa to their new employment. Applying for a new visa doesn’t delay the recruitment process but it’s essential for both employee and the employer that immigration Rules are complied with. If immigration Rules are breached an employee could place their immigration status at risk and the employer could face their Sponsorship Licence being audited, suspended or even revoked.
Why do EU citizens need skilled worker visas?
EU citizens coming to the UK to live and work after the 31 December 2020 are treated in the same way for immigration purposes as non-EEA nationals. New immigration Rules and the requirement for EU nationals to apply for a highly skilled migrant visa are potentially confusing to HR executives, business owners and employers as well as EU nationals looking to relocate to the UK.
Much of the confusion over whether EU citizens need skilled worker visas is because EU citizens (and their families) living in the UK before the 1 January 2021 don’t need a skilled worker visa and won't be subject to UK immigration control provided that they have or apply for pre-settled status or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme before the cut-off date for applications.
If an EU citizen is looking for work in the UK they may not need a skilled worker visa if they arrived in the UK before the 1 January 2021 and are eligible for pre-settled or settled status. It’s in the best interests of existing EU employees and UK employers that any EU citizen who hasn’t applied for pre-settled or settled status does so before the deadline date for applications as the EU national then won't be subject to UK immigration control and the employer won't need to sponsor them under a skilled worker visa.
For help applying for settled status applications using our same day settled status application service call us on 02039599123.
How does a UK employer sponsor a skilled worker?
UK employers need a Home Office Sponsorship Licence to employ skilled migrant workers. Without a Sponsorship Licence a UK employer would be in breach of immigration Rules and right to work legislation if they employed someone subject to UK immigration control without the necessary skilled worker visa.
The first step in the sponsor process is to apply for a Sponsorship Licence. immigration solicitors say it’s best to apply for a Sponsorship Licence in advance of needing to recruit workers from overseas so securing the Sponsorship Licence doesn’t hold up recruitment plans.
Applying for a Sponsorship Licence
If you are a UK business owner, especially if you’re an Entrepreneur start-up or SME, applying for a Sponsorship Licence can be daunting when HR executives are already hard pressed dealing with daily HR demands.
Business Immigration solicitors take the hassle out of applying for a Sponsorship Licence by carefully drafting the application and the statement in support and ensuring the correct documents are submitted in support of the application. Just as importantly, our Business Immigration solicitors can help your HR executive make your company HR systems compliant with the Home Office Sponsor Management System requirements.
What is the Certificate of Sponsorship requirement?
Skilled migrant workers must have a job offer from a UK employer with a Sponsorship Licence before they can apply for a skilled worker visa. A UK company recruiting a skilled overseas worker needs to allocate the successful overseas job applicant with a defined or undefined Certificate of Sponsorship or reference number. That’s then used by the skilled worker when applying to the Home Office for their skilled worker visa.
The need for the skilled worker job to be a genuine vacancy
When UK employers with Sponsorship Licences are recruiting skilled migrant workers on skilled worker visas the job on offer must be what is referred to in the immigration Rules as a ‘genuine vacancy’. This means the vacancy must be a real job at the relevant skill level and salary for a skilled worker visa.
Most employers won't encounter difficulties with the genuine vacancy test but if you’re unsure if a specific role or job applicant meets the genuine vacancy and eligibility criteria for a skilled worker visa it’s best to contact a business immigration solicitor.
The skilled worker visa and the immigration skills charge
If a UK business owner with a Sponsorship Licence employs a skilled migrant worker on a skilled worker visa the Home Office imposes an immigration skills charge for each visa applicant. The charge is payable when the employer assigns the Certificate of Sponsorship to the proposed employee but is refundable if the employee fails to secure their visa.
The amount an employer pays for the immigration skills charge depends on the size and nature of the company. There are also some roles where exemptions to the immigration skills charge apply. Refunds of the immigration skills charge are payable if the skilled worker leaves their employment prior to the end of their skilled worker visa.
What is the skill level needed for a skilled worker visa
There is a lot of confusion about the skill level required for a skilled worker visa. That’s because the work visa is referred to as the highly skilled migrant visa. However to secure a skilled worker visa a migrant has to be employed in a job that is skilled to RQF level 3. That means the job offered must need skills roughly equivalent to the UK A level standard. The job candidate doesn’t need to have formal qualifications as they just need the skills to do the sponsored job.
What is the English language requirement for the skilled worker visa?
Most employers are anxious about whether a preferred job candidate will meet the English language requirement for a skilled worker visa. Business Immigration solicitors can often reassure business owners and prospective employees that the worker may automatically meet the English language requirement by virtue of their country of nationality or qualifications. Alternatively the employee can sit an approved English language test as part of the skilled worker visa application process.
What is the salary threshold for a skilled worker visa?
The minimum salary threshold is set at £25,600 a year unless the potential employee can use what are referred to as tradeable points in the points based immigration system or the employee is a new entrant in which case the minimum salary threshold is £20,480. However, it’s best to check salary requirements with a business immigration solicitor as the threshold also depends on the going rate for the job role.
Does a job have to be on the shortage occupation list to secure a work visa?
A job doesn’t have to be on the UK government shortage occupation list for a prospective employee to get a skilled worker visa but the job’s inclusion on the list helps with tradeable points and the minimum salary threshold. If you are unsure about whether your job role meets the shortage occupation list contact us here.
Who is a new entrant to the labour market for a skilled worker visa?
An employee is a ‘new entrant’ if they are under 26 or studying or a recent graduate or in professional training. If a job candidate qualifies as a new entrant the minimum salary threshold is reduced.
The Financial Requirement
The financial requirement for a skilled worker visa is the money an employee needs to prove they have before their arrival in the UK as evidence that they can support themselves. The figure set by the Home Office is currently £1,270.
What is the criminal record certificate requirement?
An employee needs to provide a criminal record certificate when submitting their visa application if they’ve been offered sponsored employment in specific sectors, such as healthcare or education.
Do employers need to complete a Resident Labour Market Test?
UK employers don’t need to complete a Resident Labour Market Test to recruit skilled migrant workers. All they need to show is that they have a genuine vacancy that meets the skill and salary level for the skilled worker visa.
Switching to the skilled worker visa
If you are in the UK on a different type of visa you may be able to apply to switch to the skilled worker visa if you have a sponsoring employer and meet the eligibility criteria. For more information on whether you can switch to the skilled worker visa call our immigration experts on 02039599123.
The cooling off period and the skilled worker visa
There’s no cooling off period for a skilled worker visa holder so there’s nothing to prevent a prospective employee from applying for another visa after they have left the UK provided the new sponsored employment meets the criteria for a skilled migrant visa.
How long does a skilled worker visa last for?
A skilled worker visa lasts for up to five years. An employee should think about extending their visa or settlement options, such as Indefinite Leave to Remain, before their work visa expires.
How long can you stay in the UK on a skilled worker visa?
There are no limits to the number of times an employee can apply to extend their skilled worker visa provided they meet the visa eligibility criteria. Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain once an employee has met the residence requirement means they no longer require a visa and are free of immigration controls.
What are the immigration conditions on a skilled worker visa?
immigration conditions on a skilled worker visa include maintaining employment with a sponsoring employer. If sponsored employment is lost the visa will normally be curtailed to give the migrant worker a short period of time to secure employment with another sponsoring employer or apply for a different type of visa. If you are worried about immigration conditions it is best to take early immigration advice as being in breach can affect your immigration status and prospects of successfully extending your visa or settling in the UK.
Can dependants of skilled workers come to the UK?
The partners, children and those qualifying under the immigration Rules as dependants of skilled worker visa applicants can apply for a dependant visa to accompany an employee to the UK.
Apply as a Skilled Worker
For help with Sponsorship Licences or applying for a skilled worker visa our Business Immigration team can guide you through the process. Call us on 02039599123 or complete this form for expert advice.
Applying for a skilled worker visa from outside the UK
If you’re applying for a skilled migrant visa from outside the UK you will need to apply online with supporting information supplied by your employer, such as the Certificate of Sponsorship reference code, job title and salary. For help with your skilled worker visa application call us on 02039599123 or complete our online enquiry form.
Applying for a skilled worker visa from within the UK
If you are in the UK you may need a skilled worker visa because you are changing your sponsoring employer or because your Tier 2 (General) visa is expiring. For help with your skilled worker visa application call us on 02039599123 or complete our online enquiry form.
How much does the skilled worker visa cost?
When an employee applies for a skilled worker visa they need to pay the visa application fee (the amount depends on circumstances) as well as the healthcare surcharge and meet the financial requirement.
Supporting documents for a skilled worker visa application
The documents an employee needs to provide with their visa application depends on the nature of the job and their circumstances. Our Business Immigration team can help employers and employees ensure the right documents are provided so the visa is obtained as quickly as possible.
Fast Track options for skilled worker visas and processing times
The Home Office says it takes around two to three weeks to process a skilled worker visa application made outside the UK and eight weeks for applications made within the UK. Times vary depending on the complexity of the application and whether you chose to pay a fast track Home Office application fee to get a visa decision within days.
Skilled worker visas and biometric appointments
To secure a skilled worker visa you will probably need to attend a biometric appointment at a visa centre for fingerprints and a photograph to be taken as part of the application process.