At the end of 2020, the Home Office made changes to the new points-based immigration system. The Skilled Worker route opened for applications and replaced the Tier 2 (General work visa) route. Whilst there are a number of similarities between Tier 2 (General) and the Skilled Worker route, changes have been implemented to allow employers to sponsor a wider workforce from outside the UK. These adjustments appear to make the system much more flexible and may encourage migrants to see the United Kingdom as a more appealing destination. The new points-based system will include a route for skilled workers who have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor.
LOWER MINIMUM SKILLED THRESHOLD
From January 2021, any job offered to an overseas worker will need to be at a required skill level of RQF3 or above (this is equivalent to A level). Unlike its predecessor – where the skill level required was at RQF6 with a couple of exceptions where the skilled level was lower, such as nurses, and chefs – migrants applying for a Skilled Worker visa will not need to hold formal qualifications. However, the skill level of the job they will be doing will determine whether the threshold is met.
LOWER SALARY THRESHOLD
Unlike Tier 2 (General) where the minimum salary to sponsor from overseas was £30,000, the Skilled Worker visa has a salary requirement of at least £25,600. Employers looking to recruit under the Skilled Worker route will need to pay the skilled worker a salary which equals or exceeds this salary threshold as well as the “going rate” for the occupation (as set out in the Standard Occupational Classification system), whichever is higher.
However, it is possible for those using the Skilled Worker route to in fact be paid less than the new general salary, where they will be given additional “tradeable points” for other attributes. This is something new and different to the old Tier 2 General route. Examples of those skilled workers with a lower salary are as follows:
- An applicant with a job offer under the shortage occupation list may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both the general salary of £20,480 per annum and 80% of the going rate under the relevant SOC cod
- An applicant who is considered a new entrant may be paid an annual salary which equals or exceeds both £20,480 and 70% of the going rate under the relevant SOC code
- A PhD applicant may be paid an annual salary which equals or exceeds both £23,040 and 90% of the going rate for the relevant SOC code.
THE NEW ENTRANT TO THE JOB MARKET
The so-called ‘new entrant’ criteria can be met in a number of ways. They must be under the age of 26 at the time of application, the applicant is a recent graduate or about to graduate, those sponsored in postdoctoral research positions along with those working towards professional qualifications, registration or chartered status are included. Students who were on Tier 4 at any time in the two years before they apply under the Skilled Worker route will benefit from the new entrant position.
SKILLED WORKER SPONSORSHIP CAP
The cap on the number of migrants entering the UK has been suspended, meaning there is no set number of how many migrants should be allowed under the Skilled Worker route.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THE SKILLED WORKER VISA ROUTE?
- A better opportunity for employers to recruit talent from around the world.
- The Resident Labour Market test (RLMT) where settled workers could apply for positions before they were offered to migrants has been abolished with the new scheme.
- More generous provisions allowing switching of visa routes from inside the UK.
- Lower minimum salary requirements for new entrants (who are starting their career). They will need to meet either 70% of the going rate for their occupation code or £20,480, whichever is higher.
- There will be no limit on the number of skilled workers who can come to the UK.
- Skilled workers can now apply for unlimited visa extensions – compared to the old Tier 2 (General) visa route where skilled workers could apply for extensions of up to six years.
- Applicants can live, work, and establish themselves in the UK and apply for ILR after residing in the UK for five years.
HOW LONG CAN YOU STAY ON THE SKILLED WORKER VISA?
Under the old system, the maximum time a migrant could spend on Tier 2 was up to six years. Now, however, this has been removed under the Skilled Worker route, meaning a migrant can be on the new visa for as long as he or she continues to satisfy the requirements.
WHAT LEVEL OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE IS REQUIRED FOR THE SKILLED WORKER VISA?
Candidates wishing to apply for the Skilled Worker visa can satisfy the English language requirement using their GCSE/A level or Scottish Highers certificates. The current methods of proving English language ability, such as Degree taught in English or SELT will continue to apply. It is worth noting that if you are being sponsored to work as a doctor, dentist, nurse or midwife, you won’t be required to prove your knowledge of English if you’ve already passed an assessment that is accepted by the relevant regulated professional body.
WHAT IS NEEDED TO SUCCESSFULLY APPLY FOR A SKILLED WORKER VISA?
An applicant will need the following documents to file an application under the Skilled Worker route:
- A valid passport
- A certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), which is issued by the employer
- The job offer must require a skill level at or above RQF3 (A level equivalent)
- Evidence of meeting the required level of English language skills
- Evidence that the candidate meets the maintenance requirement, either by showing evidence of their savings or an undertaking from their employer
- TB test, if your country is listed on Appendix T
WHAT ARE THE QUALIFYING POINTS FOR A SKILLED WORKER VISA?
An applicant will need a minimum of 70 points to qualify for the Skilled Worker route as below.
- Mandatory 50 points attributed to all skilled migrants which are as follows:
- English speaking at the required level – 10 points
- Job offer from an approved sponsor – 20 points
- Relevant skill level for the applied job – 20 points
- Tradeable salary points
- Salary of £20,480 to £23,039. Have to meet at least 80% of the minimum salary requirements for the respective profession (whichever is higher) – 0 points
- Salary of £23,040 to £25,599. Have to meet at least 90% of the minimum salary requirement for the respective profession (whichever is higher) – 10 points
- Salary of £25,600 or above. Have to meet at least the minimum requirement for the respective profession (whichever is higher) – 20 points
- Other tradeable points
- Have a job in a shortage occupation as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee – 20 points
- Education qualification
- Ph.D. in a subject related to the current job – 10 points
- Ph.D. in a STEM subject related to the current job – 20 points
- Have a job listed in a health or education occupation/ new entrant in the labour market, and the applicant’s salary equals or exceeds both £20,480 per year and the going rate for SOC code – 20 points