Skilled Worker Visa
In the past, coming from overseas to work in the UK required a Tier 2 General Visa. This Visa allowed skilled individuals to work in the UK under a sponsorship scheme. There have been many changes to UK legislation in recent years and as such, the Tier 2 General Visa has now been replaced with the Skilled Worker Visa. The Skilled Worker Visa is similar to the Tier 2 General Visa but there are some key differences that you’ll need to familiarise yourself with if you want to come and work in the UK. This page will tell you all you need to know about the Skilled Worker Visa and how to apply for one.
Understanding the Skilled Worker Visa
The Skilled Worker Visa was introduced in December 2020 and is centred around a points-based immigration system. It allows non-UK residents to gain sponsorship from employers to live and work in the UK, but only if they are filling job roles that are classified as “skilled”. A “skilled” role is defined as a role requiring the individual to possess at least an RQF3, which is equivalent to an A level education in the UK. For a worker to obtain a Skilled Worker Visa, their employer must agree to meet certain pay criteria and the worker will also be expected to cover other financial requirements associated with settling in the UK.
The applicant must also meet English language requirements to be considered for a Skilled Worker Visa. As the UK has now left the European Union, all EU citizens that wish to work in the UK will now need to meet these requirements too unless they arrived in the UK before 31st December 2020. EU citizens that did arrive before 31st December 2020 do not need to obtain sponsorship or work in positions with specific salary levels. Instead, they are able to live and work in the UK under the Settlement Scheme. Not all individuals are eligible for the Settlement Scheme, however, so it’s important to read about the scheme further from UK Government sources.
Sponsorship certificates & licences
Not all employers will be able to sponsor individuals wanting to apply for a Skilled Worker Visa. To be able to do this, an employer must obtain a sponsor licence. They will then appear on the register of sponsor licence holders, which allows them to issue a certificate of sponsorship (COS). The COS is required as part of the Skilled Worker Visa process and can only be issued by a registered employer that has completed an application process for an individual online. The online form that will need to be completed can be accessed by registered employers with a sponsor licence and requires the employer to enter information regarding the job role and individual that they want to sponsor.
The sponsorship process varies depending on whether the individual is applying for their Skilled Worker Visa from overseas or from within the UK. If the application is from overseas, then the information from their application will be sent to the Home Office. Once the Home Office are satisfied with the legitimacy of the job role, a “defined COS” will be granted, which will allow the employer to assign a COS to the individual. However, if the worker is applying from within the UK, the process is much simpler and the application won’t need to go through the Home Office for approval first. Applications from within the UK allow the employer to assign a COS without the need for Home Office intervention. Once they do this, they will be provided with a reference number that can be given to the individual applying for a Skilled Work Visa to support their application.
How far in advance can you apply for a Skilled Worker Visa?
As the process can sometimes be rather timely, applying in advance is recommended to account for any delays. The application can be submitted as far as three months before the employment start date that is referenced on the COS.
If the applicant is applying from overseas, then the application can be completed online by accessing the correct forms from the Home Office website. However, if the individual wishes to apply from within the UK, they’ll need to ensure that they have up-to-date permission to stay in the UK and are not in the UK on a Seasonal Worker Visa, Short-Term Student Visa, Parent of a Child Student Visa, Domestic Workers in a Private Household visa or if they are a visitor. Applications from within the UK are also not permitted for anyone granted permission to stay outside of immigration rules.
If the individual applying falls into any of these categories, they’ll need to leave the UK and apply from overseas. If they don’t fall into any of these categories, then an application from within the UK through the Home Office online service can be submitted. Once an application is submitted from within the UK, the individual will then be asked to provide supporting documents such as the COS number, passport details and proof of English language requirements.
Visa costs & other fees
The costs associated with the Skilled Worker Visa can vary depending on the nationality of the applicant, but currently, applicants can expect Visa fees of between £610 and £1,408 depending on how long they are looking to stay in the UK. There is also an annual Immigration Health Surcharge that currently costs £624 per year of the Visa. It’s important to remember that this fee must be paid upfront. This fee isn’t relevant for anyone on a Health & Care Visa. This is given to some medical and social care professionals and entitles them to reduced Visa fees and waives the Immigration Health Surcharge.
Other supporting documents
Depending on the role that is applied for or the nationality of the applicant, some other supporting documents may be required. These can include, a criminal record certificate, evidence of meeting financial requirements, qualification certificates, or TB test certificates.
Completing the process
In the final stages, the applicant will likely need to book an appointment at a Visa application centre to provide a photograph and fingerprints and other information needed to confirm their identity. If the applicant is from the EU and has a chip in their passport, they may be able to provide this information through an app. Once the biometric information is provided, a decision will be made on the Visa. Currently, it takes around 3 weeks for an overseas application to be processed and 8 weeks for an application submitted from within the UK.