The Skilled Worker Visa is open to individuals of all nationalities (except British and Irish) who have an offer of an eligible skilled job in the UK from a Home Office-approved sponsor. The route can lead to settlement and applicants can be joined by dependent partners and children.
In order to secure a Skilled Worker Visa you will need to be sponsored to do a specific job, which meets certain skill and salary requirements, by an employer that has been licensed by the Home Office. We have published separate guidance for UK employers considering applying for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence.
If you are interested in setting up a new business in the UK, or you own an existing UK business, you may be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa via self-sponsorship, that is by being sponsored by your own UK company. We have a published a separate page on the self-sponsored Skilled Worker visa.
There is no cap on the number of people who can enter the UK on the Skilled Worker route.
In order to qualify for a Skilled Worker Visa, you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:
The exact requirements you will need to satisfy will vary depending on your circumstances. You may want to speak to an immigration lawyer for expert advice.
Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) Requirement
In order to obtain a Skilled Worker Visa you must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship for the job you are planning to do. Your Certificate of Sponsorship will need to have been issued by an employer that is authorised by the Home Office to sponsor the job in question under the Skilled Worker route. Find out more about applying for a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence or read some of our Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence success stories.
Your sponsor must be listed as A-rated on the Home Office’s register of licensed sponsors, unless you were last granted permission as a Skilled Worker and are applying to continue working for the same sponsor as in your last permission.
Your Certificate of Sponsorship must have been issued not more than 3 months before the date of your Skilled Worker application.
Your Certificate of Sponsorship must include certain mandatory information, including:
In order to be granted a Skilled Worker Visa, you will need to satisfy the Home Office that you are being sponsored to undertake a genuine vacancy and are capable of undertaking the role for which your Certificate of Sponsorship has been assigned.
If there are reasonable grounds to believe that the job you are being sponsored to do does not exist, is a sham or has been created mainly so that you can apply for a Skilled Worker Visa then your application will be refused.
The Home Office will also want to be satisfied that you have not entered into an arrangement whereby you will fill a temporary or permanent position, or undertake contract work which involves undertaking an ongoing routine role or providing an ongoing routine service to a third party who is not your sponsor.
Your sponsor must also have paid in full any required Immigration Skills Charge.
The Immigration Skills Charge is a charge for each foreign worker that a sponsoring employer seeks to employ. The Immigration Skills Charge must be paid each time a sponsoring employer assigns a Certificate of Sponsorship to a migrant.
In order to qualify for a Skilled Worker Visa, the job you are being sponsored for must be an eligible job at or above a minimum skill level.
Under the Skilled Worker Visa route, the role you are looking to fill must be skilled to at least RQF level 3, which is roughly equivalent to A-levels.
You do not need to hold a formal qualification in order to satisfy the skills level requirement. It is the skill level of the job that you will be doing that will determine whether the threshold is met.
The Home Office sets out eligible jobs, along with their skills levels, in an Appendix to the Immigration Rules. Each eligible job has an occupation code. You must be sponsored for a job in an eligible occupation code listed in the Appendix.
Your sponsor must choose an appropriate occupation code. If the Home Office has reasonable grounds to believe that your sponsor has not chosen the most appropriate occupation code then your application for a Skilled Worker Visa will be refused.
In assessing whether your sponsor has chosen the most appropriate occupation code, the Home Office will consider factors such as whether they have shown a genuine need for the job as described, whether you have the appropriate skills, qualifications and experience needed to do the job as described and the sponsor’s history of compliance with the immigration system.
In order to qualify for a Skilled Worker Visa you will need demonstrate English language ability on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in all 4 components (reading, writing, speaking and listening) to at least level B1 (intermediate).
Prospective employees applying for entry clearance or leave to remain as a Skilled Worker will satisfy the English language requirement if they:
Employers seeking to recruit under the Skilled Worker route must (subject to being able to trade points as set out below) pay their skilled workers a salary which equals or exceeds both a general salary threshold, the ‘going rate’ for the occupation (as set out in the relevant occupation code mentioned above) and a minimum hourly rate (if applicable), whichever is higher.
The salary you receive as a Skilled Worker will therefore usually need to equal or exceed the following:
If the general salary threshold is higher than the going rate for the occupation, then you will need to be paid at least the general salary threshold. If the general salary threshold is lower than the going rate for the occupation, then you will need to be paid at least the going rate. In either case, you will need to be paid at least the hourly rate (where this applies).
The general salary threshold is calculated based on actual gross earnings, up to a maximum of 48 hours per week, unless the applicant is being sponsored to work on a pattern where the regular hours are not the same each week, resulting in uneven pay, in which case work in excess of 48 hours in some weeks can be considered towards the salary thresholds, providing the average over a regular cycle (which can be less than, but not more than, 17 weeks) is not more than 48 hours a week. Any unpaid rest weeks will count towards the average when considering whether the salary thresholds are met.
The going rate is calculated on the basis of a 37.5 hour working week.
Some sponsored skilled workers applying under the Skilled Worker route may be paid less than the above amount, where they are awarded additional so-called ‘tradable points’ for other attributes:
The Home Office maintains a list of skilled roles where employers find it difficult to secure adequate numbers of workers with the required skills to fill their vacancies. As set out above, if you have a job offer for a job on the shortage occupation list, the salary threshold requirement will be reduced.
New entrants to the labour market include those under the age of 26 at the date of application (or switching from a Student or Graduate Visa), those sponsored in postdoctoral research positions and those working towards professional qualifications, registration or chartered status. As set out above, if you qualify as a new entrant to the labour market then the salary threshold requirement will be reduced.
An applicant will not qualify as a new entrant if granting their application would result in their combined period of permission as a Skilled Worker, Tier 2 Migrant and/or Graduate exceeding 4 years in total.
Subject to the exemptions below, you will need to have cash funds of at least £1,270 available.
You will need to have held the money for at least 28 consecutive days ending not more than 31 days before the date of your Skilled Worker Visa application.
You will be exempt from the financial requirement if you have a fully ‘A-rated’ sponsor who is willing to meet your maintenance costs up to the end of the first month of your employment, to an amount of at least £1,270, if necessary. Your sponsor will need to confirm this on your Certificate of Sponsorship.
If you are applying for permission to stay and have been in the UK with permission for 12 months or more at the date of application, you will meet the financial requirement and will not need to show funds.
If you are applying for entry clearance and being sponsored for certain jobs (broadly comprising jobs in the health, care, welfare and education sectors) then, unless it is not reasonably practical to do so, you will need to provide a criminal record certificate for any country in which, since the age of 18, you have been present for 12 months or more (whether continuously or in total) in the 10 years before the date of your application.
Unlike its predecessor route, there is no requirement for employers sponsoring skilled workers under the Skilled Worker Visa route to undertake a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT). However, sponsors must still be seeking to fill a genuine vacancy.
If you currently have leave to remain in another immigration category, you may extend your stay by switching into the Skilled Worker route unless you have, or were last granted, permission as a Visitor, Short-term student, Parent of a Child Student, Seasonal Worker, Domestic Worker in a Private Household or outside the Immigration Rules.
Under its predecessor route, those applying for entry clearance or to switch into the Tier 2 (General) route had to have not been in the UK as a Tier 2 (General) migrant during the past 12 months. Under the Skilled Worker route, the 12-month ‘cooling off period’ has been removed. There is no restriction on when applications to enter the Skilled Worker Visa route can be made.
If your application for a Skilled Worker Visa is approved you will be granted entry clearance or permission to stay for a period ending 14 days after the end date of your Certificate of Sponsorship (which may be up to a maximum of 5 years after the start date of your Certificate of Sponsorship).
Under the former Tier 2 (General) route, those applying for entry clearance or to switch into the route had to satisfy a requirement to spend a maximum of six years in the route.
Under the Skilled Worker route, the six-year maximum length of stay in the route has been removed. There is no restriction on the length of stay.
Skilled Worker Visa holders are permitted to work in the job they have been sponsored for. They may also undertake supplementary employment provided they continue to work in the job for which they are being sponsored. Study is also permitted, subject to the condition to provide an ATAS Certificate where required. Access to public funds is not permitted.
In order to qualify for Settlement as a Skilled Worker, you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:
For most applicants, your salary must be at least £26,200 per year or the ‘going rate’ for the occupation (as set out in the relevant occupation code), whichever is higher.
However, the following applicants need only demonstrate that they receive a salary of at least £20,960 per year or the ‘going rate’ for the occupation, whichever is higher:
Other salary reductions permitted through tradable points do not apply to settlement applications.
Skilled Workers may be joined or accompanied by a dependent partner over the age of 18 and/or or a dependent child under the age of 18.
Our team of business immigration barristers has experience in assisting employers and skilled workers across a variety of industries in companies of all sizes. Our barristers can help you with planning to ensure that you meet your start date and ensure that your career progression will fit your immigration goals. Our business immigration barristers also assist UK employers to obtain Skilled Worker sponsor licences, maintain their licence at the highest rating and comply with their sponsor duties.
We pride ourselves on being approachable and proactive in understanding and meeting our clients’ needs. We are a highly driven team, dedicated to providing clear and reliable immigration advice to skilled workers as part of a professional and friendly service.
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