From 01 January 2021, the UK’s new single points-based immigration system (‘PBS’) came into force and is now in operation. This system applies to non-EEA nationals as well. EEA & Swiss nationals (who do not qualify under the EU Settlement Scheme) can enter the UK under the PBS from 1 January 2021. The old PBS was effectively replaced from 01st December 2020.

Whilst announcing its plans to replace the PBS of the Immigration rules, the UK Govt stated that it would be a radical overhaul of the systems in place as it took steps toward “gaining control of its borders.” The new system has brought in a number of changes; however, the fundamentals in some of the categories remain the same.

The Skilled Worker visa has now replaced the Tier 2 General visa which was the route for Non-UK/EU nationals seeking to enter the UK on a work permit basis. The Skilled Worker visa functions much in the same way as the Tier 2 General. Some aspects of the Skilled Worker category are more generous as for example there is not any resident labour market (advertisement) process and the required skill level of the role has been reduced.

This visa allows overseas migrants who have been offered a skilled job to come to the UK for employment purposes. Individuals are eligible for this visa if they are from outside the UK and if their employer holds a valid Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence from the Home Office, which will allow them to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship reference number to the migrant.

For more information on the Sponsorship License Application process, please visit our page on Sponsor License Application

Eligibility Requirements

As a prospective Skilled Worker applicant, you need to ensure the following:

  • have a valid Defined certificate of sponsorship from your job (your company will apply for this and provide you with the number)
  • show that your job is at an appropriate skill level as per the relevant SOC Code.
  • show you are being paid an appropriate salary based on the going rates in Appendix Skilled Occupations List or Appendix Shortage Occupation list
  • prove your knowledge of English Language.
  • have enough personal savings (the minimum you must have saved is £1270 in your bank account for 90 days before you apply. This requirement is waived if your sponsor agrees to certify your maintenance)
  • show you can travel and prove your travel history over the last 10 years.
  • have tuberculosis test results if you are from a listed country.
  • provide a criminal record certificate from any country you have lived in for 12 months or more in the last 10 years if you will be working with vulnerable people.

You need to have an eligible qualification from a UK educational institution if you are switching from a Student Visa. This entails providing a valid Degree Certificate or Transcript.

Who cannot apply to switch to this visa?

You cannot apply to switch to this visa if you are currently in the UK:

  • on a visit visa
  • on a short-term student visa
  • on a Parent of a Child Student visa
  • on a seasonal worker visa
  • on a domestic worker in a private household visa
  • on immigration bail
  • because you were given permission to stay outside the immigration rules, for example on compassionate grounds.

You must leave the UK and apply for a Skilled Worker visa from abroad if you’re in one of these categories.

Certificate of Sponsorship for Skilled Worker Visa

One of the major changes in the new PBS is that the Resident Labour Market Test requirements have now been abolished and therefore employers are not required to advertise positions before offering the job to a person outside the UK.

Despite the abolition of the RLMT requirements, employers must ensure that there exists a genuine vacancy before assigning a certificate of sponsorship to the prospective employee. This is not a paper certificate but a computerised number. The type of duties to be performed by the proposed Skilled Worker must be set out in the employer’s job description.

The certificate of sponsorship can be either Defined or Undefined. Defined CoS’s are assigned to individual applying for leave to enter whereas Undefined CoS’s are assigned to individuals who are already in the UK.

Appropriate salary for Skilled Worker Visa

As a general rule, a sponsored worker must be paid at, or above, either the minimum salary (known as the ‘going rate’) for the occupation code relevant to their role, or the overall minimum salary for their circumstances, whichever is the highest.

The general threshold is £25,600.00 per annum. A Skilled Worker’s salary must equal or exceed both:

a) £25,600 or

b) the pro-rated going rate of the occupation code if higher than the above amount

Absolute Minimum rates

Regardless of the rate set out in the occupation codes, the absolute minimum salary rate under the Skilled Worker route is currently £20,480. Generally, workers must be paid a salary of at least £25,600 unless they can benefit from the tradeable points.

Tradeable points

The exact salary that must be paid is determined by a set of tradeable points.

Applicants can be paid between 70% and 90% of the usual going rate for the job if their salary is at least £20,480 per year and they meet one of the following criteria:

  • the job is in a shortage occupation; or
  • they are under 26, studying or a recent graduate, or in professional training; or
  • they have a science, technology, engineering, or maths (STEM) PhD level qualification that is relevant to the job (if they have a relevant PhD level qualification in any other subject the salary must be at least £23,040); or
  • they have a postdoctoral position in science or higher education.
Pro-Rating Salary based on Hours.

When considering the minimum salary according to the occupation code, sponsors should also take into account the number of hours of work the minimum is based upon. The majority of salaries are based on a 39-hour working week. However, there are some variations as set out in the occupation codes.

This calculation can become very important where the worker will be paid the exact minimum salary for their role. A worker who will be paid the exact minimum permitted salary under the code, but who will work more hours than stated (typically 39 hours per week), will be deemed to be paid less than is allowed.

This Visa may lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain (permanent residency) after completion of five-years of residence in this category (Please see our Individual Immigration page for further information on Indefinite Leave to Remain)