Skilled Worker Visa UK

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Skilled Worker UK visa is for people who want to work in the UK for a UK-based employer. This type of visa requires sponsorship and only the employer can act as the sponsor.

Skilled Worker route replaced Tier 2 (General) work visa in December 2020. Tier 2 (General) visa remains valid for visa holders but the next visa extension will be granted under the Skilled Worker route. The two routes will be considered as one for the purpose of assessing eligibility to indefinite leave to remain. 

EEA nationals who do not have status under the EU Settlement Scheme need to apply for the Skilled Worker visa in the same way as applicants from outside the EU. Irish citizens have the right to live and work in the UK under the Good Friday agreement and do not need a visa or EU Settlement status document. 

Skilled worker visa leads to entitlement to indefinite leave to remain after five years in this immigration route or in a combination of qualifying immigration categories.


Skilled worker visa UK - requirements

To qualify for the Skilled Worker visa UK, you will need:

  • A job offer from a UK based employer who holds a valid sponsor licence
  • The job has to be on the list of eligible occupations (you may wish to check the relevant SOC code on the list of eligible occupations and the minimum pay level for the occupation)
  • The salary has to be above a prescribed threshold which will depend on the type of occupation, your level of experience or whether the job is included in the shortage occupation list
  • A ‘certificate of sponsorship’ has to be assigned to you by the employer with information about your proposed role and salary
  • Knowledge of English to B1 level in 4 components – speaking, listening, reading and writing

You need all of the above in place before you can apply for a visa.

Minimum salary threshold for the skilled worker visa

There are two applicable thresholds – a general one and a job specific threshold, also known as “the going rate” for the job; and it is the highest of the two that applies.

The minimum hourly threshold is £10.75. It is equal to all categories and cannot be reduced.

The minimum annual threshold is £26,200 per year, but may be lowered in the following circumstances.

PhD holders with relevant job offers

For PhD holders with a job offer relevant to their degree, the minimum pay threshold is:

  • £23,580 per year or 90% of the going rate

PhD in STEM and shortage occupation

For other PhD holders in a STEM (science, technology engineering and mathematics) subject, where the sponsored occupation is on the shortage occupation list, the minimum annual pay threshold is:

  • £20,960 per year  or 80% of the going rate

New entrants

  • £20,960 or 70% of the going rate for the job

What is a new entrant

New entrant for the purpose of the Skilled Worker sponsored route is a person who meets one of the following criteria:

  • is under the age of 26 at the time of application for entry clearance or leave to remain;
  • the job offer is in a postdoctoral position in one of the approved fields in sciences or as a higher education teaching professionals;
  • the job offer is in one of the UK regulated professions and is leading for a recognised professional qualification in this profession;
  • the applicant is working towards full registration or chartered status with the relevant professional body for the job they are being sponsored for;
  • the applicant’s most recent permission to stay, other than visitor, was on the Graduate route and this permission is either valid or has expired not more than two years ago;
  • the applicant most recent permission, other than visitor, was as a student and this permission is either valid or has expired not more than two years ago. The student must have been sponsored to study at a degree level or above and must have completed the course or be within three months before the expected date of completion, or must be studying towards a PhD.

The maximum period one can be sponsored as a new entrant is four years.

The going rate can be found in the Immigration Rules Appendix Skilled Occupations.

The four columns show:

  • the standard going rate,
  • 90% of the going rate, which is applicable to PhD holders,
  • 80% which is applicable to PhD holders in STEM subjects and shortage occupation jobs, and
  • 70% applicable to new entrants.

English language requirement for the Skilled Worker visa

You are required to take a B1 English language test (SELT) in four components – reading, writing, speaking and listening.

You don’t have to take the test if you have a degree from a UK University or if you have a recognised degree from a university overseas where the main language of tuition was English. This has to be confirmed by Ecctis.

You may also meet the language requirement if you attended school in the UK as a child and have a GCSE or A level certificate or Scottish National Qualification at level 4 or 5. The qualification must be in English literature or English language – qualifications in other subjects are not accepted. Note, that these qualifications will not be accepted in the application for indefinite leave to remain.

If you met the language requirement in your previous successful application on the same route, the language requirement is considered met.

If you are a citizen of a majority English-speaking country the English language requirement is met. 

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA

Financial (maintenance) requirement for the Skilled Worker visa

All applicants will automatically meet the financial requirements if they are applying for extension of leave having previously been in the UK for at least 12 months. Thus, most applicants switching from Student route, Graduate route or any other long term route with a valid visa on the date of the application will meet the requirement.

Where the above doesn’t apply, the employer can certify that they will be prepared, if necessary, to provide an amount of £1270 toward the applicant’s maintenance and accommodation up to the end of their first month of their employment.

In the alternative, the applicant will be required to demonstrate that they have held funds of at least £1270 in a bank account for at least 28 days before the date of the application.

Skilled Worker visa fees

Skilled Worker visa fee will depend on the duration of visa, on whether the job is on the shortage occupation list and whether the application is made in the UK or from overseas.

For application from outside the UK: 

  • up to 3 years – £625
  • more than 3 years – £1235
If you are applying in the UK:
  • up to 3 years – £719
  • more than 3 years – £1423 

If the job is on the shortage occupation list the visa fee is the same for an application from inside or outside the UK:

  • up to 3 years – £479
  • more than 3 years – £943

In addition you have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge unless you are applying for a Health and Care Worker visa.

How long the Skilled Worker visa is for (duration of grant)

Skilled worker visa is granted for the period indicated on the certificate of sponsorship. There is no minimum period. The longest is five years. It can be extended beyond the five years if, for any reason, you choose not to apply for indefinite leave to remain at the end of the five-year period.

The visa is linked to a specific employment with the named sponsor. If you change the sponsor or there are significant changes in your employment contract, you will need a new visa.

Additional employment outside sponsorship

You can take so-called “supplementary” employment without the need to apply for a second certificate of sponsorship if your second job is up to 20 hours a week outside your working hours for the sponsor and the job is either in the same SOC code or listed in Appendix Shortage Occupation list. You do not have to notify the Home Office about the supplementary employment.

Alternatively, if the second job does not meet the above requirement, you can get permission to take “secondary” employment. This will require a second certificate of sponsorship and an application for a variation of permission. You will receive a new approval letter which will state your primary and secondary sponsors and the employment end date for each.

Secondary employment cannot start before or at the same time as the primary employment and can only be added to an existing visa. Accordingly, secondary employment cannot continue beyond the date of primary employment.

Skilled Worker visa - procedure and documents

Skilled worker visa applicants will need the following:

  • certificate of sponsorship reference number – your employer will give you this
  • a valid passport 
  • your job title and annual salary
  • your job’s occupation code
  • the name of your employer and their sponsor licence number – this will be on your certificate of sponsorship

Other requirements which do not apply to all applicants:

  • Proof of meeting the English language requirement;
  • Bank account statements showing the balance of £1270 maintained for at least 28 days (if the applicant is not applying from the UK after 12 months of prior residence and the sponsor is not certifying the financial requirement)
  • TB test certificate (for entry clearance applications from countries listed in Appendix TB of the Immigration Rules)
  • A criminal record certificate from every country where you have been resident for 12 months or more in the 10 years before the application – for entry clearance applications for applicants who are coming to the UK to work in education, healthcare, social services or therapy. Full list of SOC codes which require criminal record certificates is in Appendix Skilled Worker, paragraph SK16.1 of the Immigration Rules.

When and how to apply

You can apply for a Skilled Worker visa up to 3 months before the date you are due to start work in the UK and not more than 3 months after the certificate of sponsorship has been assigned to you.

The application is made online and the supporting documents are uploaded on the government portal. You may sometimes be asked to forward the original documents to the decision maker, but these requests are not frequent.

Indefinite leave to remain for Skilled Workers

Skilled workers can apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK after five years of continuous residence.

Continuous residence can be in a combination of the following categories:

You will have to show that you are paid in accordance with your certificate of sponsorship and that the employer, or sponsor, still needs you for the foreseeable future even though you will not need sponsorship after you are granted  ILR.

The sponsor must have permission to sponsor skilled workers on the date of the decision on ILR application. This is an important requirement which is outside the applicant’s control.

English language requirement will most likely be met automatically, unless you relied on GCSE or A levels in English in your previous application.

You will also have to pass Life in the UK test which will also be valid for your application for British citizenship.

Dependants of Skilled Worker visa holders

Dependants are the spouse or unmarried partner of the skilled worker and children under the age of 18. Children over 18 can remain dependent on their parents if they initially entered the UK as their dependants and were under 18 at the time.

Dependants can apply at the same time as the main applicant or join the main applicant at a later stage.

It is possible to switch into the skilled worker dependent visa from practically any long term immigration category, including the Skilled Worker category itself. However, you cannot combine the time as the main visa holder and the time spent in the UK as a dependent when calculating the qualifying 5-year period for ILR.

Dependants have the right to work in the UK and do not require sponsorship. They are not required to pass the English language test.

ILR for dependants of skilled workers

Dependent partner of the of skilled worker has to spend a continuous period of 5 years in the UK as a dependent partner. The time previously spent as the main visa holder will not count towards the qualifying period for ILR.

The rules on calculating continuous residence in the UK are quite complex, since they were changed a few times over the last few years and hence apply differently to different periods.

Dependent children do not have to spend a qualifying period in the UK but will be eligible for ILR at the same time as the dependent parent or after both parents have become settled.

Children under 18 do not have to prove knowledge of English or take the Life in the UK test.

Dependent partner and children who have turned 18 have to prove both the knowledge of English (not less than B1 in speaking and listening) and successfully pass the Life in the UK test.

Knowledge of English can be demonstrated by other means as well – such as a degree from a qualifying University or nationality of a majority English speaking country.

There are some limited exceptions for partners of skilled workers who are unable to pass the language test after 15 years of continuous residence.  It is strongly recommended to seek legal advice to make sure you are not missing the first opportunity to apply for settlement.

Skilled Worker visa FAQs

You can be sponsored for any period of time up to five years.  If necessary, the employer can continue to sponsor you after the five year period if, for some reason, you need more time before you qualify for ILR.

New entrant status can be held for a maximum of four years. This includes time spent on the Graduate route or as Skilled Worker or a Tier 2 migrant. New entrant status cannot be granted for a part of the period of leave. In other words, your visa cannot be granted for a five-year period if you are relying on a reduced pay rate as a new entrant which has the maximum qualifying period is four years.

Yes, you can, but it is a very expensive way of sponsorship as you will need a new visa with each new certificate of sponsorship. You will not have to pay the immigration health surcharge if the visa is less than for six months, but the visa fee is the same for any period up to 3 years. 

If your child was born in the UK you don’t have to apply for the child’s dependent visa, but you will not be entitled to the NHS for the child after three months from the child’s birth.

The child can leave the UK on the passport of your country of nationality without a UK visa. However, if you want to return to the UK, the child will need a visa and it may be quicker to get the visa from the UK if time is of the essence.

If your child was not added to you as a dependent you do not have to include the child in the application for indefinite leave to remain. 

In fact the child may qualify for British citizenship before becoming eligible for ILR – that is if the dependent parent does not settle in the UK at the same time as the main visa holder.

If your child was granted leave to remain or entry clearance as your dependent, it is important that the child does not become an overstayer. If the child is not registered as a British citizen before the visa expiry date, you have to make an immigration application to protect the child’s status. It is recommended to seek immigration legal advice to make sure there is no mistake.


Last updated on 27 April 2023


Last updated on November 22, 2021

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