The Ultimate Guide to the UK Skilled Worker Visa Eligibility (2024)

Are you considering the opportunity to work and live in the UK under the Skilled Worker Visa in 2024? Understanding the eligibility criteria and application process for this visa is crucial for professionals seeking to advance their careers in the United Kingdom. 

The Skilled Worker Visa, formerly known as the Tier 2 (General) work visa, offers a pathway for qualified individuals to enter the UK for employment with an approved employer or sponsor. This comprehensive guide aims to demystify the process, shedding light on the requirements, application steps, and critical information needed to navigate the application successfully.

The Skilled Worker Visa 

The Skilled Worker visa, formerly known as the Tier 2 (General) work visa, permits eligible individuals to reside in the UK for employment purposes with an approved employer or sponsor.

If you, or your immediate family members, hail from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein and have established residence in the UK prior to January 1, 2021, you might be eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme. This scheme exempts you from needing a work visa in the UK. Additionally, Irish citizens are not required to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme or a work visa.

Skilled Worker Visa Requirements 

To be eligible for the Skilled Worker Visa, one must obtain sponsorship from a UK-based employer and satisfy several criteria:

  • Must be 18 years old or older.
  • Possession of a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) for the intended job role.
  • The job must reflect a genuine vacancy.
  • The role must meet the appropriate skill level.
  • The offered salary must meet or exceed the general salary threshold and the “going rate” for the specific occupation.
  • The sponsoring employer must have paid the Immigration Skills Charge.
  • English language proficiency at CEFR Level B1 or above.
  • Ability to support oneself and any dependents without public funds.
  • A criminal record certificate may be required.
  • A valid TB test certificate if applicable.
  • The application must prove the job’s genuineness and that the applicant will not seek additional employment in the UK.

You will need to provide the following:

  • Certificate of Sponsorship reference number.
  • Proof of English proficiency.
  • A valid passport.
  • Documentation confirming job title and annual salary.
  • The job’s occupation code and a copy of the Certificate of Sponsorship.

Additional documents include:

  • Proof of meeting financial requirements.
  • Evidence of the relationship with dependents if applicable.
  • Tuberculosis test results, if necessary.
  • Criminal record certificate, if required.
  • A valid ATAS certificate if applicable for research in sensitive subjects at PhD level or higher.

Requirement for a Certificate of Sponsorship

The Home Office conducts verifications to ascertain the authenticity of the job vacancy and employment, confirming the genuine requirement for the role.

It is imperative for the employee to possess a valid Certificate of Sponsorship, provided by the sponsoring employer, for the exact position they are being recruited for.

This CoS, a crucial unique reference number for the Skilled Worker visa application, is exclusively available through accredited sponsors.

Certificates of Sponsorship are classified into two categories: defined and undefined, which serve as replacements for the earlier restricted and unrestricted CoS categories. 

The undefined CoS caters to individuals within the UK seeking to change their immigration status or apply from within or outside the UK. On the other hand, defined CoS is designated for applicants of the skilled worker visa residing outside the UK.

For issuance of a defined CoS, sponsors are required to detail the job and its salary specifics. The UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) authority annually assigns undefined CoS to sponsors, taking into account aspects such as the size of the employer’s workforce. CoS that remain unutilized by the end of the year are withdrawn, with the option for sponsors to request additional CoS as necessary.

UK Skilled Worker Job Eligibility Criteria

For qualification under the Skilled Worker Visa, one must secure a job offer from a UK employer that adheres to the following stipulations:

  • The position must qualify under the Skilled Worker Visa pathway, requiring the role to be classified at least at RQF level 3, akin to A-level qualifications.
  • The remuneration for the job must meet or surpass the minimum wage or “going rate” for the specific role, set at a minimum of £38,700 annually as of April 4, 2024.
  • The employing entity must receive approval from the Home Office and possess a valid Certificate of Sponsorship.
  • An occupation code is necessary for the position offered. If a job proposal has been extended to you, it’s imperative to request this code from your employer.
  • Furthermore, there must be evidence that the employer’s sponsorship for the position is for a legitimate vacancy. Should the Home Office determine that the employment was fabricated merely for the sake of a Skilled Worker visa application or if it appears to be fictitious, the application will be denied.

English language requirement

Eligibility for the Skilled Worker Visa requires proof of English language proficiency, specifically at or above the B1 level (intermediate). The following methods can fulfil this criterion:

  • Being a citizen of a predominantly English-speaking country.
  • Successfully completing a Secure English Language Test.
  • Achieving a GCSE/A Level or Scottish Highers qualification in English during education in the UK.
  • Earning a degree conducted in English.
  • Fulfilling this language requirement in a prior visa or entry clearance application.

Salary threshold (skilled worker route)

For the Skilled Worker Visa, the basic salary criterion is set at a minimum of £38,700 annually. Your earnings must meet or surpass this figure or the standard rate for your specific job, whichever is greater, based on your guaranteed basic gross salary.

Certain employees may qualify for a salary below this threshold if they accrue additional “tradable points” through various means, including:

  • Possessing a PhD relevant to the job or in a STEM field pertinent to the position.
  • Being offered employment in an occupation recognized as having shortages.
  • Being newcomers to the job market.
  • Seeking positions in the healthcare or education sectors.

Beyond the salary requirements, you are also obligated to demonstrate financial stability by maintaining at least £1,270 in your bank account. This sum should be available for 28 consecutive days before submitting your application, ensuring you can support yourself upon arrival in the UK.

How much is a Skilled Worker Visa 2024?

The cost for the Skilled Worker visa varies between £827 and £1,423, tailored to individual situations.

In addition to the visa fee, applicants should consider these costs:

  • An annual healthcare surcharge of £1,035.
  • A minimum of £1,270 in funds to prove self-sufficiency upon arrival in the UK, although this requirement may be waived for those in the UK on a valid visa for the past 12 months or if the employer agrees to cover the first month’s expenses.

For applications from outside the UK:

  • For a duration of up to 3 years, the fee is £610 per person.
  • For more than 3 years, the fee increases to £1,220 per person.

For those applying from within the UK, whether switching, updating, or extending:

  • The fee is £704 per person for up to 3 years.
  • For over 3 years, the charge is £1,408 per person.

For positions considered as shortage occupations:

  • A reduced fee of £464 per applicant applies for up to 3 years.
  • For applications extending beyond 3 years, the fee is £928 per visa applicant.

Applying For The UK Skilled Worker Visa With Your Family

Your spouse, civil partner, or unmarried partner, along with your children under the age of 18, may apply to accompany you to the UK as dependents under the Skilled Worker Visa, given they meet the eligibility criteria.

Additionally, your children over 18 can also be included if they are currently in the UK as your dependents and are unmarried. To support your application, it’s necessary to furnish proof of these family relationships.

How to apply for a Skilled Worker visa

To initiate the Skilled Worker Visa application, you must complete the process online. During the application, you’ll need to verify your identity. This can be achieved by attending a visa application centre to provide biometric information (your fingerprints and a photograph) or by utilising the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan your identity document.

The next steps involve paying the necessary application fees and submitting your supporting documents.

This procedure applies to those applying from outside the UK. If you’re currently in the UK and wish to switch to a Skilled Worker Visa, you must be on a visa that permits such a switch. The following visa categories do not qualify for switching within the UK:

  • Visitor visa
  • Short-term student visa
  • Parent of a Child Student visa
  • Seasonal worker visa
  • Domestic worker in a private household visa
  • On immigration bail
  • Under permission to stay outside the immigration rules

Individuals on any of the aforementioned visas need to leave the UK and submit their Skilled Worker Visa application from abroad.

How long does a skilled worker visa application take?

You’re allowed to apply for your UK Skilled Worker Visa up to three months prior to your scheduled employment start date in the UK, as specified in your Certificate of Sponsorship.

Given that the Home Office might require additional time to thoroughly review your documentation and verify your identity, it’s prudent to factor in some leeway and apply well ahead of your intended start date.

Typically, the decision on your visa application will be made within about 3 weeks for applications submitted from outside the UK. For those applying from within the UK, the waiting period for a decision may extend to as long as 8 weeks.

How to extend your Skilled Worker visa

To extend your Skilled Worker Visa as it approaches expiration, ensure you meet these criteria:

  • You’re employed in the same position as when your visa was initially approved.
  • The occupation code for your job remains unchanged from your initial UK entry permission.
  • You continue to be employed by the employer who sponsored your original visa application.

Family members wishing to extend their stay alongside you are eligible but must file their extension applications independently.

For those with a Tier 2 Visa:

  • If Your Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) Was Issued Before November 24, 2016:
    • Should you seek to extend your visa before May 24, 2023, the salary requirement you’re subjected to will be at a reduced level. Specifically, you’re required to earn a minimum of £20,800 annually.
  • If Your CoS Was Issued On or After November 24, 2016:
    • In case you’re applying for a visa extension before December 1, 2026, you’ll be required to adhere to updated salary criteria. The calculation of your salary for these purposes can include allowances, provided they are guaranteed for the duration of your visa.

Exploring the Self-Sponsorship Route for the Skilled Worker Visa

An intriguing aspect of the Skilled Worker Visa is the possibility for entrepreneurs and business professionals to self-sponsor. This route is particularly appealing for individuals who either plan to start a business in the UK or are already running their enterprises and wish to move to the UK to expand their operations. 

Self-sponsorship provides a viable option for those who might not fit the traditional employee sponsorship mould but possess the entrepreneurial spirit and financial resources to contribute to the UK economy.

Understanding Self-Sponsorship

Self-sponsorship involves an individual creating or taking ownership of a UK-based company, which then acts as the sponsor for their Skilled Worker Visa application. This route demands meticulous planning, as the applicant must navigate both immigration and business regulations to ensure compliance with the Home Office requirements.

Key Requirements for Self-Sponsorship:

  1. Company Establishment: You must have a legally registered company in the UK, which requires understanding the specific legal and operational requirements for setting up a business in the country.
  2. Sponsor Licence Application: The company must apply for and obtain a valid Sponsor Licence, proving its eligibility to sponsor skilled workers. This process involves demonstrating the legitimacy of the business and its need for a skilled worker – in this case, the business owner.
  3. Genuine Business Test: A critical part of obtaining a Sponsor Licence under the self-sponsorship route is passing the Genuine Business Test. The Home Office assesses if your business has a genuine need for the role you intend to fill and whether this role contributes significantly to the company’s operations.
  4. Financial Stability: Applicants must demonstrate that their business is financially stable and capable of supporting their stay in the UK without recourse to public funds. This includes showing sufficient investment into the business and a viable business plan.
  5. Meeting the Visa Requirements: Besides the business-related criteria, you must also satisfy the general Skilled Worker Visa requirements, such as the English language proficiency, the appropriate skill level of the job, and the salary threshold.

Benefits and Considerations

Opting for the self-sponsorship route can offer significant flexibility for entrepreneurs and business owners. It allows them to build their presence in the UK, contributing to the economy while also pursuing their business goals. 

However, this path requires a thorough understanding of both immigration and business regulations in the UK. Potential applicants should consider seeking advice from legal and business advisors specialising in UK immigration and company law to navigate this complex process successfully.

In conclusion, while the Skilled Worker Visa typically necessitates sponsorship from a UK employer, the self-sponsorship route presents a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs. By satisfying specific conditions and demonstrating the viability of their business ventures, individuals can embark on this pathway to work and live in the UK, driving their entrepreneurial aspirations forward.

How Can Boardroom Advisors Help With The UK Skilled Worker Visa

The path to obtaining a Skilled Worker Visa encompasses various challenges, but Boardroom Advisors is primed to streamline this journey for you. Specialising in business consultancy, we place your immigration advisory and visa application needs in the hands of expert immigration lawyers and advisors. These professionals are adept in managing the Skilled Worker Visa process, ensuring a smoother path to visa approval.

Navigating the Skilled Worker Visa application process is made less daunting with Boardroom Advisors. Our network includes over 200 seasoned business advisors and Regional Directors, several bringing a wealth of knowledge and bespoke advice to propel your aspirations. Whether it’s understanding UK business setup requirements or seeking strategic advice, our expertise is at your disposal.

The journey toward meeting the Skilled Worker Visa requirements is critical. With Boardroom Advisors, you’re invited to start this process equipped with comprehensive business advice and the backing of immigration experts. We facilitate a free 30-minute consultation with an immigration specialist, dedicated to elucidating the immigration and legal dimensions of your visa application.

Engage with Boardroom Advisors to navigate your Skilled Worker Visa application with informed guidance and support.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a skilled worker visa?

A skilled worker visa is a type of visa that allows individuals to work in the UK under the skilled worker route. It is part of the UK immigration system and has specific eligibility criteria.

What are the requirements for a skilled worker visa?

The skilled worker visa requirements include meeting the salary threshold, having a valid certificate of sponsorship from a licensed sponsor, and ensuring your occupation is on the list of eligible skilled jobs.

How do I apply for a skilled worker visa?

To apply for a skilled worker visa, you need to have a job offer from a UK-based employer with a sponsor licence. You must then submit an application through the skilled worker visa route.

What is the minimum salary requirement for a skilled worker visa?

The minimum salary threshold for a skilled worker visa is determined based on the specific occupation code and the job market. It is essential to meet this requirement to qualify for the visa.

Can a skilled worker visa holder extend their visa?

Yes, a skilled worker visa holder can extend their visa, provided they continue to meet the necessary criteria and their employer is willing to sponsor their visa extension.

What is the shortage occupation list in the UK?

The shortage occupation list is a list of occupations in the UK that are facing a shortage of skilled workers. Individuals with jobs on this list may have an advantage when applying for a skilled worker visa.

How can I qualify for a skilled worker visa in the UK?

To qualify for a skilled worker visa in the UK, you need to meet the specific eligibility criteria, including having a job offer from a licensed sponsor, meeting the salary threshold, and holding the necessary qualifications for your occupation.

Written by: John Courtney

John is highly ranked in the Top 100 UK Entrepreneurs list by City AM and is winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from techSPARK. He has been a Board Director himself for over 40 years and first started placing Non-Executive Directors over 25 years ago. John founded and ran seven of his own businesses including a Management Consultancy for 10 years, a Corporate Finance offering for 10 years and a mid-sized Digital Agency for another 10 years.