How to succeed in your next UK skilled worker visa application


By Olushola Samuel

The Skilled Worker visa, which has replaced the Tier 2 (General) visa since January 2021, is the main UK immigration route for non-UK resident workers. It allows individuals to come to the UK to work in an eligible role for a licensed sponsor.

To avoid delay or refusal of visa application, it is important for an employer in the UK or an applicant in a foreign country to understand the requirements, process and the rules that guide this work visa route. A refused application will mean you lose the application fee. 

For skilled workers and their sponsors, with so much at stake, it is important to seek professional advice to understand the migration options available and to ensure the Skilled Worker visa is the correct route. This visa is open to individuals who attain 70 points by meeting specific requirements such as skill and salary level, English language ability and having a qualifying job offer from a UK sponsor. 

What are the UK Skilled Worker visa requirements?

To secure a Skilled Worker visa, you will need to meet the following eligibility criteria:

• Have a job offer from a UK employer

• Your employer must be on the list (A-list) of licenced sponsors approved by the Home Office

• Your employer must have issued you with a valid “Certificate of Sponsorship”

• The job for which you are being employed must be on the list of eligible occupations

• You must meet the skill level requirement: at least equivalent to RQF level 3

• You must meet the minimum salary requirements: £26,200 per year

• You must meet the English language requirements (B1 level)

• You must have £1,270 in your bank account to show you can support yourself in the UK

Before explaining each of the highlighted requirement above, it is very important you understand how the points are being calculated. The rules and requirements for the Skilled Worker visa route can be found in the  new Appendix Skilled Worker. Under this route, applicants will need to accrue a total of 70 points to be eligible for a visa, including EEA nationals recruited from outside the UK after 1 January 2021 and who are not eligible for status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

The applicable 70 points threshold for a Skilled Worker visa is made up of 50 points for mandatory or ‘non-tradeable’ criteria (ie; the job offer, speaking English and the requisite skill level for the job on offer), and 20 points for what’s classed as ‘tradeable’ criteria.

 The breakdown of the points are highlighted below:

• A genuine job offer from a licensed sponsor    =    20 points (Mandatory)

• English Proficiency to the required standard   =  10 points (Mandatory)

• Job offer is at a skill level of RQF3 or above     =   20 points (Mandatory)

• Salary of £20,480 to £23,039                       Zero points (Tradeable)

• Salary of £23,040 to £25,599                                  = 10 points (Tradeable)

• Salary of £26,200 and above.                           = 20 points (Tradeable)

• Job in a shortage occupation list                    =  20 points (Tradeable)

• PhD in a relevant occupation.                                 = 10 points (Tradeable)

• PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job        = 20 points (Tradeable)

Have a job offer from a UK employer

Of course this is straight forward. You need a job already been offered to you before you can begin visa application process. It is a UK employer that can issue you a CoS. There are employers in the UK that are eligible to sponsor you into the UK. You can confirm this by checking through their license number. 

Having an eligible employer 

Not all UK employer can sponsor a visa for recruitment. Only those on A-list could do that. UK home office from time to time licensed employers when they deem them fit to sponsor foreign workers into the country. 

Certificate of sponsorship requirement

Before you can submit your visa application, their UK sponsor must first issue you a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to confirm that the individual and role meet the sponsorship eligibility requirements. The CoS is a digital document with a reference number that the Skilled Worker visa applicant will need to provide with their visa application. 

There are now two types of CoS: the defined CoS and the undefined CoS.  These replace the old restricted and unrestricted CoS, which were applicable prior to 1 December 2020. Defined CoS is for applicant not in the country. Undefined CoS is for those already in UK applying to switch to job in another visa route. 

Please note: when an application is refused, you will need to get a new CoS to process a new Visa application. A previously used CoS is no longer valid and cannot be reused.

Skilled Worker eligible occupations

To determine if the job is eligible for the Skilled Worker route, the sponsor should do findings on relevant SOC code for the role. This is usually done using the ONS occupation coding tool. The job description on the list should match the position being filled. Once the code has been known, it has to be cross-checked with the list of eligible jobs to check that it is included and is eligible under the Skilled Worker route. Using incorrect SOC code could lead to visa refusal.

Healthcare professionals looking to work in the UK health or adult social care sector should instead look at the Health and Care Worker visa. This route is specifically designed for health sector occupations and offers much more benefits to visa holders over the Skilled Worker visa, such as a lower application fee and exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Meet the UK  skill level requirement (RQF3)

If your role falls below the required skill level of below RQF3, which is the equivalent of an A-level, it will not be eligible for the skilled worker visa route. Although alternative immigration routes may be considered, there is no general work permit or immigration routes for ‘low skilled’ workers or occupations below this level. 

Meeting the UK Skilled Worker minimum salary requirement

The Skilled Worker visa general minimum salary benchmark is £26,200 per year, unless the ‘going rate’ for the particular role is higher. Every occupational code is assigned a going rate.

The salary level must be calculated by the hour and not just annually. Minimum pay can be no less than £10.10 per hour, even if the annual salary is above the required level.

In some cases, where the job on offer will pay less than the general salary amount or specific salary requirement for that role – but no less than £20,480 – the applicant may still be eligible to apply for a Skilled Worker visa by trading specific characteristics against a lower salary to attain the required number of points. The salary should not be less than £20,480 per annum. 

English language requirement

The required level of English is a minimum level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages scale for reading, writing, speaking and Listening. For clarity, using IELTS as illustration of this point, the score band must be at B1 or intermediate level (i.e. 4points in all the four components). Other alternatives to IELTS  are GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English; a degree certificate that was taught in English.

As a Skilled Worker visa applicant, you will need to prove you meet the English language requirement, unless you have already done so as part of a previous UK immigration application or if you are a national of one of a number of exempt countries.

Applicants are exempt from the English language requirement if they are from Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, 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, and the USA.

Financial support requirement

The applicant must show they meet the financial requirement, and have sufficient funds to support themselves as they will not have access to public funds such as benefits.

Having a fund in a minimum sum of  £1,270 in their bank account when applying is the rule. This amount must have been available for at least 28 consecutive days, with day 28 being within 31 days of making the visa application. The applicant will need to provide evidence of their savings, unless they have been in the UK for 12 months with lawful status, or if their sponsor agrees to meet their costs of up to £1,270 during their first month in the UK. This will be stated in the CoS issued to the applicant.

Other requirements

Other documents may be requested such as Criminal record from police check and Tuberculosis certificate depending on countries of the applicants and the occupation intended in the application.


How to apply for a UK Skilled Worker visa

• Open application by launching into UK home office online and click on skilled worker category

• Fill in the required information correctly. All information should be correct.

• Make payment 

• Schedule a biometric appointment in your country visa application center (VAC)

• Prepare your document and upload either by yourself or in the VAC through an assisted service. Please note all documents to be uploaded must be in A4 format.

• Do your biometric 

• Wait for visa decision


How much does a UK Skilled Worker visa cost?

The applicant will have to pay the visa application fee of between £610 to £1,408 depending on your circumstances and whether the job is on the shortage occupation list, and the Immigration Health Surcharge, for which the main rate is £624 per year of the visa. The same costs apply to any dependants applying with the main visa applicant. Application on shortage list may pay lesser amount, usually less than £500.

What is the Skilled Worker visa processing or waiting  times?

Skilled worker visa applications generally take up to 8 weeks if applying from within the UK, or up to 3 weeks if the application is made from outside the UK. It is possible to pay for fast-tracked processing. Though this depends on where your application is being processed.

How long does a UK Skilled Worker visa last?

The skilled worker visa is usually granted for up to 5 years or less. This could be extended at will by the worker before due date by applying for extension if in the same job of the sponsor or apply for a new visa if changing job or employer. One may become eligible to apply for UK indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after 5 years of working in the UK. But you must not be a way from the UK for more than 180 days in accumulation within the 5 years period to be eligible for ILR. British citizenship could be applied for 12 months after obtaining ILR.

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