According to the latest Home Office statistics, 335,447 UK work visas were granted in the year ending September 2023, marking a huge increase of 35% over the previous year. This number is made up of skilled worker, health and care worker, and all other work visa routes. One of the most popular work visa routes is the Skilled Worker visa, with over 66,000 being granted in the year ending September 2023. In this article, we will set out who the Skilled Worker visa is for, the benefits of this route, the eligibility criteria, and the pending changes to this route in 2024.
Who is the Skilled Worker visa for?
The UK Skilled Worker visa is specifically for overseas nationals who want to work in the UK in an eligible occupation and who meet the minimum salary requirements. The eligible occupations include a diverse range of roles, from chief executives and senior officials to carpenters and joiners and care workers and home carers. As such, the Skilled Worker visa is not just for very highly paid senior-level occupations. Most importantly, applicants must have a job offer from an approved employer (see below for the full eligibility criteria).
What are the benefits of a Skilled Worker visa?
If you are granted a Skilled Worker visa, you can come to the UK and work for your employer for up to 5 years. At the end of the 5-year period, if you wish to stay longer in the UK, you can either extend your visa or, as most people do, apply to settle permanently in the UK (this is called ‘indefinite leave to remain’). You will also be able to study, bring your partner and children to join you, do additional work (subject to certain rules), and travel abroad (e.g. to visit family or for a holiday).
Am I eligible for a Skilled Worker visa?
In order to make a successful application for a Skilled Worker visa in the UK, you must be able to satisfy the Home Office that you:
Have an offer of an eligible role from an approved employer
Will receive a salary that meets the salary requirements and
Meet the English language requirements
Skilled Worker visa eligible occupations
Before making an application for a Skilled Worker visa, it is important to check that you have a job on the Home Office’s list of eligible occupations and standard occupation codes. To check if you have an eligible role, you will need the standard occupation code for your job (your employer will be able to provide this to you). If you are unsure of your standard occupation code, you can also search for your role using the ONS occupation coding tool. It is important to bear in mind that not all job titles are included, hence, you may need to search for similar job titles that match your role. As the Home Office guidance explains, you will need to check that the job description matches the job you will be doing. Certain jobs that seem similar actually have different codes, for example, ‘chef’ is an eligible occupation) whereas ‘cook’ is not.
Your job offer must also be from an approved UK employer with a sponsor licence. To check if your employer holds a sponsor licence, we recommend checking the list of registered employers.
Minimum salary requirements
Under the current rules (as of January 2024), Skilled Worker visa applicants must have an offer of a job with a salary of £26,200 per year, £10.75 per hour, or the ‘going rate’ for the type of work you will be doing (whichever is the highest amount). It is important to note that the minimum salary requirement for the Skilled Worker visa is expected to increase from £26,200 to £38,700 on 4th April 2024.
You may qualify for a Skilled Worker visa if you have a lower salary, depending on your circumstances. The rules state that you can be paid between 70% and 90% of the going rate for your occupation as long as your salary is £20,960 per year or more and you:
Have a job on the
shortage occupation list
Are under the age of 26, studying or a recent graduate, or in professional training
Have a qualification in a STEM (science, technology, engineering or maths) subject
Have a PhD level qualification (this must be relevant to your job) or
Have a postdoctoral position in science or higher education.
If you are unsure of the salary requirements for your role, speak to an immigration Solicitor who will be able to advise you.
English language requirements
As a Skilled Worker visa applicant, you will need to satisfy the Home Office that you meet the English language requirements. You will meet this requirement if you:
1. Can read, write, speak and understand English to at least level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale.
2. Have a qualification acquired through study at a UK school under the age of 18 (GCSE, A levels, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English)
3. Have a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English or
4. Come from an eligible country whose nationals do not need to prove their knowledge of English. A full list of these countries can be found on the UK government website.
While the Home Office is planning to reduce the number of people who can come to the UK on a Skilled Worker visa by increasing the minimum salary required in April 2024, it remains an extremely valuable and flexible route for those with an eligible occupation. Not only can holders stay in the UK for up to 5 years and bring their immediate family with them, but once they have reached this point, they can apply to settle permanently and gain British citizenship 12 months later.
For further information on any personal or business immigration matter, please speak to our immigration law team on 01772 447000or reach out to us on our seven-day-a-week WhatsApp helpline07869760533.