Skilled Work Visa in UK: Essential Guidelines for Applicants

The United Kingdom’s Skilled Worker Visa is designed for individuals who wish to work in the UK and have a job offer from a UK employer. This type of visa is a part of the UK’s points-based immigration system. The system assesses applicants based on factors such as skills, qualifications, salary, and language proficiency.

The Skilled Worker Visa has replaced the former Tier 2 (General) work visa. This aligns with the government’s aim to attract talent and fill gaps in the labor market post-Brexit.

Applicants for the Skilled Worker Visa must have a confirmed job offer from an approved UK employer before applying. The job offer must be at a certain skill level, and the salary must meet the minimum threshold set by the Immigration Rules. Additionally, the employer is required to hold a valid Sponsor Licence to hire overseas workers. This system ensures that workers coming to the UK are entering roles where there is a genuine need for their skills.

The process of obtaining a Skilled Worker Visa involves several steps and requirements that need to be met. These include proving knowledge of the English language and having enough personal savings to support oneself during the stay in the UK. The visa also allows for family members to accompany the main applicant, subject to certain conditions. This route offers a path to settlement in the UK, provided the visa holder meets all the necessary requirements during their stay.

Overview of the Skilled Worker Visa

The Skilled Worker Visa enables individuals to come to the UK for employment with an approved sponsor. It is crucial to understand the visa’s eligibility criteria and the sponsorship process, including the Certificate of Sponsorship, to successfully apply for this visa type.

Eligibility Criteria for Applicants

Applicants must meet specific eligibility requirements to qualify for a Skilled Worker Visa. They must:

  • Work for a UK employer that has been approved by the Home Office.
  • Have a ‘Certificate of Sponsorship’ from their employer with details about the role they have been offered in the UK.
  • Perform a job that’s on the list of eligible occupations.
  • Be paid a minimum salary threshold, which varies depending on the job.

The Skilled Worker Visa operates on a points-based system. Applicants need to score a minimum number of points based on their skills, salary, and English language abilities to be eligible.

Sponsorship and Certificate of Sponsorship Requirements

For a Skilled Worker Visa, having a sponsor is essential. The sponsor must be:

  • A legitimate UK employer with a valid sponsorship license.
  • Willing to vouch for the applicant and confirm that they will fulfill the job role according to UK labor market standards.

The Certificate of Sponsorship is a virtual document with a unique reference number that holds information about the job and the individual’s personal details. It is important to note that:

  • A CoS must be assigned to the applicant by the sponsor before they apply for their visa.
  • It is not an actual paper certificate.

Applicants are also subject to an application fee and the healthcare surcharge, which grants them access to the UK’s National Health Service during their stay.

Job Offer and Employer Obligations

When securing a skilled work visa in the UK, a valid job offer from a UK employer is mandatory. The employer, who must be an approved sponsor, has specific obligations to meet, which include adhering to occupation codes and minimum salary requirements.

Occupation Codes and Minimum Salary Requirements

Occupation Codes: Each job role has a corresponding Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code. The SOC code determines the skill level and job description that align with the visa applicant’s proposed employment. It’s essential for the job offer to specify the correct occupation code to prove it is an eligible role for sponsorship.

Minimum Salary: Employment offers must meet or exceed the ‘going rate’ for the occupation code. The minimum salary requirement varies depending on the job role, with the threshold generally being £25,600 per year or the specific going rate for the occupation, whichever is higher.

Licensed Sponsors and Sponsor Licence

Licensed Sponsors: Employers in the UK must obtain a sponsor licence to hire from outside the UK. Sponsors are subject to duties such as reporting to the Home Office and ensuring their foreign employees comply with visa regulations.

Sponsor Licence: Getting a sponsor licence demands that employers prove their legitimacy, capability to offer genuine employment that meets the salary and skill level criteria, and commitment to fulfilling all sponsorship duties. An employer must be listed as a licensed sponsor before they can issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), which is necessary for the visa application process.

Application Process and Fees

Applying for a Skilled Worker visa in the UK involves a meticulous process, including the submission of specific documents and payment of requisite fees. It is essential for applicants to prepare and adhere to the guidelines to ensure a smooth application journey.

Required Documents and Tests

Applicants must provide a range of documents when applying for a Skilled Worker visa. These include:

  • A valid passport or travel document
  • Proof of job offer from a certified sponsor
  • Job title and annual salary information
  • A criminal record certificate from any country lived in for over 12 months in the last 10 years (for certain jobs)
  • An Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate, if applicable

Additionally, individuals must prove their knowledge of English by passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider.

Processing Time and Biometrics

After submitting the online application, applicants will pay the visa fee and the healthcare surcharge—also known as the Immigration Health Surcharge—which grants access to the UK’s National Health Service.

Visa application processing times vary, but applicants can expect a decision within 3 weeks when applying from outside the UK. Upon payment, they must also attend an appointment at a visa application centre to provide biometrics, which include fingerprints and a photograph.

Rights and Responsibilities

Holders of UK Skilled Worker Visas have specific obligations they must fulfill, and they are granted certain rights within the United Kingdom. It’s imperative that visa holders understand both to ensure compliance with UK immigration laws.

Dependants and Family Members

Skilled Worker Visa applicants may bring dependants, including spouses, partners, and children under 18, to the UK. These family members have the right to work and study, however, they must also satisfy the English language requirement and undergo a tuberculosis test before arrival if coming from a country where this is a requirement. Dependants generally have access to National Health Service (NHS) healthcare, akin to the main visa holder, providing they pay the health surcharge.

Dependant Rights:

  • Study: Dependants can study in the UK schools and institutions.
  • Work: They are allowed to seek employment without restriction on the type or level of employment.

Dependant Responsibilities:

  • Tuberculosis Test: Must be taken if required by their country of residence.
  • Healthcare Surcharge: Must pay the health surcharge as part of their visa application to access NHS services.

Indefinite Leave to Remain and Citizenship

Skilled Worker Visa holders may be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after five years of continuous residence in the UK. They must meet certain criteria, including the minimum salary requirement, personal savings, and demonstrating proficiency in the English language.

ILR grants the right to live, work, and study in the UK without any immigration restrictions.

Upon obtaining ILR, individuals may eventually apply for British citizenship. Irish citizens can apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. This does not affect their rights to apply for British citizenship if they wish.

Rights for ILR Applicants:

  • Permanent residence: Ability to apply for ILR after five years.
  • State Pension: Once eligible, they have the right to state pension akin to UK citizens.

Responsibilities for ILR Applicants:

  • Continuous Residence: Should meet the requirement of five years of continuous residence.
  • Financial Threshold: Must meet the minimum salary requirement relevant to their job.
  • Language and Life in the UK Test: Must prove English language ability and pass the ‘Life in the UK’ test.

The right to public funds, such as benefits and state pension, is generally reserved for those with ILR or citizenship. It may be inaccessible to those on Skilled Worker Visas unless specific exemptions apply.

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