Skilled worker Visa

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The Skilled Worker visa, which has the Tier 2 (General) visa, is the main UK immigration route for non-UK resident workers. 

Whether you are an employer looking to hire a skilled worker from overseas or are an individual applying for a sponsorship visa, it will be important to understand the Skilled Worker visa eligibility and application requirements to avoid issues or delays with the Home Office application. 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 legal advice to understand the migration options available and that the Skilled Worker visa is the correct route.

As specialist Visalogic bring substantial experience and recognised expertise in advising employers and workers on UK employment sponsorship and the Skilled Worker visa application. 

What is the Skilled Worker Visa?

The Skilled Worker visa allows employers to recruit non-UK resident workers for certain eligible, skilled roles. 

The 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. 

The Skilled Worker visa makes provision for spouse, partners and dependant children to apply to join the main visa applicant in the UK and is also a route to settlement and Indefinite Leave to Remain. 

What are the Skilled Worker visa requirements?

The rules and requirements for the Skilled Worker visa route are set out in a 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.


Skilled worker requirement 


Mandatory or tradeable?

A genuine job offer from a licensed sponsor

20 points


Speak English to the required standard

10 points


Job offer is at a skill level of RQF3 or above

20 points


Salary of £20,480 to £23,039 or at least 80% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)

0 points


Salary of £23,040 to £25,599 or at least 90% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)

10 points


Salary of £25,600 or above or at least the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)

20 points


Job in a shortage occupation as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee

20 points


Education qualification: PhD in a subject relevant to the job

10 points


Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job

20 points


 Skilled Worker minimum salary requirement

The Skilled Worker visa general minimum salary threshold is £25,600 per year, unless the ‘going rate’ for the role is higher.

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 threshold 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.

Provided their salary is at least £20,480 per year, the applicant can rely on a salary of 70% – 90% of the relevant going rate for the job, provided one of the following applies: where an applicant has a job offer in a specific shortage occupation or they have a postdoctoral position in science or higher education; or they have a science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) PhD level qualification relevant to the job (if they have a relevant PhD level qualification in any other subject the salary must be at least £23,040); or they are a ‘new entrant’ to the UK labour market.

A new entrant is someone who is under 26 on the date they make their application and is applying for a maximum period of 3 years’ leave as a skilled worker, those sponsored in postdoctoral research positions, those in professional training or studying for professional qualifications, registration or chartered status or a recent graduate, or in professional training.

The salary requirement for new entrants is 30% lower than the rate for experienced workers in any occupation, even though the minimum of £20,480 must still be met. There are also different minimum salary rules for workers in certain health or education occupations.

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 understanding English.

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

Unless exempt, language ability must be evidenced by either having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English; having a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English; or passing an approved Secure English Language Test (SELT).

Applicants are exempt from the English language requirement if they are from:

  • 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 

Certificate of sponsorship requirement

Before the worker can submit their visa application, their UK sponsor must first issue them a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to confirm that the individual and role meet the sponsorship eligibility requirements.

The CoS is a reference number that the Skilled Worker visa applicant will need to provide with their Home Office application. Only licenced sponsors can issue a CoS.

There are now two types of Certificates of Sponsorship: the defined Certificate of Sponsorship and the undefined Certificate of Sponsorship. These replace the old restricted and unrestricted CoS, which were applicable prior to 1 December 2020.

  • Undefined CoS are for either:
    • workers already in the UK with valid leave who are applying to switch into the skilled worker category from another immigration route, or
    • those applying under one of the other visa routes from within the UK or overseas.
  • Defined CoS are for out of country skilled worker visa applications.


Sponsors will need to apply for a defined CoS. This is a specific application to the Home Office, and details of the specific job and salary will need to be provided.

For undefined CoS, sponsors will either be asked to submit a request for a yearly allocation in advance of April, or they will be allocated a quantity automatically. It is also possible to apply for additional COS during the year. 

How to apply for a Skilled Worker visa

To apply for a Skilled Worker visa, the applicant will need to submit an online application, together with their supporting documentation, and pay the relevant fee. They will also need to provide their biometric information at the visa processing centre local to them, either overseas or in the UK.

Applications can be made up to 3 months before the day the worker’s intended employment start date in the UK, as stated on the Certificate of Sponsorship.

The applicant will need to submit an online application within three months of being assigned their certificate of sponsorship. Each certificate has a unique reference number that they will need to apply.

They will also be required to attend an appointment at a visa application centre to enrol their biometric information and to submit various documents in support. The necessary documentation will include:

  • A current passport or other travel document to prove they can travel
  • Expired passports or travel documents to show their travel history
  • Proof of their knowledge of English, where applicable
  • Proof of their personal savings, where applicable
  • Their tuberculosis test results if they are from a listed country
  • A criminal record certificate from any country they have lived in for 12 months or more in the last 10 years, where they will be working in either the education, health or social care sector in the UK.


The Home Office will assess their application on the basis of how many points they have accumulated under the points-based system.

It is important to note that the offer of a genuine job with a valid certificate of sponsorship does not guarantee the successful grant of a Skilled Worker. The prospective employee must still meet all the other relevant criteria. The Home Office will also consider any general grounds for refusal, including any relevant criminal history or previous immigration violations.

Skilled Worker visa processing 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 may be possible to pay for priority processing, depending on where your application is being processed. 

How long does a Skilled Worker visa last?

The skilled worker visa is usually granted for up to 5 years. At this point, the visa holder would need to apply to extend the visa or on completing the 5 year residency requirement, they may become eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

There is no limit on the number of times you can extend the skilled worker visa, provided you continue to meet the visa requirements.

If the visa holder changes sponsor or jobs, they will need to apply for a new period of leave.