The Skilled Worker Visa is open to people of all nationalities (except British and Irish) who receive an offer of suitable skilled work in the UK from a Home Office-approved sponsor. The process can lead to liquidation and the applicant can be joined by a partner and dependent children.
To obtain a skilled worker visa you will need to be sponsored to carry out a specific job, which meets certain skill and salary requirements, by an employer who is licensed by the Home Office. We have published separate guidance for UK employers considering applying for a skilled worker sponsor license.
Requirements for a skilled worker visa
To qualify for a skilled worker visa, you will need to meet UK visa and immigration requirements that:
- You are at least 18 years old;
- You have a valid sponsorship certificate for the work you intend to do;
- Your job offer is a real vacancy;
- Your work has an appropriate level of expertise;
- You will be paid a salary equal to or greater than the general salary threshold, the “going rate” for the occupation and the minimum hourly rate (if applicable);
- Your sponsor has paid any required immigration skills fee;
- You have a proficiency in the English language equal to at least CEFR level B1 (equivalent to IELTS 4.0);
- You have enough money to support yourself without relying on public funds;
- You have provided a criminal record certificate, if requested; AND
- You have provided a valid TB certificate, if required.
The exact requirements you will need to meet will vary depending on your circumstances. You may want to speak to an immigration lawyer for expert advice.
Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) requirements.
To obtain a skilled worker visa you must have a valid certificate of sponsorship for the work you intend to do. The certificate of sponsorship must have been issued by an employer authorized by the Home Office to sponsor the job in question under the Skilled Worker route. Find out more about how to apply for a Skilled Worker Sponsor License or read some of our Skilled Worker Sponsor License success stories.
Your sponsor must be listed as classified A on the Home Office’s register of approved sponsors, unless you were last granted authorization as a skilled worker and are applying to continue working for the same sponsor as your last authorization.
The certificate of sponsorship must have been issued no more than 3 months before the date of the skilled worker application.
The certificate of sponsorship must include certain mandatory information, including:
- details of your name, job and salary;
- a start date that is no more than 3 months after the date of the skilled worker visa application;
confirms that the Certificate of Sponsorship has not been used in a previous application that has been granted or refused and has not been withdrawn by the sponsor or canceled by the Home Office;
Actual vacancy requirement
To obtain a skilled worker visa, you will need to demonstrate to the Home Office that you have been sponsored to fill a genuine vacancy and that you are capable of carrying out the role for which your certificate of sponsorship has been awarded.
If there are reasonable grounds to believe that the job you are being sponsored for does not exist, is a sham, or was created primarily so you can apply for a skilled worker visa, your application will be denied.
The Home Office will also want to ensure that you have not entered into an agreement whereby you will hold a temporary or permanent position, or undertake contract work which involves undertaking an ongoing routine role or providing an ongoing routine service to a third party who is not your sponsor.
Charging Requirement for Immigration Skills
Your sponsor must also have paid in full any required immigration skills fee.
The Immigration Skills Charge is a fee for each foreign worker that a sponsoring employer seeks to hire. The Immigration Skills Charge must be paid every time a sponsoring employer awards a certificate of sponsorship to a migrant.
Appropriate skill level requirement
- To qualify for a skilled worker visa, the job you are sponsored for must be eligible work at or above a minimum skill level.
- Under the Skilled Worker visa route, the role you are looking to fill must be qualified to at least RQF level 3, which is roughly equivalent to A levels.
- You do not need to have a formal qualification to meet the skill level requirements. It is the skill level of the work you will be doing that determines whether the threshold is met.
- The Home Office sets out eligible jobs, together with their skill levels, in an appendix to the immigration rules. Each eligible job has an occupation code. You must be sponsored for a job in an eligible occupation code listed in the Appendix.
- Your sponsor must choose an appropriate occupation code. If the Home Office has reasonable grounds to believe that your sponsor has not chosen the most appropriate occupation code, your application for a skilled worker visa will be refused.
English language requirement
To qualify for a skilled worker visa you will need to demonstrate English language proficiency according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in all 4 components (reading, writing, speaking and listening) at at least B1 (intermediate) level.
Prospective employees applying for entry authorization or residence permit as a skilled worker will meet the English language requirements if:
- They are citizens of an English-speaking majority country;
- Have passed a secure English language test;
- They have earned a bachelor’s degree taught in English;
- Achieved a GCSE/A Level or Scottish Highers in English while attending school in the UK; OR
They have already demonstrated that they possess the requirements, level B1, in a previous accepted application for an entry or residence permit.
Salary threshold requirement
Employers seeking to hire under the Skilled Workers route must (provided they are eligible to exchange points as set out below) pay their Skilled Workers a salary that is at or above the general salary threshold, the “current rate ” for the occupation (as set out in the relevant occupation code mentioned above) and a minimum hourly rate (if applicable), whichever is higher.
Therefore, the salary you receive as a skilled worker will usually need to be equal to or greater than the following:
- The general salary threshold – for most jobs is at least £26,200 per year, but can be at least £23,580 or £20,960 per year if the worker gets ‘exchangeable points’ (see below); AND
- The applicable “going rate” for the occupation as set out in Table 1 or Table 2 of the Qualifying Occupations Appendix – or a percentage of the “going rate” if the worker obtains “exchangeable points” (see below); AND
Where applicable, the minimum hourly rate (at least £10.75 per hour).
If the general salary threshold is higher than the going rate for the profession, you must be paid at least the general salary threshold. If the general salary threshold is lower than the current rate for the occupation, you must be paid at least the current rate. In both cases, you will need to be paid at least the hourly rate (where applicable).
Skilled Worker Visa Fees
The Skilled Worker Visa fees vary depending on the particular circumstances of the applicant and their application.
In the table below is a detailed explanation of the cost of the visa for skilled workers:
|Type of application||Length of application||Application fee|
|Apply from outside the UK||Up to three years||£625|
|More than three years||£1,235|
|Apply from inside the UK||Up to three years||£719|
|Shortage of occupation roles (inside and outside the UK)||More than three years||£1,423|
|Shortage occupation roles (inside and outside the UK)||Up to three years||£479|
|More than three years||£943|
You may also need to pay the immigration health surcharge which is typically £624 per person annually.
How to apply for a skilled worker visa in the UK
The steps necessary to apply for the Skilled Worker path are:
- Receive a suitable job offer from a UKVI approved employer in the UK
- Make sure you meet the visa eligibility requirements
- Gather your supporting documents (and translations if necessary)
- Apply for Skilled Worker Visa onlinYou can apply for a visa from outside the UK or within the UK if you are changing or extending a current work visa
- Prove your identity by submitting your biometric information (fingerprints and a photo) or use the “UK Immigration: Identity Check” app to scan your ID
- Apply for your visa up to three months before the day you are supposed to start your job
- If you are applying from outside the UK, you can expect a decision within 3 weeks
- If you are applying from within the UK, you may have to wait up to 8 weeks to receive a decision
- The application process may take longer if the documents and information provided are not sufficient. Additionally, you may be asked to verify documents or attend an interview.