Skilled worker visa

How to apply for a Skilled Worker Visa to allow you to work in the UK after study.

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Overview

The Skilled Worker visa is the main work visa route for employers to recruit international workers in the UK. It was introduced in January 2021 as part of the new Points Based Immigration System, replacing Tier 2.

To apply:

  • you must be sponsored by an employer who holds a UKVI sponsor licence;
  • the job must be an ‘eligible skilled’ occupation;
  • the job must be paid at an appropriate salary (which is dependent on the role and person applying).

You can:

  • Switch to the Skilled Worker visa from a Student visa or Graduate Route visa; or
  • Apply from outside of the UK.
  • Have dependents - they can apply at the same time or join you later.
  • Extend the visa and it can lead to settlement after 5 years.

You can’t switch into this route if you’re in the UK studying as a visitor or on a Short Term Student visa.

For some specialised areas of skilled work there are separate categories of skilled workers. For the following roles, please see the Home Office guides:

Please always check the latest relevant government visa guidance before applying, as immigration rules are subject to frequent changes.

Obtaining points

The Skilled Worker Visa is a points-based visa. To apply, you must have a minimum of 70 points, 50 are mandatory and the remaining 20 are ‘tradeable’.

Mandatory points

  • You must have an offer of a job from a licensed sponsor.
  • The job must be at or above the minimum skill level: RQF3 level or equivalent (A-Level or equivalent qualification). You don’t need to hold a formal qualification, it’s the skill level of the job which is important.
  • You must speak English to an acceptable standard.

Tradeable points

You must obtain a further 20 ‘tradeable’ points through a combination of points for meeting the appropriate salary or ‘going rate’.

You can also earn points if:

  • the role is a shortage occupation
  • you hold a relevant PhD qualification; or
  • you’re a new entrant to the job market (students and recent graduates will usually qualify as ‘new entrants)
Non-tradeable points (mandatory) - 50 required
Offer of a job by an approved sponsor 20
Job at an appropriate skill level  20
English language skills at level B1 (intermediate)  10
Tradeable points (may only score from one entry from each of the two sections below) - 20 required

Salary

   

Other

 

General salary threshold

Going rate

   

Salary of at least £20,480

At least 80% of the going rate for the profession (70% if new entrant).

0

Education qualification: PhD in a subject relevant to the job

10

Salary of at least £23,040

At least 90% of the going rate for the profession.

10

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

20

Salary of at least £25, 600

At least the going rate for the profession.

20

Job in a shortage occupation (as designated by MAC)

20

Salary of at least £20,480

Listed health/education job and meets the relevant national pay scale.

20

Applicant is a new entrant to the labour market (as designated by the MAC)

20


Eligibility requirements

To qualify for a Skilled Worker visa, you must satisfy the following criteria. (Click on the links for further information on what each requirement means and how to meet them.)


Apply

When to apply

You can submit your Skilled Worker visa application up to 3 months before the work start date as listed on the Certificate of Sponsorship.

If you’re switching into this visa from a student visa, you can apply up to 3 months before your course completion date.

If you’re a PhD student, you can apply after completing 12 months of study.

The deadline for applying inside the UK is the expiry date on your current visa.

If you make a valid application by this date, your current permission is automatically extended until the outcome of your application is decided, even if your current visa expires before you get the new visa.

This is a general principle of UK immigration law known as Section 3C leave, which prevents you from becoming an overstayer whilst your application is pending.

Visa processing time is up to 8 weeks unless you pay additional fees for a priority application.

Application process

How you access the application is different depending on whether you’re:

All applicants must:

Provide biometrics and complete the application form

When you apply you’ll be told whether you can register your biometrics using an ID App or if you must attend a visa application centre.

Pay the visa application fee

The application costs vary depending on where you’re applying from, the length of sponsorship and whether the job is in the shortage occupation list.

There are also reductions if you’re a national of certain EEA countries and if you’re applying for a Health and Care visa.

It’s quite common for employers to cover the visa application costs, so check if your employer offers this.

Check how much your visa will cost

Pay Immigration Healthcare Surcharge

You and any dependants might need to pay an upfront healthcare surcharge as part of your immigration application to allow you to access NHS healthcare.

The current rate is:

  • £624 per year for workers and adult dependants
  • £470 per year for children

For more information, visit:

Pay for UK healthcare as part of your immigration application

You do not need to pay the surcharge if you apply for the Health and Care Worker visa.


Visa conditions

You cannot:

  • Access public funds
  • Be self employed
  • Work as professional sportsperson

You can:

  • Study
  • Undertake voluntary work
  • Have dependants who can apply at the same time or join you later
  • Carry out supplementary employment up to 20 hours, providing you continue to work in the job for which you’re being sponsored for and the work is same job code or in a shortage occupation

Dependants

The following family members can join you or stay with you in the UK:

  • Spouse or civil partner
  • Unmarried partner or same sex partner who is not a civil partner, if the relationship has been ongoing for at least 2 years
  • Children under 18 if they have not yet applied to join you.
  • Children already in the UK as your Dependant who have turned 18 will also be able to apply as long as they are not leading an independent life.

Your partner and children must have the following amount of money available to support themselves while they’re in the UK:

  • £285 for your partner
  • £315 for one child
  • £200 for each additional child

They do not need to show evidence of funds if they’ve been resident in the UK with a valid visa for 12 months.

Adult dependants will have the right to work (apart from as a professional sportsperson) or study in the UK.

For more information, visit the full worker dependant guidance.


Can I extend the Skilled Worker visa?

You can extend this visa without limit.

If you found a new job with a different employer you would be able to update your visa, although this would require you to make a new application to extend your visa.

If your job code changes and you’re not in a graduate training programme, you would have to apply again.

In all cases you would need to meet the eligibility requirements and have a new certificate of sponsorship from your employer.

For more information, visit:

Does the Skilled Worker Visa lead to settlement in the UK?

Skilled Worker permission can lead to settlement in the UK after five years of continuous lawful residence under this route. This is referred to as indefinite leave to remain (ILR).

You must:

  • still be required for your Skilled Worker job; and
  • earn at least the going rate for the job; and
  • meet other requirements

This is an advantage of the Skilled Worker over the Graduate Route, which is not a direct route to settlement in the UK.

Time spent on the Skilled Worker visa (or Graduate Route) can also count towards settlement under the 10 year long residence indefinite leave to remain application. We do not provide detailed advice or support with this type of leave to remain application.

For more details, see the ‘Settlement as a skilled worker’ section on:

When can I start working full time if I switch to the Skilled Worker visa?

If you hold a Tier 4 or Student visa you can work full time after your course ends until your visa expiry, but not in a permanent full time role.

You can switch into the Skilled Worker visa up to 3 months before your course completion date.

If your Tier 4 or Student Visa was granted after 19 October 2019, you can start full time work for your sponsor as soon as you make the Skilled Worker visa application. Otherwise, you can only work full time for your sponsor when you've completed your degree and made the application.

If you’re a PhD student switching after one year and you’re not within the final 3 months of your course, you can only start full time work when you receive your Skilled Worker visa.


Further support and guidance

For individual advice on your post study work options and eligibility, contact ISSAC:

Contact ISSAC

We don’t check visa applications and we can’t advise employers.

For help and advice with your job search, CV and interview preparations, contact the Careers Service. Look out for events and talks on post study visas advertised via career connect.

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Information for students

The Student Services Information Desk (SSiD) answers a range of general student related enquiries