The Skilled Worker Visa

If you require a visa to work in the UK in a skilled role, you may be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa subject to meeting the requirements set by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). This is the government department responsible for visa and immigration matters in the UK and forms part of the Home Office.

A Skilled Worker visa allows those with a job offer in an eligible role to obtain immigration permission to work in the UK. The Skilled Worker visa route opened on 1 December 2020, replacing the Tier 2 (General) visa. This was part of the new Points Based Immigration System (PBS). Those who were granted leave in the Tier 2 (General) visa category will be granted leave in the Skilled Worker category when extending their Tier 2 (General) permission in the future.

Overview of requirements

In order to be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa, there are certain requirements that must be met:

  • Sponsorship (job offer from a licensed sponsor): You must have a job offer from an employer who is approved to sponsor Skilled Worker visas. You will require to be assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship
  • Job at appropriate skill level: The job offered must be at the appropriate skill level
  • English language skills: You must have English Language skills at level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) or above
  • Minimum salary: The job offered must meet a minimum salary level

These are the requirements which attract ‘points’ (hence the name ‘Points Based System’), and meeting all of the above will results in a total of 70 points. However, there are some other requirements which you may need to meet which do not attract ‘points’ including:

  • Financial requirement (formerly the ‘maintenance requirement’)- You must show that you have enough savings to support yourself in the UK. As an A-rated sponsor, the University of Glasgow can ‘certify maintenance’ on the Certificate of Sponsorship to show that this requirement is met. Details on this requirement are available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/financial-evidence-for-sponsored-or-endorsed-work-routes
  • Tuberculosis (TB) test certificate – You may require to obtain and submit a TB test certificate if you are entering the UK from any of the following countries
  • ATAS Requirement – Depending on your nationality and research area, you may need to obtain an Academic Approval Technology Scheme (ATAS) certificate from the Counter-Proliferation and Arms Control Centre of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office before making the visa application. The requirement applies where an individual will be working in a job which includes an element of research at PhD level or above in a relevant subject area. This requirement applies to Skilled Worker visa applications made from 21st May 2021.

  • Criminal Record Certificate - If you are applying from outside the UK and will be employed in education, health or social services in one of the SOC codes listed in the following link, you may be required to obtain a criminal record certificate for any country (excluding the UK) where you have lived for 12 months or more (whether continuous or in total), in the 10 years before your application, while aged 18 or over. Full details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/criminal-records-checks-for-overseas-applicants/guidance-on-the-application-process-for-criminal-records-checks-overseas

 

The Certificate of Sponsorship

In order to apply for your Skilled Worker visa, you require to have been assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (abbreviated as ‘CoS’) by the University of Glasgow once a job offer has been accepted. This is a virtual record which can be assigned to you by the University as a licensed sponsor.

When the University assigns a CoS it is providing an undertaking that the role is genuine and meets the necessary skill level and salary criteria.

The CoS will contain information about you and your role. It will contain a 4-digit occupation code which is referred to as the SOC code - this stands for ‘standard occupational classification’ code. It is a classification of your occupation, based on your job duties. The SOC code is selected from a list in the Immigration Rules called Appendix Skilled Occupations. The SOC code is selected by the sponsor and should be the closest match to the duties which you will undertake as part of your role.

Each SOC code will have a specific salary rate which must be met (known as the ‘going rate’). Some SOC codes will be on the Shortage Occupation List. There is also a list of ineligible SOC codes (these types of roles cannot be sponsored) which are listed in Table 5 of Appendix Skilled Occupations: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-appendix-skilled-occupations

The start and end date of your Certificate of Sponsorship must be in line with your contract of employment.

When you apply online for your Skilled Worker visa, the application form will request the CoS reference number. UKVI will use this number to obtain information about the role as this information will be saved on their systems.

We will also provide you with a copy of the Certificate of Sponsorship for your records. You must apply for your visa within 3 months of the date on which the Certificate of Sponsorship was assigned, after which the CoS will expire. The CoS cannot be assigned any earlier than 3 months prior to the intended start date of employment. Please also note that where an ATAS Certificate is required, the CoS will not be assigned until the ATAS Certificate has been obtained.

Please note that receiving a Certificate of Sponsorship does not guarantee a successful outcome of the Skilled Worker visa application. You will need to meet all the requirements as set out in the Immigration Rules and submit the required documents requested by UKVI. UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) process all visa applications and all decisions are at their discretion.


Skill level requirement

To be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa, you must be sponsored for a job in an eligible occupation code listed in Appendix Skilled Occupations. These are classed by SOC codes as explained above.

The University of Glasgow will make an assessment of the most appropriate occupation code based on the job duties or the role. There may not always be an appropriate occupation code for certain roles.

The University will need to be satisfied that you have the appropriate skills, qualifications and experience needed to do the job as described before assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship.

Please note that in some circumstances, it is possible that a role meets or exceeds the minimum salary level, but does not meet the skill level requirement as the role may be classed as ineligible for sponsorship by UKVI in Table 5 of Appendix Skilled Occupations.


English Language Requirement

For a Skilled Worker visa to be successful, you must satisfy UKVI that you have met the English Language Requirement.

There are several ways in which this requirement can be met, and full details are set out in Appendix English Language of the Immigration Rules. You can meet the requirement in one of the following ways:

  1. If you are a national of a majority English speaking country listed in Appendix English Language: 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, United States of America.

  2. If you have a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree or PhD awarded in the UK. 

  3. If you have a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English, gained through study at a UK school that you began when you were under 18 years of age.

  4. If you have a degree-level qualification taught in English from an overseas University, which:
  • Is deemed by UK ENIC/Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC) to meet the recognised standard of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or a PhD in the UK; and
  • UK ENIC/Ecctis has confirmed that the degree was taught or researched in English to the appropriate level of the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework for Language learning (B1) or above.

If you would like to rely on this option, you must apply to UK ENIC/Ecctis via the ‘Visa and Nationality’ (English proficiency) service. Full details on how to make the application can be found here: https://ecctis.com/Qualifications/VAN/Default.aspx

    5. Pass an approved Secure English Language Test (SELT) at an approved test centre. The level of English required must be equivalent to level B1 or above of the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework for Language Learning.

Your test must be on the list of approved English Language tests, taken at an approved test centre, and have been awarded in the two years before the date of your visa application.

Please see the following link for full details on approved tests and test centres, including information on how to book a test: https://www.gov.uk/skilled-worker-visa/knowledge-of-english

    6. If you previously met the English language requirement, at the level required for your current application, in a previous successful application for entry clearance or permission to stay.


Minimum Salary Requirement

In order to be eligible for the Skilled Worker visa, the role offered must meet the minimum salary requirement or the ‘going rate’ for the specific SOC code, whichever is the higher.

The minimum salary requirement is £25,600 per year, unless the applicant is relying on tradeable points, in which case the lower minimum salary thresholds of £23,040 or £20,480 may apply.

The ‘going rate’ is a salary rate which is specific to each SOC code. The ‘going rate’ for each occupation code can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-appendix-skilled-occupations

The ‘going rate’ shown in Table 1 of Appendix Skilled Occupations is based on a 39-hour week, and this can be pro-rated to the numbers of hours worked per week. It is important to note however that the pro-rated annual salary cannot be below the minimum salary threshold of £25,600 per year (or £23,040/ £20,480 if tradeable points are being relied upon, including for being a new entrant). 

Tradeable points

The minimum salary threshold is £25,600 per year, however and applicant may can earn a reduced minimum salary of £23,040 or £20,480 and a reduced going rate by ‘trading’ one of the following for points:

  • a relevant PhD (£23,040 per year; and 90% of the going rate)
  • a relevant Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) PhD (£20,480 per year; and 80% of the going rate)
  • a job in a shortage occupation (£20,480 per year; and 80% of the going rate)
  • being a new entrant to the labour market (£20,480 per year; and 70% of the going rate)

New entrants

New entrants are generally defined as falling within one of the following categories:

  • The applicant is under 26 years of age at date of application
  • Job offer is a postdoctoral position in any of the following SOC codes:
    • 2111 Chemical scientists
    • 2112 Biological scientists and biochemists
    • 2113 Physical scientists
    • 2114 Social and humanities scientists
    • 2119 Natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified
    • 2311 Higher education teaching professionals
  • The applicant must be working towards full registration or chartered status with the relevant professional body for the job they are being sponsored for.
  • The application must be for permission to stay and the applicant’s most recent permission must have been as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Migrant.
  • The applicant holds or held within the past 2 years a Student/Tier 4 visa, having completed their studies, be within 3 months of completion, or completed at least 12 months of a PhD.

An applicant cannot apply for Skilled Worker leave as a new entrant exceeding 4 years in total, whether or not the permission is for a continuous period.

Using a relevant PhD for tradeable points

If an applicant is relying on a relevant PhD/relevant STEM PhD for tradeable points which was awarded outside on the UK, they will require to apply to UK ENIC/Ecctis for PhD verification. UK ENIC/Ecctis, will provide a statement confirming your PhD is comparable to the standard of a PhD in the UK. This is the Academic Qualification Level Statement (AQUALS). The verification process also includes contacting your institution to confirm that the degree is genuine. Full details on the Visa and Nationality (PhD Verification) service can be found here: https://ecctis.com/Qualifications/VAN/Default.aspx


Switching

It may be possible to switch into the Skilled Worker route if you are already in the UK on another type of immigration permission and meet all the requirements of the Skilled Worker visa.

You will not be able to switch into the Skilled Worker route however if you have permission in one of the following categories:

  • as a Visitor; or
  • as a Short-term student; or
  • as a Parent of a Child Student; or
  • as a Seasonal Worker; or
  • as a Domestic Worker in a Private Household; or
  • outside the Immigration Rules.

Students

Students who hold a Tier 4/Student visa in the UK, can ‘switch’ to the Skilled Worker visa if they meet the visa requirements above. However, there are also some additional requirements to be aware of:

A Student wishing to rely on tradeable points as a ‘new entrant’ must have:

  • Completed (or be within 3 months of completing) their UK Bachelor's/Master’s degree, or
  • If studying a PhD, have completed at least 12 months of study in the UK towards the PhD

As part of the visa application, you will be required to provide evidence of the above.

Financial Sponsorship by a Government of International Scholarship Agency

Students who were financially sponsored in the 12 months before the date of the visa application, for the purpose of their studies, by a government or international scholarship agency, must obtain and submit written consent of that sponsor with the visa application. Financial sponsorship in this context means an award which covers both fees and living costs for study in the UK.

The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) – Expansion to cover researchers

The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) is a scheme operated by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). It requires certain individuals subject to immigration control to apply for and obtain an ATAS certificate before being able to study or research certain sensitive subjects.

According to the FCDO, the subjects and research areas are those where knowledge could be used in programmes to develop Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT), weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), or their means of delivery. Researchers and students in these sensitive subject areas (other than exempt nationals) must apply for an ATAS certificate before they can study or start research in the UK.

 This scheme was already in place for international students and from 21 May 2021, the scheme has been expanded to researchers applying under the following routes:

  • The Skilled Worker Route
  • T5 Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) route
  • Visitors (carrying out research as a permitted activity) 

The requirement to obtain an ATAS certificate applies to all applications (including visa extensions), made from 9am on 21 May 2021, if the following conditions apply:

  1. The applicant is not an exempt national
  2. The role is in a relevant SOC code (for those applying under the Skilled Worker route and the T5 GAE route)
  3. The role includes an element on research at Phd Level and above in one of the relevant subject areas

Where an ATAS certificate is required, a Certificate of Sponsorship will not be assigned until an ATAS certificate has been obtained by the applicant.

Nationals of the following countries are exempt from the ATAS requirement and therefore do not require an ATAS certificate:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Croatia
  • Republic of Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Republic of Korea
  • Romania
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United States of America

SOC Codes covered by the ATAS Requirement

The occupation codes covered by the ATAS requirement are:

  • 2111 Chemical scientists
  • 2112 Biological scientists and biochemists
  • 2113 Physical scientists
  • 2114 Social and humanities scientists
  • 2119 Natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 2150 Research and development managers
  • 2122 Mechanical engineers
  • 2123 Electrical engineers
  • 2124 Electronics engineers
  • 2127 Production and process engineers
  • 2129 Engineering professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 2311 Higher education teaching professionals;
  • 3111 Laboratory technicians
  • 3112 Electrical and electronics technicians
  • 3113 Engineering technicians
  • 3114 Building and civil engineering technicians
  • 5235 Aircraft maintenance and related trades

Relevant Subject Areas covered by the ATAS requirement:

The subject areas covered by the ATAS requirement are identified by their Common Aggregate Hierarchy (CAH3) code and are listed below:

Subjects allied to Medicine:

  • CAH02-02-01 - Pharmacology
  • CAH02-02-02 - Toxicology
  • CAH02-02-03 - Pharmacy
  • CAH10-01-06 - Bioengineering, Medical and Biomedical Engineering

Biological Sciences:

  • CAH03-01-02 - Biology (non-specific)
  • CAH03-01-03 - Ecology and Environmental Biology
  • CAH03-01-06 - Zoology
  • CAH03-01-04 - Microbiology and Cell Science
  • CAH03-01-05 - Plant Sciences
  • CAH10-03-05 - Biotechnology
  • CAH03-01-07 - Genetics
  • CAH02-05-03 - Biomedical Sciences (non-specific)
  • CAH03-01-08 - Molecular Biology, Biophysics and Biochemistry
  • CAH03-01-01 - Biosciences (non-specific)
  • CAH03-01-10 - Others in Biological Sciences

Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects:

  • CAH05-01-02 - Others in Veterinary Sciences
  • CAH06-01-02 - Agricultural sciences

Physical Sciences:

  • CAH07-02-01 - Chemistry
  • CAH10-03-07 - Materials Science
  • CAH07-01-01 - Physics
  • CAH07-01-02 - Astronomy
  • CAH26-01-05 - Others in Geographical Studies
  • CAH07-04-01 - Physical Sciences (non-specific)
  • CAH07-04-03 - Sciences (non-specific)
  • CAH07-04-04 - Natural Sciences (non-specific)

Mathematical and Computer Sciences:

  • CAH09-01-01 - Mathematics
  • CAH09-01-02 - Operational Research
  • CAH11-01-01 - Computer Science
  • CAH11-01-02 - Information Technology
  • CAH11-01-03 - Information Systems
  • CAH11-01-04 - Software Engineering
  • CAH11-01-05 - Artificial Intelligence

Engineering:

  • CAH10-01-01 - Engineering (non-specific)
  • CAH10-01-07 - Civil Engineering
  • CAH10-01-02 - Mechanical Engineering
  • CAH10-01-04 - Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering
  • CAH10-01-05 - Naval Architecture
  • CAH10-01-08 - Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • CAH10-01-09 - Chemical, Process and Energy Engineering

Technologies:

  • CAH10-03-03 - Polymers and Textiles
  • CAH10-03-01 - Minerals Technology
  • CAH10-03-02 - Materials Technology
  • CAH10-03-04 - Maritime Technology

Changes in research – requirement for new ATAS certificate

Researchers already in the UK may need to apply for a new ATAS certificate if changing their field of research or where they conduct their research, or are making a new visa application. For full details please see: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/academic-technology-approval-scheme#academic-researchers

Please note that the above information is not intended to be an exhaustive overview of visa categories and requirements. Although we try to ensure that all information is accurate at the time of publishing, the general information on these pages may not fully apply to your specific circumstances and immigration rules and policies may change on short notice.
You should always refer to the Immigration Rules and UKVI Policy Guidance for the full requirements and conditions in the first instance before making an application.