Skilled Worker visa
route opens!

At 9am on 1 December 2020, the new Skilled Worker visa opens for applications, replacing the Tier 2 (General) visa as the main immigration route for migrants coming to the UK for skilled work.

The Skilled Worker route forms part of the UK’s new points-based immigration system, which will apply equally to EU and non-EU citizens once Freedom of Movement from the EU ends at 11pm on 31 December 2020.

Who can apply for a Skilled Worker visa?

In order to apply for a visa under the Skilled Worker route, applicants need to hold a job offer from an approved sponsor at the required skill and salary levels for this route.

As part of the new points-based system, applicants to the Skilled Worker route must score 70 points to be granted entry. All applicants must meet the following mandatory criteria:

  • They hold a confirmed job offer from an approved sponsor (20 points)
  • The job must be at an appropriate skill level (20 points)
  • The applicant must speak English to an acceptable standard (10 points).

To make up the required 70 points, applicants can earn a further 20 “tradeable” points based on their salary, having a job offer in a shortage occupation or a relevant PhD.

What are the skill and salary thresholds?

A key difference between the previous Tier 2 (General) route and the new Skilled Worker route is lower skill and salary thresholds. This means that employers are now able to sponsor workers in a wider range of roles than before.

The new skill and salary thresholds are as follows:

  • Skill threshold: Individuals applying to the Skilled Worker route will need to hold a job offer at a skill level of RQF3 or above, which is defined as A-level or equivalent. Formal qualifications will not be required, as it is the skill level of the job they will be doing which is important
  • Salary threshold: When sponsoring an employee on a Skilled Worker visa, employers must pay them at least the minimum salary of £20,480, or the going rate (or, in some cases, a proportion of the going rate) for the occupation, whichever is higher.

Lower minimum salary rules apply for workers in certain health or education roles, shortage occupation roles, PhD holders and for “new entrants” at the start of their career. For example, new entrants are permitted to enter the UK on a salary 30% lower than the rate for experienced workers in any occupation, as long as the salary is at least £20,480.

Intra-Company Transfers

Alongside the Skilled Worker route, the new Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) route also opens for applications on 1 December.

The ICT visa is a temporary immigration route which enables multi-national companies to transfer their overseas employees to a UK subsidiary or connected branch of the business for temporary assignments.

In order to meet the eligibility requirements for this route, applicants must:

  • Have been employed by the sending business for at least 12 months, or three months for graduate trainees.
  • Hold a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from a licenced sponsor.
  • Meet the minimum salary requirement of £41,500, or £23,000 for graduate trainees.
  • Be employed in a role skilled to RQF level 6.

Some positive changes have been introduced to the new ICT route to allow greater flexibility for shorter-term assignments. For example, individuals in the UK on a ICT visa are no longer required to complete a 12-month cooling-off period before switching.

Instead, the new rules state that workers on the ICT route can stay in the UK for a cumulative total of 5 years in any 6-year period, unless their salary in the UK is £73,900 per year or more, in which case the maximum period is a cumulative total of 9 years in any 10-year period.

Irish and EU citizens

The UK’s new points-based immigration system does not apply to Irish citizens or EU citizens with an existing right to work in the UK. This includes EU citizens with either settled or pre-settled status.

EU citizens already living in the UK by 31 December 2020 can apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), and have until 30 June 2021 to make an application.

Help with applying for a Skilled Worker visa

If you need assistance with filing your application for a Skilled Worker visa, or if you are an employer seeking guidance on sponsoring migrant workers under this route, Smith Stone Walters is here to help.

For up-to-date advice from a qualified immigration advisor, please contact us today.

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