Introduction to the scheme
- On 1 December the new skilled worker scheme will come into effect and the Tier 2 (General) route will close to all new applications. The route has seen at least one other change since 2020.
- The skilled worker scheme is also a points based system, meaning that applicants will need to accumulate 70 points to be eligible.
- Holders of existing Tier 2 visas will be able to apply for a skilled worker visa if they wish to extend their stay in the UK, provided they meet all of the general requirements. They do not have to make an application now, only when their current Tier 2 leave is about to expire.
- Employers who currently hold a sponsorship licence to hire Tier 2 nationals will not need to reapply for a new licence to hire skilled workers.
- EU nationals who arrive in the UK on or after 1 January 2021, who have not already obtained pre settled or settled status, and who wish to work in the UK will have to apply under the skilled worker route, along with all other foreign nationals, except Irish nationals who are exempt.
- Anyone wishing to come to, or stay in, the UK as a skilled worker will need to have a confirmed job offer from a licenced sponsor.
- Any job offered to a skilled worker must meet at least Level 3 of the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). This is equivalent to having an A-level. This is a lower standard than was required under Tier 2, which required the job to meet Level 6 RQF.
- There is a minimum salary requirement. The way the minimum salary is calculated varies. In most cases there is a minimum salary requirement of £25,600 gross per year or the going rate for the job, whichever is higher. The minimum salary requirement can be reduced if the job is in a shortage occupation, the application has a PhD in a related field or STEM subject or they are a ‘new entrant’. No skilled worker can be paid a salary below £20,480 gross per year.
- ‘New entrants’ will be required to have a job offer with a salary equivalent to 70% of the going rate for their occupation or £20,480, whichever is higher. Applicants will be considered new entrants if they are under 26 and/or are switching into the skilled worker route from being a student, a graduate or a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur).
Flexibility under the new scheme, changes from Tier 2
- Employers will not need to show that they have met the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) before hiring a foreign national. However, they must show that there is a ‘genuine vacancy’ which meets the skill and salary threshold.
- The annual quota on the number of skilled workers who can apply has been suspended, though it may be re-introduced in the future.
- There will continue to be an English language requirement. However, applicants who have studied in the UK at GCSE, A-level or Scottish highers can rely on this to meet the requirements. Applicants only need to show they meet the requirement once. This is more flexible than under the old Tier 2 system.
- There is also more flexibility for people to switch into the skilled worker category from inside the UK. People on visitor, short-term student, parent of a child at school, seasonal worker, domestic worker or who have been granted leave outside of the immigration rules cannot apply to switch to the skilled worker route.
- The skilled worker route can lead to settlement if the applicant has been living in the UK continuously for 5 years. This includes people who are currently here on a Tier 2 visa who then switch into the skilled worker route.
- There is no maximum amount of time a person can spend on the skilled worker route.
- There will no longer be a minimum salary requirement to be eligible for settlement. Any applicant will need to meet the minimum salary requirements for their occupation, the reductions mentioned above will not apply, unless the applicant is in a shortage occupation.
Dependent family members
- Skilled workers can bring their spouse, civil partner or durable partner with them to the UK. They can also bring children under the age of 18 (unless the child is over 16 and already living an independent life).
- Durable partners are defined as unmarried partners who have been living together for at least 2 years before the date of application.
- Dependents will be able to work in the UK and children are entitled to a state education.
- The skilled worker must show that their dependants can be maintained adequately, or their employer must certify that they will, if necessary, maintain and accommodate the dependents and the skilled worker up to the end of the first month of leave granted.
- Adequate maintenance is considered to have been met where the funds held are:
- £285 for a dependent partner applying either in the UK or outside
- £315 for the first dependent child, applying either in the UK or outside
- £200 for any other dependent child applying ether in the UK or outside
- Funds must have been held for at least 28 days prior to the application being submitted.
- Switching into being a dependant family member is possible but holders of the following visas are ineligible:
- 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.
Intra-company transfers (ICT), now called Senior or Specialist Worker visa under the Global Business Mobility routes
- Intra-company transfers can continue under the skilled worker route.
- The individual must have 12 months experience working for a business overseas which is linked by ownership to the UK business they will work for.
- The skill level remains at RQF Level 6 (graduate level).
- The minimum salary is £42,500 or the ‘going rate’ for the job, whichever is higher.
- Individuals can only be in the UK on an ICT visa for 5 years in any 6 year period.
- Individuals who earn more than £73,900 do not have to meet the 12 months overseas experience requirement and can stay in the UK for up to 9 years in any 10 year period.