Our blogs | Business Immigration

A Comprehensive Guide to the UK Skilled Worker Visa

27 February 2024
A Comprehensive Guide to the UK Skilled Worker Visa

What is a Skilled Worker Visa?

Recruiting skilled talent remains crucial for UK businesses, and the Skilled Worker visa route offers a valuable pathway to attract workers from overseas. The Skilled Worker visa allows employers to sponsor non-UK nationals for skilled roles on the government’s eligible occupations list. The visa offers flexibility, with options for short-term contracts and pathways to settlement after five years.

Mandatory Criteria for Skilled Worker Visa in the UK

  • Sponsorship: Your company must hold a valid sponsorship licence issued by the Home Office. This involves meeting specific criteria and paying a fee. As of February 2024, the application fee is £536.00. Once the Sponsor licence has been granted the sponsor may assign a COS. The CoS fee is £239 per migrant worker and the Immigration Skills charge ranges from £364-£1000 per year per migrant worker depending on the size of the sponsor.
  • Job Offer: The offered role must be on the eligible occupations list, which covers a wide range of professions across various sectors. You can check the list and specific occupation codes on the government website.
  • Salary: You must offer a minimum salary that meets or exceeds the advertised salary for the occupation code (going rate) or £26,200 per year, whichever is higher. The going rate is updated annually, and you can find the latest figures on the government website. As of February 2024 the minimum salary that a sponsor must offer is £26200. This is due to change in Spring 2024.
  • Applicant Qualifications: The applicant must have the necessary qualifications, experience, and English language skills. Qualifications must be equivalent to at least a UK A-Level (RQF Level 3) or higher, and English language proficiency needs to be at B2 level on the CEFR scale, evidenced by an approved English language test.

Tradeable Points Criteria:

Beyond the mandatory criteria, applicants can accrue points through various “tradeable” factors, reaching a total of 70 points to be eligible:

  • Higher Qualifications: Holding qualifications above the minimum requirement can earn points (e.g., Master’s degree = 20 points).
  • Higher Salary: Earning above the minimum salary threshold or the going rate can award points (e.g., £35,000+ = 20 points).
  • Job Offer in a Shortage Occupation: Working in a specific occupation with a recognised shortage can grant points (check the Shortage Occupation List for details).
  • Previous UK Study: Having studied a full-time degree at a UK university for at least 12 months can earn points.

Additional Considerations:

  • Maintenance Funds: The applicant must demonstrate they have sufficient funds to support themselves in the UK (currently £1,270 for the applicant and £635 per dependent) or this can be certified by a sponsor.
  • Criminal Record Checks: Applicants must pass criminal record checks before their visa is granted, if required.
  • Healthcare Surcharge: Applicants must pay an annual healthcare surcharge alongside their skilled worker visa application fee.

Securing the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)

Before a potential employee can apply for the Skilled Worker Visa, you, as the sponsoring employer, must first issue them a CoS. This document acts as a unique reference number confirming you meet the sponsorship requirements and offer a genuine job opportunity that complies with visa regulations.

Obtaining a CoS:

  • Sponsorship Licence: Ensure your company holds a valid sponsorship licence, authorised by the Home Office to sponsor foreign workers.
  • Sponsor Management System (SMS): Use the online SMS portal to assign a CoS to the relevant candidate. You will need details like job title, occupation code, salary, and the applicant’s personal information.
  • Processing Time: Defined CoS application requests are typically processed within one working day.

Key Points about the CoS:

  • Validity: The CoS is valid for 3 months from the issue date. The applicant must submit their visa application within this timeframe.
  • Job Details: The CoS specifies the offered job title, salary, start date, and location. Ensure these details align with the actual job offer.
  • Confidentiality: Share the CoS securely with the applicant, as they will need the reference number for their visa application.

Additional Considerations:

  • Defined CoS: This should only be assigned to workers who are applying outside the UK.
  • Undefined CoS: This should be used for those applying for inside the UK.
  • CoS Costs: You will incur a fee per assigned CoS, depending on your sponsorship licence type. There may also be an immigration skills charge that would need to be paid.

Remember: Maintaining accurate CoS records and reporting any changes to the Home Office are crucial aspects of your sponsorship duties.

Coming to the UK to work

While securing a job offer and sponsorship are crucial steps, remains paramount for successfully obtaining the UK Skilled Worker Visa.

Here is an overview of Essential & Desirable Skills that workers may wish to consider when deciding to work in the UK:

  • Technical Skills: Possessing the specific technical skills and knowledge directly aligned with the offered job and its occupation code is fundamental. This includes industry-specific expertise, software proficiency, and practical abilities crucial for performing the job effectively.
  • Qualifications: Meeting the minimum qualification requirements for the occupation code is mandatory. This often translates to a UK A-Level equivalent (RQF Level 3) or higher, such as a university degree, diploma, or professional qualification.
  • Experience: Relevant work experience is highly valued. Ideally, align your experience with the offered role’s demands, showcasing proven expertise and the ability to fulfil the job responsibilities.
  • Transferable Skills: While technical skills are key, transferable skills like strong communication, problem-solving, teamwork, and adaptability go a long way. Demonstrating these broader competencies enhances your candidacy and reflects your capacity to thrive in a new work environment.
  • Language Skills: Proficiency in English is mandatory for the Skilled Worker Visa. Aim for a minimum B2 level on the CEFR scale, evidenced by approved English language tests. Higher levels of fluency can be advantageous, especially for roles requiring extensive communication or client interaction.
  • Cultural Awareness: Adapting to a new work culture and environment is crucial. Demonstrating an understanding of UK business practices, cultural nuances, and willingness to integrate fosters a positive impression and smoother transition.

Additional Considerations:

  • Shortage Occupations: If your targeted occupation falls under the UK’s Shortage Occupation List, possessing relevant skills in that domain grants additional points towards your visa application. Explore the list to see if your skills align with an in-demand area.
  • Skill Level: Remember, the offered role must be categorised as “skilled” according to the RQF framework. Possessing skills commensurate with the required skill level is essential.

Required Finances for the UK Skilled Worker Visa

Securing the necessary finances is crucial for obtaining the UK Skilled Worker Visa. Here’s an overview of what you need to know:

  • Visa Application Fee: The standard fee ranges from £719 to £1,500 depending on your circumstances (e.g., duration of visa, dependents). Check the current fees on the government website.
  • Healthcare Surcharge: You and any dependents must pay an annual Healthcare Surcharge. The current rate is £624 per year per person.
  • Maintenance Funds: You need to demonstrate you have sufficient funds to support yourself (and any dependents) in the UK during the initial visa period. This is currently £1,270 for the applicant and £635 per dependent. The funds must be held in a personal bank account for at least 28 consecutive days prior to applying unless your sponsor has certified maintenance on the certificate of sponsorship.

You will need to submit bank statements and other documents as proof of meeting the maintenance funds requirement.

Essential Laws and Regulations for Employers Utilising the Skilled Worker Visa

Understanding the legalities is crucial for employers sponsoring workers under the Skilled Worker Visa.

  1. Immigration Act 2016:This act forms the backbone of UK immigration control, outlining the legal framework for visas, entry requirements, and enforcement measures.
  2. Sponsorship Guidance:Published by the Home Office, this guidance document provides detailed and specific instructions for employers sponsoring workers under the Skilled Worker Visa route.
  3. National Minimum Wage:This legislation sets the minimum hourly pay for workers in the UK, applicable to both British and foreign nationals. You must ensure the offered salary meets or exceeds the National Minimum Wage, even if higher than the advertised salary for the occupation code.
  4. Equality Act 2010:This act protects individuals from discrimination in various aspects of their lives, including the workplace. It prohibits discrimination based on protected characteristics like: Race, Sex, Disability, Sexual orientation, Religion or belief, Age.


The UK Skilled Worker Visa is a valuable tool for employers seeking to augment their workforce with international talent. By understanding the eligibility criteria, legal considerations, and its application to the gig economy, you can leverage this visa route to support your business growth while ensuring compliance with employment law regulations.

At Davenport Solicitors, we specialise in providing expert legal advice and assistance to employers. Our experienced team can guide you through the complexities of the UK Skilled Worker Visa, ensuring compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.

Schedule a consultation with Davenport Solicitors’ immigration experts to discuss your needs and explore how the Skilled Worker Visa can benefit your business.

Visit our website www.davenportsolicitors.com, or give us a call at +44 020 7903 6888

Stay in touch with Davenport Solicitors. Subscribe to our newsletter for latest events and updates on Employment, Immigration law and HR.