This blog aims at giving a general introduction to the skilled worker route under the Points-based immigration system (PBS), which became effective from 1 January 2021. PBS aims to add a high-skill and high productivity economy, and to replace the free movement policy after the Brexit.
Who can apply for a skilled worker visa?
Applicants must meet certain criteria:
- having secured a job offer for a middle-skilled or high-skilled job from a UK employer with sponsor licence, i.e RQF 3 (level 3 of the Regulated Qualifications Framework) or above, reduced from level RQF6 from previous system.
- salary threshold is £25,600 although lower income under specified circumstances may still be eligible (but no lower than £20,480). This threshold of £25,600 was reduced from £30,000 required in the previous system;
- having scored 70 points under the system to qualify for the visa, with 50 points are mandatory and awarded for (1) English language ability by attending a test at a designated center (2) job offer from an approved sponsor (3) skill level of the job offer.
- Some criteria in the scoring system is “tradable”. For instance, if the job offer is in the shortage occupation list, or having a PhD subject relevant to the job. With this tradable feature, a job offer with income less than the threshold of £25,600 may be considered eligible;
- No criminal record.
How to apply for skilled worker visa?
- Applications are made online.
- A visa granted under this route is for up to 5 years, which counts towards settlement. Indefinite Leave to Remain may be applied for after 5 years if other eligibility requirements are met.
How much is the cost for applying a skilled worker visa?
- Application fee ranges from £610 to £1,408 depending on circumstances.
- Applicants need to have at least £1,270 as available funds when arriving in the UK, pay healthcare surcharge for about £624 a year (exempt if joining the Health Care sector). These fees are usually covered by employers depending on agreements.
Who can apply for sponsor licences?
Employers (licensed sponsors) are allowed to hire workers from outside the UK in different types of skilled employment if the job offers meet the job suitability requirements under the scheme.
Employers interested in becoming a licensed sponsor (including unpaid work such as religious or charitable work) need to:
- Check whether their business and the job are eligible for sponsorship (RQF 3 or above);
- conduct due diligence on candidate re eligibility;
- decide the type of licence they wish to apply for (long-term employment or specific types of temporary employment);
How much is the cost for applying a sponsor licence?
- submit the application online and pay the prescribe application fee (£536 for small or charitable sponsors, £1,476 for medium or large sponsors);
Application process could be complicated and tricky. Professional advice or engaging a lawyer to submit an application and to advise on subsequent compliance obligations is strongly suggested.
Compliance matters for sponsor licence holders
- decide who act as key personnel to manage sponsorship within your business
- record keeping (payments and workers’ details)
- reporting changes – key changes regarding the worker such as termination of employment, payment terms, work location, company changes such as merger or size of business (for example, from large to medium);
- reporting must be done within 10 days for most situations, and some can be reported within 20 days;
- comply with the relevant employment and immigration law (e.g. right to work checks, paying national wages);
- dealing with enquiries or audit checks by the Home Office during or after application stage for the purpose of lawful operation under the scheme;
Successful applicants will be included in publicly available register and licences are managed through the Sponsor Management System.
Consequences of non-compliance can be serious, including licence downgrade or revocation, and the leave of existing sponsored employees being curtailed. No fresh application for licence can be applied for before expiry of a cooling off period.