UK Skilled Worker Visa – Game-Changer

From the perspective of Aussies and Kiwis

The United Kingdom’s Skilled Worker visa offers a new visa pathway for Australians and New Zealanders wanting to work in the UK. There are benefits for both foreign nationals currently working in the UK and those wanting to make the move.

Not only can Aussies and Kiwis working in the UK extend their stay with the UK Skilled Worker visa, but it also presents an option for those that returned home when their Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa expired. Equally, it is also a solution for people who don’t qualify for any other UK work visa.

All of this translates to a UK visa which has the potential to be a game-changer in terms of who can head to the UK, the type of jobs that Aussies and Kiwis look for, how they go about finding UK jobs and how long they stay.

Skilled Worker visa

Source: Office of National Statistics

It might already be having an impact. Over the past decade, we have seen a steady increase in the proportion of Aussies and Kiwis working in the UK on sponsorship visas. Albeit with much lower migration numbers, there has already been a noticeable increase in the proportion of sponsorship visas in the first half of 2021.

Related articles: Latest UK migration stats for Aussies and Kiwis

What is the Skilled Worker visa?

In simple terms, the Skilled Worker visa is described as a visa that allows people to work in an eligible job for an approved employer in the United Kingdom. The key qualifying requirements are:

  1. Applicant must have a job offer from a licensed sponsor
  2. Job must be at a certain skill level
  3. Salary must be at a certain skill level
  4. Applicant must satisfy an English language requirement

What has changed?

The Skilled Worker visa replaced the UK Tier 2 (General) Work visa from 1 January 2021. Unlike the visa it superseded, there are no longer limited spaces or monthly ballots to determine who is eligible for a visa. The big changes are:

  1. Annual visa quota of 20,700 Tier 2 (General) visas has been suspended
  2. Resident Labour Market Test has been abolished
  3. Minimum skill level has been reduced
  4. Overall minimum salary has been reduced from £30,000 to £25,600 pa
  5. Six year limit on right to remain in the UK has been abolished
  6. Minimum salary level for Indefinite Leave to Remain has been abolished
  7. Requirement to leave the UK to switch to a Skilled Worker visa has been abolished

Applications can be made from both within and outside of the UK. You can extend it as many times as you wish, so long as you continue to meet all of the requirements.

Who is eligible for the Skilled Worker visa?

To be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa, you must meet ALL of the following requirements:

  • Your job is eligible for this visa
  • You’ll be working for a UK employer that’s been approved by the Home Office
  • You’ll be paid at least the minimum salary for the type of work you’ll be doing

What jobs qualify?

The minimum salary is the highest out of the following three options:

  • £25,600 per year
  • £10.10 per hour
  • The ‘going rate’ for the type of work you’ll be doing

To find out if your job skills are eligible for the Skilled Worker visa, simply look up the job’s 4-digit occupation code using the ONS occupation coding tool in the table of eligible jobs. Further information can be found here.

Who can sponsor?

A job offer from one of more than 40,000 approved UK employers is required to apply for a Skilled Worker visa. You must apply for your visa within three months of getting your certificate of sponsorship.

Approved employers, referred to as sponsors, provide a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ to prove that you meet the eligibility requirements. The certificate is an electronic record, not a physical document. It has a reference number needed for your visa application.

If an employer is not currently approved, they can apply for a sponsor licence if they’re eligible. It costs £536 for small businesses and charities, or £1,476 for medium and large organisations. It usually takes about eight weeks to process a licence application.

For further details, refer to:

How long can you stay?

The Skilled Worker visa can last for up to five years before you need to extend it. You’ll need to apply to extend or update your visa when it expires or if you change jobs or employer.

If you want to stay longer in the UK, you can apply to extend your visa as many times as you like as long as you still meet the eligibility requirements.

After five years, you may be able to apply to settle permanently in the UK (also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’). This gives you the right to live, work and study here for as long as you like, and apply for benefits if you’re eligible.

How much does it cost?

The costs to sponsor an Australian or New Zealand national with skills on the skill shortage list, are:

Certificate of sponsorship£ 199 per application
Immigration Skills Charge£ 1,000 for each year of stay
Priority visa service fee £ 220 (optional)
UKVI application Fee£ 464 for the first 3 years
of stay
Health Surcharge £ 624 for each year of stay
Proof of funds £ 1,270 in bank account
for 28 days

The same costs apply regardless of worker nationality or location. That is to say, the same sponsorship costs now broadly apply to EU nationals.

For the typical highly-skilled Australian or New Zealander that we help find work in the UK, the following costs would typically apply:

Certificate of sponsorship£ 199£ 199£ 199
Immigration Skills Charge£ 2,000£ 3,000£ 5,000
Priority visa service fee
Immigration Skills Charges£ 2,199£ 3,199£ 5,199
UKVI application Fee£ 464£ 464£ 928
Health Surcharge£ 1,248£ 1,872£ 3,120
Skilled Worker Visa Costs£ 1,712£ 2,336£ 4,048
TOTAL COST OF SPONSORSHIP £ 3,911£ 5,535 £ 9,247
Note1.Less than 3yrs

A dependant wife, partner or children will also be required to pay an Application Fee and Healthcare Surcharge. That said, it should be noted that the majority of Australians and New Zealanders that we help find work in the United Kingdom, travel without dependants.

How long does it take?

You can apply for a visa up to three months before you start work in the UK. This date is listed on your certificate of sponsorship.

As part of your application, you will be required to prove your identity and provide your documents. If you need to setup an appointment to do this, then you might need to allow for extra time; you will find out when you start your application.

If you do need to go to an appointment, you may be able to pay for a faster decision. How you do this depends on whether you’re outside the UK or inside the UK.

Once you’ve applied online, proved your identity and provided your documents, you’ll usually get a decision on your visa within:

  • Three weeks, if you’re outside the UK
  • Eight weeks, if you’re inside the UK

What you can and can’t do

With a Skilled Worker visa, you can:

  • Work in an eligible job
  • Study
  • Bring your partner and children with you as your ‘dependants’, if they’re eligible
  • Take on additional work in certain circumstances
  • Do voluntary work
  • Travel abroad and return to the UK
  • Apply to settle permanently in the UK (also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’) if you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years and meet the other eligibility requirements

You cannot:

  • Apply for most benefits (public funds), or the State Pension
  • Change jobs or employer unless you apply to update your visa

If your application is successful, you’ll get a full list of what you can and cannot do with a Skilled Worker visa.

How to apply for the Skilled Worker visa

Apply online once your documents are ready. How you apply depends on whether you are:

Use the Home Office checker tool to confirm that you meet all of the eligibility requirements.

Documents required

Documents you will be required to submit, include:

  • Name of employer
  • Job title & salary
  • Valid passport
  • Proof of knowledge of English
  • Certificate of sponsorship from employer
  • Certificate of sponsorship reference # provided by employer

Depending on your circumstances, you might be asked to provide:

  • Evidence that you have enough personal savings to support yourself in the UK
  • Proof of your relationship with your partner or children if they’re applying with you
  • Blank page in your passport for your visa
  • Criminal record certificate if you’re applying from outside the UK
  • Certificate from each country you’ve lived in, depending on your age and how long you stayed in each country

For further details, refer to:

Take the stress out of your UK job search.

Visa advice

Global Career HQ are not visa specialists. We help people get jobs overseas.

If you require further information about the UK Skilled Worker visa, or professional immigration advice, we suggest that you contact the authors of the following insightful articles:

Macfarlanes: UK Immigration from 1 January 2021
Kingsley Napley: The UK’s new immigration system: What you need to know