One of the more complex requirements for sponsoring individuals under the Skilled Worker visa is the minimum salary threshold. There is no single, universal Skilled Worker minimum salary threshold. Rather, the relevant level must be determined by applying the immigration rules and Home Office guidance, and ensuring the correct salary level is calculated.
Skilled Worker applicants attain points for the level of salary they will earn in the sponsored roles. The points are then put towards the overall points attainment required to be eligible for the visa. Any errors in applying the rules or in calculating the salary level can results in a refused visa application, or even enforcement action against the sponsor for non-compliance with the sponsor guidance rules.
It is also important to emphasise that the minimum salary rules differ under the Skilled Worker route, compared with its predecessor, the Tier 2 (General) visa. While a minimum salary threshold continues to be imposed under the new route, determining which level applies has become a more complex process. The thresholds have also been changed, and are generally lower than under the Tier 2 visa.
How much is the minimum Skilled Worker salary?
Broadly speaking, a sponsored worker must be paid at, or above, the highest of either the relevant absolute minimum salary for their circumstances or the stated ‘going rate’ for the occupation code relevant to the job.
Typically, the absolute minimum level is £25,600, unless the worker benefits from ‘tradeable points’, for example if they have a job offer in a shortage occupation or they hold a relevant PhD qualification, in which case, the lowest minimum salary threshold under the Skilled Worker visa route is currently set at £20,480.
However, other factors may also apply and must be considered when determining the applicable minimum threshold:
- What is the relevant occupation code?
- Does the worker qualify as a ‘new entrant’?
- Does the worker benefit from ‘tradeable points’?
- How is the salary level calculated, based on the number of hours expected to be worked?
Selecting the correct occupation code
To be eligible for the Skilled Worker route, the role must feature on the Government’s list of eligible occupations under the Immigration Rules. The list also specifies the ‘going rate‘ for each role and minimum salary requirements for ‘new entrants’ and other workers.
If the occupation code sets out a higher going rate salary than the relevant absolute minimum threshold, this is the salary that must be paid.
When choosing an occupation code (SOC code), employers must find the closest match to the job being offered and use the correct code relevant to the role. If the occupation code selected is not on the list, it is ineligible for sponsorship under the Skilled Worker route.
You should prepare for the Home Office to assess and verify the SOC provided by considering the job description of the role being recruited for.
Failure to enter the correct occupation code is likely to result in the worker’s visa being refused.
If a genuine error has been made in selecting an incorrect occupation code, it may be possible to remedy this. However, if the Home Office believe the incorrect code was originally selected to manufacture sponsorship, as the correct code would not have met the salary or skill level required for the role, then they have the power to suspend the employer’s sponsor licence whilst they investigate further.
The occupation codes list is also continually updated, so it is important to check that previously used codes are still eligible when sponsoring a new worker.
Who is considered a ‘New Entrant’?
Qualifying new entrants benefit from a reduction in the salary threshold to £20,480, and a lower salary threshold than ‘other workers’ in the same role. As such, anyone relying on the new entrant rate must be able to show that they meet the criteria, ie they are under 26 years of age at the time of making their visa application and they are either:
- Sponsored in a postdoctoral research position, or
- Working towards professional qualifications, chartered status, or registration.
New entrants are however limited to a three-year period of leave. After this period, they must make a further application if they wish to remain in the UK. If continuing under the Skilled Worker route, they would no longer be a ‘new entrant’.
When are salary points tradeable?
A reduction in the minimum salary level may also be available under the ‘tradeable points’ rules. Workers can be paid between 70% and 90% of the usual going rate for the role, if the salary is at least £20,480 per year and meets one of the following criteria:
- The role is in a shortage occupation
- The worker is a new entrant, ie under 26 years old, studying, a recent graduate, or in professional training
- The worker has a technology, science, maths, or engineering (STEM) PhD level qualification that is relevant to the role (if the worker has a relevant PhD level qualification in any other subject, the minimum salary is set at £23,040)
- The worker has a postdoctoral position in higher education or science
Calculating salary level based on expected hours worked
The salary level must be calculated by the hour and not just annually. Minimum pay can be no less than £10.10 per hour, even if the annual salary is above the required level.
When considering the minimum salary requirements, sponsors will need to take account of the number of hours they base the minimum upon.
The salary thresholds are based on a 39-hour week, although there are variations set out in the occupation code list. The calculation increases in importance where the worker will be paid the exact minimum salary for their role.
Overtime is an important consideration too because any worker paid the minimum permitted salary who will work more than the stated hours (usually 39 hours), will be considered to be paid less than is allowed.
Skilled Worker to ILR minimum salary
An individual who has held permission under the Skilled Worker/Tier 2 (General) visa route for five years can make an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). In order to do this, they must meet a number of requirements, such as:
- Meet the ILR minimum salary requirement of at least £25,600, or the going rate for their role, if greater.
- Proof of identity – a valid passport, valid biometric residence permit, or biometric residence cards are all accepted by the Home Office as proof of identity. Applicants will also need to provide a digital facial photograph and their fingerprints if they do not already have a valid biometric residence card.
- Proof of continuous residence in the UK – applicants will need to prove they have lived in the UK, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man for a least 6 months in a 12-month period for 5 consecutive years.
- Declare any criminal convictions if the applicant is over the age of 18 – ‘spent convictions’, ‘cautions’, or fines do not need to be declared.
We are specialists in UK business immigration, with substantial experience and recognised expertise in advising employers and workers on all aspects of hiring under the Skilled Worker visa and sponsoring skilled workers. For specialist immigration advice on Skilled Worker eligibility and the application process, including calculating salary and matching occupational codes, contact us.
Skilled Worker Visa Minimum Salary FAQs
What is the minimum salary for Skilled Worker visa?
Under the Skilled Worker visa (previously Tier 2 (General) visa), applicants/workers will be required to earn a minimum salary of £25,600 per year, unless the role applied for is included in the occupation shortage list or the applicant/worker has a relevant PhD, in which case the minimum salary is reduced to £20,480.
What are the requirements for Skilled Worker visa?
A worker must meet ALL of the following requirements to be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa: The job/role is eligible for the visa The worker will be paid the minimum salary or the ‘going rate’ for the type of work the worker will be doing - whichever is the greater The worker will work for a UK employer that has been approved by the Home Office
How many hours can you work on a Skilled Worker visa?
Most salaries are based on a 39-hour week, although there are allowable exceptions within the occupation codes list. The hours worked become more important where the worker is going to be in receipt of the exact minimum salary for their role. Any worker paid the minimum salary but expected to work more than their contracted hours (usually 39 hours per week) is likely to be considered to be paid less than is allowed.
What is a job in a shortage occupation?
The Home Office published a list of skilled worker roles where employers who find it difficult to secure adequate staff numbers with the required skills can fill their vacancies by encouraging applicants to fill the roles by reducing the salary threshold requirement.
Does a Skilled Worker visa lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) (settlement)?
Yes, time spent in the UK under the skilled worker route can count towards the period of continuous residence for an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
Last updated: 4 March 2021