The Skilled Worker visa is the primary immigration route for overseas nationals looking to come to the UK to undertake skilled work. While the route offers UK employers access to the global pool of talent, strict eligibility criteria apply. This includes the requirement for the applicant to attain a certain number of Skilled Worker visa points to be eligible for skilled worker sponsorship.
In this guide, we explain what is required to obtain the necessary visa points as a skilled worker, as well as the additional ‘non-points’ requirements which also have to be met by applicants.
What are the Skilled Worker visa points?
Under the UK’s points-based system, with the exception of Irish citizens, any overseas national subject to UK immigration control and coming to the UK for the purposes of work must meet a number of different requirements for which they will score points. Visas will then be awarded to applicants who gain enough points on their chosen immigration route.
In the context of the Skilled Worker route, this is a sponsored immigration route on which the applicant must first have the offer of a job from a UK licensed sponsor that meets the minimum skill and salary requirements. The visa applicant must score mandatory points for their sponsorship, job offer and English language skills. Additionally, they will need to score tradeable points for their salary and other attributes. In some cases, typically when it comes to entry clearance applications, applicants must also satisfy certain non-points requirements regarding available funds, as well as tuberculosis testing and criminal record checks.
The points requirement for visa applicants on the Skilled Worker route are set out under Appendix Skilled Worker of the UK’s Immigration Rules. This also sets out the various other criteria required to qualify for a Skilled Worker visa, including the non-points requirements. An applicant must score a total of 70 points and meet any other applicable criteria.
Mandatory Skilled Worker visa points
When it comes to the mandatory requirements, an applicant must score a total of 50 points. Below we look at how these mandatory Skilled Worker visa points are broken down:
Sponsorship (20 points)
An applicant on the Skilled Worker route must earn 20 mandatory points for ‘sponsorship’. This means that the employer must be licensed by the UK Home Office to able to sponsor this category of workers, and to be able to assign their proposed new recruit a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to enable that worker to apply for their visa.
For an CoS to be valid, it must meet the following requirements:
- confirm the applicant’s name, that they are being sponsored as a Skilled Worker, details of the job and salary that the sponsor is offering them, as well as PAYE details if their Income Tax and National Insurance contributions will be paid to HMRC via PAYE
- if the application is for entry clearance, the CoS must have been allocated by the Home Office to that sponsor for the specific job and salary details shown
- the CoS must include a start date, as stated by the sponsor, which can be no more than 3 months after the date of application
- the Cos must not have been used in a previous application, except any application that was either rejected as invalid, made void or withdrawn
- the Cos must not have been withdrawn by the sponsor or cancelled by the Home Office
- the CoS must confirm whether or not the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) requirement in Appendix ATAS applies.
In addition to these CoS validity requirements, the Home Office caseworker making the decision on the Skilled Worker visa application must also be satisfied of the following:
- that the job role on offer is genuine, is not a sham and has not been created mainly so that the applicant can apply for entry clearance or permission to stay in the UK
- the role does not amount to the hire of the visa applicant to a third party, or contract work for a third party, who is not their licensed sponsor
- the role meets the relevant requirements under the UK’s National Minimum Wage and Working Time Regulations.
Finally, the applicant’s sponsor must have paid in full any required Immigration Skills Charge. This is payable when a new recruit is applying on the Skilled Worker route from outside the UK for 6 months or more, or from inside the UK for any length of time.
Skilled job offer (20 points)
An applicant on the Skilled Worker route must earn 20 mandatory points for a ‘job at an appropriate skill level’. This means that the job role for which the applicant is being sponsored must fall within an eligible occupation code listed under either Appendix Skilled Occupations or Appendix Shortage Occupation List of the Immigration Rules.
In most cases, this means that the job role on offer must be skilled to at least Level 3 on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) for both England and Northern Ireland, or the equivalent level in either Wales or Scotland, being broadly equivalent to A-level standard. This does not mean that the proposed new recruit has to possess A-levels, or even equivalent qualifications, but that the work they will be doing must be at that level.
When assigning the CoS, the applicant’s sponsor must choose an occupation code that reflects the true nature of the role and its salary, where the Home Office caseworker deciding the application must be satisfied that the sponsor has not chosen a less appropriate occupation code for any one of the following reasons:
- the most appropriate code is not eligible under the Skilled Worker route
- the most appropriate code has a higher ‘going rate’ than the proposed salary
- the most appropriate code is not a shortage occupation and the applicant is claiming points for a job falling within a shortage occupation
- the most appropriate code is not listed as ‘eligible for PhD points’ in Table 1 of Appendix Skilled Occupations and the applicant is claiming points for an educational qualification.
The caseworker will consider whether the sponsor has shown a genuine need for the job role described, as well as whether the visa applicant has the appropriate qualifications, skills and experience needed for that role. Any history of immigration compliance with the sponsor, including paying its migrant workforce appropriately, will also be considered.
If the ATAS requirement in Appendix ATAS applies, the applicant must provide a valid ATAS certificate. This is a security clearance certificate issued under the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS), allowing overseas nationals to undertake academic research in sensitive subject areas, including maths, medicine, engineering, technology or the sciences. This scheme is designed to help prevent the transfer of knowledge or skills which could be used in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.
The ATAS requirement may be applicable where the job includes an element of PhD-level research in an ATAS-relevant subject and the sponsor is also a licensed student sponsor, such as a university. The link to apply through the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) can be found at GOV.UK, together with useful information about the scheme.
English language skills (10 points)
An applicant on the Skilled Worker route must earn 10 mandatory points for ‘English language skills’. This means that the applicant must be able to demonstrate the necessary English language ability of at least Level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for Languages in all four components: reading, writing, speaking and listening, as set out under Appendix English Language of the Rules.
There are various ways in which the English language requirement can be met. If the applicant is from a majority English-speaking country, such as America or Australia, they will automatically meet this requirement. Equally, if they were awarded an English language or English literature GCSE or A-level, or the Scottish equivalent, following education undertaken in a UK-based school which began while they were aged under 18, they will meet the English language requirement. An applicant will also meet the requirement if they are being sponsored to work as either a doctor, dentist, nurse, midwife or vet, and have passed a language assessment that is accepted by the relevant regulated professional body as a requirement for that individual’s registration.
In cases where the English language requirement cannot otherwise be met, the applicant will need to take a secure English language test (SELT) to the required level with an approved provider in the 2 years prior to the date of their visa application. On successfully taking this test, the applicant will be given a valid digital reference number to use in their application.
Tradeable Skilled Worker visa points
In addition to the 50 mandatory points that must be awarded on the Skilled Worker route — for sponsorship, a skilled job offer and meeting the English language requirement — the job role must also meet the applicable minimum salary threshold to score the remaining 20 points. This will be the higher of either the general salary threshold of £26,200 per year, £10.75 per hour or the specific ‘going rate’ for the occupation code in question.
Importantly, however, all applicants on the Skilled Worker route will be able to trade characteristics, such as their educational qualifications, against a lower salary to get the required number of points. This means that if the job on offer pays less than the minimum salary requirement, an applicant may still be able to earn 20 tradeable points if they have:
- a job offer falling within a specific shortage occupation
- a PhD that is relevant to their proposed job role
- a PhD in a STEM subject that is relevant to their job role.
There are also different salary rules for workers in certain health or education occupations, and for new entrants at the start of their careers.
Additional Skilled Worker visa requirements
In addition to the mandatory and tradeable points requirements, an applicant on the Skilled Worker route must satisfy a number of non-points requirements to be eligible for a visa, including a financial requirement, as well as tuberculosis and criminal record certificate requirements, where applicable. If an applicant fails to meet any one of these additional non-points requirements, if necessary, their visa application will be refused.
If an applicant is applying for entry clearance or leave to remain and has been in the UK for less than 12 months when they apply for a Skilled Worker visa, they must have held funds of at least £1,270 for 28 days as set out under Appendix Finance. Alternatively, the applicant’s sponsor must certify that they will maintain and accommodate their new recruit up to the end of their first month of employment to an amount equivalent to this sum.
TB certificate requirement
If an applicant is applying for entry clearance from overseas and is from a listed country, they must provide a valid medical certificate as set out under Appendix T: tuberculosis screening, confirming that they have been screened for active pulmonary tuberculosis.
Criminal record certificate requirement
If the applicant is applying for entry clearance on the Skilled Worker route from overseas and is being sponsored in a certain occupation code, such as a health or education role, they may need to produce a criminal record certificate. A certificate will be needed from the appropriate authority in any country where the applicant has been present for at least 12 months over the age of 18, either continuously or in total, in the 10 years prior to applying.
DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists. Our team provide expert guidance and advice on the UK Skilled Worker visa to employers and workers, on areas such as points-based eligibility. If you have a query about the Skilled Worker visa points rules, contact us.
Skilled Worker visa points FAQs
What are the 70 points for Skilled Worker visa?
A Skilled Worker visa applicant must be awarded 50 mandatory points for sponsorship, a job at an appropriate skill level and English language skills at Level B1 intermediate. The additional 20 points can be earned through salary and other attributes.
How many points required for UK Skilled Worker visa?
To be granted a Skilled Worker visa, an applicant must earn 70 points, comprising 50 mandatory points for sponsorship, a suitably skilled job offer and satisfactorily speaking English, with an additional 20 tradeable points for meeting the minimum salary requirements.
What score is needed for Skilled Worker visa?
An applicant must be awarded a total of 50 mandatory and 20 tradeable points on the Skilled Worker route. To do this, they must have a suitably skilled job offer paying a minimum salary and be able to speak English.
What are the 70 points for UK student visa?
The 70 points under the UK’s points-based immigration system when applying for a Student visa from the Home Office are made up of a study requirement (50 points), a financial requirement (10 points) and an English language requirement (10 points).
Last updated: 31 July 2023