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Skilled Worker Visas – 70 Is The Magic Number

29 January 2021

A cornerstone of the Government’s Brexit negotiations was the end to free movement between the UK and the EU following the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.

The government has radically overhauled immigration laws and introduced a points-based system which treats EU and non-EU citizens equally.

In this brief article, we take a closer look at the new immigration system in place in the UK.

Skilled Worker Visas

The aim of the points-based system is to give priority to migrants of the highest skillset level. To qualify for a Skilled Worker visa (which has replaced the Tier 2 (General) work visa) an individual needs a minimum of 70 points before they can apply for the visa.

It is mandatory that they:

  • have a job offer from a licensed sponsor (see below) (20 Points);
  • have a job offer which is at least skill level 3 on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), i.e. A Level or equivalent (20 Points); and
  • meet the English language requirement (10 Points).

In addition to these “mandatory” requirements, applicants are also able to trade the following characteristics to get to the number of points required:

Tradeable CharacteristicsPoints
 Salary of £20,480 to £23,039 or at least 80% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)    0
 Salary of £23,040 to £25,599 or at least 90% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)    10
 Salary of £25,600 or above or at least the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)    20
 Job in a shortage occupation as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee    20
 Education qualification: PhD in a subject relevant to the job    10
 Education qualification: PhD in a Science Technology Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) subject relevant to the job    20

So, by way of example, an applicant may trade points to compensate for a lower salary if they hold a PhD in a subject relevant to the job.

Licensed Sponsor

Employers need a valid sponsor licence before offering to sponsor job applicants from outside the UK, in respect of whom they will need to issue a certificate of sponsorship.* This is a formal application which must be made to the Home Office accompanied by a licence fee. An employer will have to establish that it, or its business, are eligible for the grant of a licence. Once granted, the sponsor will be liable for certain charges and will have to carry out sponsorship duties, which includes rigorous monitoring and record-keeping of each sponsored individual as well as duties to update the Home Office of changes relating to its business.

If a business fails to comply with its sponsorship duties it could run the risk of having its licence revoked.

The standard processing time to be granted a sponsor licence is eight weeks, although a surge in applications is expected due to the recent change in law.

*Employers do not need to be a sponsor to recruit Irish Citizens or anyone from the resident labour market with an existing right to work in the UK. This includes EU citizens with settled or pre-settled status, and non-EU citizens with indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

Conclusion

The new points-based system provides some welcome simplifications from the previous Tier 2 (General) work visa that applied to non-EU citizens prior to Brexit.  These include reduced skill level and reduced minimum salary requirements, as well as the end of the resident labour market test.

That said, there are significant additional costs and compliance obligations associated with the sponsor licence that many employers may find themselves subject to now that obtaining a sponsor licence is required to recruit EU citizens from outside the UK.

Employers that anticipate wanting to recruit workers through the Skilled Worker visa route should consider applying for a sponsorship licence without delay.  

This article is provided by Burlingtons for general information only. It is not intended to be and cannot be relied upon as legal advice or otherwise. If you would like to discuss any of the matters covered in this article, please contact Helena Antoniou or write to us using the contact form below.

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Richard Berry
Richard Berry
Head of Employment
Helena Antoniou
Helena Antoniou
Junior Partner
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