If you have been offered a skilled job in the UK, you can apply for a Skilled Worker visa for international graduates.
The end of the free movement of EU citizens to the UK on 31 December 2020 means that the UK’s new immigration system now covers both EU and non-EU nationals. The new Skilled Worker route, which replaces Tier 2 (General), is now the main route for both EU and non-EU employees seeking to move to the UK to take up an offer of work.
EU/EEA and Swiss nationals who were resident in the UK on 31 December 2020,and wish to continue to live and work in the UK will need to apply for pre-settled or settled status via the EU Settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021. Further details can be found here.
Under the UK's revised immigration rules, the Tier 2 (General) sponsorship route has been replaced by the Skilled Worker route. Workers coming to the UK under this new route will need to be sponsored in a role that fulfils certain criteria, including a minimum skill level and a minimum salary.
The new immigration system does not apply to those EU/EEA and Swiss national citizens living in the UK on 31 December 2020 if they successfully apply to the EU Settlement Scheme before 30 June 2021.
As a City graduate you can be sponsored by a licensed employer as a Skilled Worker at a reduced salary rate known as the ‘new entrant’ rate from as early as three months before the end date of your course.
You can benefit from the new entrant rate up until two years after your Student immigration permission ends.
Requirements in order to apply
- Your employer must have a Skilled Worker (formerly Skilled Worker) sponsor licence
- You can find a list of eligible jobs here The job must have a particular skill level (defined as being at level 3, which is A –level or equivalent [Appendix Skilled Worker of the immigration rules sets out eligible jobs and salary levels
- There is a separate route for some specialised areas of skilled work including psychologists, nurses, midwifes, opthalmic opticians: see the Home Office Guides to the Health and Care Worker visa which have fixed salary scales.
- There is usually a minimum wage level of £20,480 for recent Graduates, though this depends on the job and can be higher - you can find the minimum salary level for each job in Appendix Skilled Occupations
- For certain teaching and healthcare jobs only there are separate national payscales that apply.
- You will automatically meet the required English language skills if you have a UK degree or have Tier 4 or Student Route immigration permission for a Degree level course
- You do not have to meet any maintenance requirement if you have already been living in the UK for more than 12 months as a Student or other long-stay immigration category
- UKCISA also provide useful information.
Changing your Tier 4/Student Route permission to a Skilled Worker permission
You can switch into the Skilled Worker category from within the UK if you meet all the following criteria:
- You do not have visitor, short-term student or other short-term immigration permission and have current immigration permission which has not expired
- If you have been offered a Skilled Worker job within 90 days of your course end date and are studying for a UK recognised bachelor or postgraduate degree e.g. Bachelors or Masters. (Postgraduate diploma or certificates are not eligible) or have completed at least one year of a PhD..
- You studied your degree at a UK HEI with a track record of compliance which holds a licence to sponsor Students (City does)
- You have a Certificate of Sponsorship from an employer who is on the list of registered sponsors with the Home Office.
- If you have not already been in the UK for 12 months or more or are applying from out of the UK, you must be able to show that you have £1200 in an account that is acceptable to the Home Office for a minimum of 28 consecutive days before you apply. Alternatively, you do not have to provide any evidence of funds if your Skilled Worker sponsor is willing to confirm on your Certificate of Sponsorship that they will advance this amount of money during the first month of your employment (if needed).
- If you received official financial sponsorship within the last 12 months from a government or international scholarship agency for your studies you will need written permission from your official sponsor in order to extend your immigration permission in the UK.
Provided that your last grant of immigration permission was issued after 19th October 2020 you can start the full time work as set out on your Certificate of Sponsorship once you have applied for immigration permission as a Skilled Worker before you receive a decision from the UKVI about your application
Otherwise you will still be limited to a temporary contract until the Skilled Worker permission application is actually approved; if you are still studying for a PhD and have not yet completed your course you cannot work full time for your new employer until your Skilled Worker permission has been granted, since you are still bound by your Tier 4/Student conditions and are considered to be in "term time".
UKCISA provides further guidance on this.
The Skilled Worker route is part of the new points-based system of immigration, and all applicants need to accrue 70 points through their visa application, for it to be approved.
These are the mandatory criteria that all Skilled Worker applicants need to meet:
- Applicants must have an offer of a job from a licensed sponsor 20 points
- The job must be at or above the minimum skill level: RQF3 level or equivalent (A level or equivalent qualification) 20 points
- Applicants must speak English to an acceptable standard (CEFR level B1) 10 points
These mandatory criteria earn the applicant 50 points, and in addition applicants must acquire a further 20 tradeable points through a combination of points for their salary, a job in a shortage occupation or a relevant PhD.
|Tradable points (a maximum of one in each column) - 20 required|
|General Salary Threshold||Going Rate||Point 5||Point 5|
|Salary of at least £20,480||At least 80% of the going rate for the profession (70% if a new entrant)||0||Education qualification: PhD in a subject relevant to the job||10|
|Salary of at least 23,040||At least 90% of the going rate for the profession||10||Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job||20|
|Salary of at least 25,600||At least the going rate for the profession||20||Job in a shortage occupation (as designed by the MAC)||20|
|Salary of at least 20,480||Listed health/education job and meets the relevant national pay scale||20||Applicant is a new entrant to the labour market, e.g. switching from a student visa||20|
Included below are several worked examples showing how we could apply tradeable points when sponsoring applicants:
Example 1 – Research Assistant
- Dr A is appointed to a research assistant role under SOC code 2119 (Natural and social science professionals) on a three-year contract at 35 hours per week. Dr A’s starting salary will be £26,715.
- Dr A meets the mandatory criteria to score 50 points
- The going rate for SOC code 2119 at 39 hours per week is: £33,000
- Therefore, the going rate for SOC code 2119 at 35 hours per week is: £29,615 (£33,000 ÷ 39 × 35)
- Dr A’s salary of £26,715 will be below the applicable going rate but above the general threshold of £25,600. Therefore, Dr A cannot automatically score 20 points for salary.
- However, under the salary rules, Dr A will be a ‘new entrant’, as they are being appointed to a postdoctoral role within SOC code 2119. This is defined as a new entrant SOC code, and they will be given a CoS of less than four years (to match the length of the contract).
- As a ‘new entrant’, Dr A must be paid the higher of either £20,480 or at least 70% of going rate.
- 70% of the applicable going rate (£31,308) is: £21,916. As this is higher than £20,480, this is the minimum which must be met.
- Therefore, Dr A’s starting salary of £26,715 meets the minimum requirements and they score: 20 points
TOTAL: 70 points
Example 2 – University Lecturers
- Dr B is appointed to a Lecturer role under SOC code 2311 (Higher education teaching professionals) on a permanent contract at 35 hours per week. Dr B’s starting salary will be £33,797.
- Dr B meets the mandatory criteria to score 50 points
- The going rate for SOC code 2311 at 39 hours per week is: £40,700
- Therefore, the going rate for SOC code 2311 at 35 hours per week is: £36,526 (£40,700 ÷ 39 x 35)
- Dr B’s salary of £33,797 will be above the general threshold of £25,600 but below the applicable going rate of £36,526. Therefore, Dr B cannot automatically score 20 points for salary.
- Whilst SOC code 2311 is a new entrant code, Dr B cannot rely on the lower new entrant salary concessions because they will be issued a skilled worker visa of more than four years (which automatically overrides any new entrant concession).
- However, Dr B holds a PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job, meaning Dr B can ‘trade points’ for salary. In doing this, Dr B must be paid the higher of either £20,480 or at least 80% of going rate.
- 80% of the applicable going rate (£36,526) is: £29,220. As this is higher than £20,480, this is the minimum which must be met.
- Therefore, Dr B’s starting salary of £33,797 meets the minimum requirements and they score: 20 points
TOTAL: 70 points
Example 3 – Web designer
- Ms E is appointed to a web designer role under SOC code 2137 (Web design and development professional) on a permanent contract at 35 hours per week. Ms E’s starting salary will be £24,500.
- Ms E meets the mandatory criteria to score 50 points
- The going rate for SOC code 2137 at 39 hours per week is: £26,000
- Therefore, the going rate for SOC code 2137 at 35 hours per week is: £23,333 (£26,000 ÷ 39 x 35)
- Ms E’s salary of £24,500 will be above the applicable going rate but below the general threshold of £25,600. Therefore, she cannot automatically score 20 points for salary.
- However, any role defined by SOC code 2137 is a shortage occupation, meaning Ms E can ‘trade points’ for salary and in doing so must be paid the higher of either £20,480 or at least 80% of the going rate.
- 80% of the applicable going rate is £18,667. Therefore, £20,480 is the minimum which must be met.
- Therefore, Ms E’s starting salary of £24,500 meets the minimum requirements and Ms E scores: 20 points
TOTAL: 70 points
Benefits for you and your employer
Many employers are anxious about employing overseas nationals as they are not aware of the arrangements in place for international graduates, and think the process of sponsoring you may be complicated. If you are eligible to switch to a Skilled Worker visa from within the UK then you and your employer will benefit from the following:
- You will qualify for the "new entrant" wage for your job – this is the higher of 70% of the going rate for the job and £20480
- If an employer recruits someone from outside the UK they are required to pay an Immigration Skills Charge, but they are exempt from paying this for Students switching from within the UK
UKCISA provides extensive guidance on Skilled Worker and issues relating to applications to switch into this category, as well as guidance on other options for staying in the UK after study.
Extending your Skilled Worker visa
You can usually apply for a Skilled Worker visa for an initial 4 years at the new entrant salary rate and can then extend it provided that the employer is willing to sponsor you again at the higher‘going rate’ for the role and you can then apply for indefinite permission to remain in the UK after 5 years. Alternatively you can be sponsored as a Skilled Worker visa for up to 5 years directly if the employer is willing to sponsor you at the higher ‘going rate’ salary for the role . This also attracts a higher application fee. Details of current immigration permission application fees can be found here.
Please note that, as we are primarily Student Advisers, we are unable to offer detailed advice on Skilled Worker applications.