A short summary note on how an employer can sponsor a migrant to work in the UK in a specific job in an eligible skilled occupation under the Skilled Worker immigration route.
What is a Skilled Worker visa?
A Skilled Worker visa is a work visa that is sponsored by an employer with a Skilled Worker sponsor licence. The Skilled Worker visa replaced the sponsored Tier 2 (General) visa route in December 2021.
Who can sponsor Skilled Workers?
Skilled Workers can only be sponsored by an employer with a UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) approved sponsor licence.
The sponsor must be listed as “A-rated” on UKVI’s register of licensed sponsors, unless the applicant was last granted permission as a Skilled Worker and is applying to continue working for the same sponsor as their last permission.
Sponsoring Skilled Worker visas comes with significant compliance obligations, both in relation to the sponsor’s business but also in relation to each of the sponsored Skilled Workers.
Who can apply for a Skilled Worker visa?
The Skilled Worker visa is open to all non-British or Irish nationals aged 18 or over (including EU nationals who do not hold “pre-settled” or “settled” status under the EU Settlement Scheme (see Practice note, The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS))).
Recruiting a Skilled Worker
Before 1 December 2020, employers usually had to undertake a resident labour market test (RLMT) before they could sponsor a migrant worker (at that time under the Tier 2 (General) category). Sponsors had to retain evidence on file to prove the RLMT had been satisfied, as set out in UKVI’s Sponsor guidance appendix D: keeping records for sponsorship.
On 1 December 2020, the Skilled Worker category replaced the Tier 2 (General) category and the formal RLMT requirements were scrapped. However, sponsors must still retain evidence of any recruitment activity they have undertaken before offering a role to a migrant worker.
If the role was not advertised, they must be able to explain how they recruited the worker. This information will help UKVI establish, where necessary, that the role is a genuine vacancy.
If the sponsor advertised the role, they must retain:
- Details of any adverts placed including:
- a screenshot, printout or photocopy of the advert, or a record of the text of the advert; and
- information about where the job was advertised (for example, website address) and for how long.
- Unlike under the old RLMT regime, there is no specified minimum number of adverts or prescribed method of advertising. Where the sponsor placed more than one advert, it should retain evidence of all adverts placed.
- A record of the number of people who applied for the job, and the number of people shortlisted for interview or for other stages of the recruitment process.
- At least one other item of evidence or information which shows the process the sponsor used to identify the most suitable candidate. Examples include but are not limited to:
- a copy or summary of the interview notes for the successful candidate;
- a list of common interview questions used for all candidates as part of the selection process;
- brief notes on why the successful candidate was selected and why other candidates were rejected;
- information about any scoring or grading process used to identify the successful candidate (sponsors do not have to retain application forms, CVs, interview notes or any other personal data relating to unsuccessful candidates); and
- any other relevant information or evidence.
Other recruitment methods
If the sponsor did not advertise the role, it must, if asked, be able to explain and, where practicable, provide evidence of how they identified that the worker was suitable. Examples include, but are not limited to, any of the following:
- The sponsor identified the worker through a university milk round. In this case, the sponsor must keep a letter from each university, on their headed paper, confirming the milk round, the dates it was conducted, and the method used (for example, presentation or interview method).
- The worker was already legally working for the sponsor on another immigration route and the sponsor established that they were suitable for the role through their previous performance.
- The worker applied to the sponsor outside of a formal advertising campaign (a “speculative” application) and the sponsor was satisfied (for example, by interviewing them or checking references or qualifications) that they had the necessary skills and experience to do the job.
To qualify for sponsorship, any vacancy must be genuine. A genuine vacancy is one which:
- Requires the jobholder to perform the specific duties and responsibilities for the job and meets all the requirements of the Skilled Worker route.
- Does not include dissimilar or predominantly lower-skilled duties.
- Is appropriate to the business in light of its business model, business plan and scale.
There must be a real business need for the individual being hired. They should have been identified via an objective, sensible recruitment process and should have the skills and experience required for the role.
A Skilled Worker application will be refused if UKVI suspects that a vacancy does not exist or is a sham and has been created mainly so the worker can apply for entry clearance or permission to stay. Where UKVI has reasonable grounds for believing a vacancy is not genuine, it is likely to take action against the sponsor.
The applicant must:
- Genuinely intend, and be able, to undertake the role for which they are being sponsored.
- Not intend to undertake employment other than in the role for which they are being sponsored, or as otherwise permitted by the conditions of their visa.
Applicants must score 70 points to be eligible for the visa, by meeting specific requirements. The 70 points threshold is made up of:
- 50 points for mandatory, “non-tradeable”, criteria.
- 20 points for “tradeable” criteria.
The Skilled Worker must have a Certificate of Sponsorship (”CoS”) assigned to them by their sponsor.