How to apply for a Skilled Worker visa – explaining in simple words
EU citizens need visas too
With the end of EU free movement, the Skilled Worker route (like the rest of the Points Based Immigration System) is for EU citizens as well as non-EU citizens.
EU citizens who have arrived in the UK before 31 December 2020 can generally apply for a visa-free immigration status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Getting settled or pre-settled status under this scheme is free, a sponsor isn’t needed and there are no restrictions on employment — no minimum salary levels etc.
EU citizens who aren’t eligible for the Settlement Scheme have been able to submit an application for a Skilled Worker visa from 1 December 2020, although their visa will only be valid for entry to the UK from 1 January 2021.
Applying as a Skilled Worker
The application for a Skilled Worker visa can be submitted up to three months before the work start date listed on the CoS.
The application process varies depending on whether the applicant is:
- applying from overseas
- extending their current permission to stay under the sponsored work route from inside the UK
- switching from another visa route into the work route from inside the UK.
Applying from overseas
Applicants who are applying from overseas must apply an online application form, which can be accessed via this section of the Home Office’s guidance (the green button saying (“apply now”).
Applying from inside the UK
There are different application forms for extension applications and for switching applications.
An in-country application can be made if the applicant has valid permission to stay in the UK in any immigration category, other than:
- on a visit visa
- on a short-term student visa
- on a Parent of a Child Student visa
- on a seasonal worker visa
- on a domestic worker in a private household visa
- on immigration bail
- because they were given permission to stay outside the Immigration Rules, for example on compassionate grounds
If any of the above applies, the would-be Skilled Worker will need to leave the UK and apply from overseas.
Once the application form is completed, it can be submitted online and the relevant fees paid. It’s only then that you will be asked to upload supporting documents (see below); I would always recommend ensuring that all the supporting documents are ready before hitting submit.
Calculating visa fees has become fairly complex, so much so that thankfully the Home Office has a dedicated how much it costs page.
The basic visa fees range from £610 – £1,408 depending on the length of the visa being sought, the exact type of role and whether applying from inside or outside the UK. Lower fees apply to roles on the shortage occupations list, and the fee will also be reduced by £55 if the applicant is from:
Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden or Turkey.
Then there’s the Immigration Health Surcharge of £624 per year of the visa, which must be paid up front. This means that the total cost of a Skilled Worker is considerably higher than the headline application fee.
Those eligible for a Health and Care visa, a subset of Skilled Worker for certain medical and social care professionals, get a special reduced rate on application fees and do not have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.
The Home Office also has a specific page dedicated to the documents that applicants will need to submit.
Mandatory documents are:
- CoS reference number
- evidence of how the English language requirement is met
- a valid passport or, for EU nationals, evidence of identity and nationality
Applicants also need to enter details about their job such as the title, occupation code, salary and employer’s name — these must be the same as on the CoS. It’s always useful therefore to ask the employer to provide a full copy of the CoS rather than just the reference number.
What other documents are required depends on the circumstances and could include:
- evidence that the applicant meets the financial requirement if their sponsors has not certified this on the CoS;
- a TB test result if applying from certain countries;
- a criminal record certificate if the role requires one
- for certain roles, evidence of a UK PhD certificate or, if the qualification isn’t from the UK, a unique reference number
Copies of supporting documents are uploaded at the end of the application process, after submitting the form and paying the fees.
Biometric appointment and beyond
Most applicants will need to book and attend a biometric appointment — this is where fingerprints and a photograph are taken via a visa application centre.
EU nationals with a chip in their passport will be able to apply using an app — we are waiting for more details on this.
Once the details have been provided via the appointment or app, a Home Office caseworker will review the application and make a decision on whether to grant the visa.
The current stated processing times are:
- 3 weeks for applications filed outside the UK
- 8 weeks for applications filed inside the UK
Fast track options are usually available, which can significantly reduce the turnaround times. There is also the potential in more complex cases for the processing time to take longer.
Posted on Dec 04, 2020.