What is a ‘Skilled Worker’ in the Points-Based Visa System?

Once the points-based immigration system comes into force on 1 January 2021, there will only be certain criteria under which any non-UK citizen can enter the UK to work.

Businesses and organisations that regularly employ overseas workers will need to be fully aware of the new set of requirements, as will immigration lawyers across the country.

Skilled workers and licensed sponsors

From January next year if a person is coming to the UK to work, it will be necessary to demonstrate the following:

  • they have the required standard of spoken English
  • they have a job offer from a licensed sponsor who is registered with the Home Office
  • they are a designated ‘skilled worker’ and can fulfil the job offer requirements

These and other criteria will help the visa applicant reach the required 70 points for the new points-based system.

Who is classed as a ‘skilled worker’?

Being a ‘skilled worker’, in terms of immigration applications, is less about the person and more about the job. A ‘skilled worker’ role is defined by the Home Office and relates to the skill level required to fulfil a certain job role.

For instance, a doctor with a medical degree and postgraduate diplomas is certainly skilled, but if the role being applied for in the UK is for something unrelated and of lower skill level, perhaps working as an administration assistant in a bank, the role would not gain ‘skilled worker’ status and the doctor would not be eligible to apply for a visa in relation to this role.

What is a ‘skilled worker’ role?

All job roles in the UK have a Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code and each code carries a skill level. The Home Office sets what level is required for a role to be classified as ‘skilled’ .

The classification of a ‘skilled worker’ role involves looking at the day-to-day activities carried out by the employee. An important-sounding job title alone will not be sufficient to achieve ‘skilled worker’ status for employment purposes.

The current list of ‘eligible occupations and (salary) going rates for the Skilled Worker route’ covers all manner of roles, from chief executives to shopkeepers, chemical scientists to sheet metal workers and, according to the Gov.UK website, the immigration rules will be updated to expand the number of occupations that will eventually be included as eligible for the ‘skilled worker’ visa entry route.

What is changing in respect of ‘skilled worker’ visas?

Currently, a ‘skilled worker’ is an employee who would satisfy entry requirements for a Tier 2 Visa – this would be someone with a bachelor’s degree or having an NQF Level 6 qualification or above.

However, the points-based system will open up the entry requirements to fulfil a number of roles that previously wouldn’t have been applicable. A ‘skilled worker’ will hold minimum qualifications of either NQF Level 3 or above and A Levels (in England and Wales), or Higher qualifications (in Scotland). And it is hoped that this will mean a more diverse set of job roles will be able to be fulfilled by non-UK citizens who qualify as ‘skilled workers’.

The points-based visa system

The points required to be able to apply for a a ‘skilled worker’ visa will comprise of a set of mandatory and tradeable points.

Mandatory points – 50 required: having a job offer from a Home Office licensed sponsor (20 points), the job being at an appropriate skill level (20 points), required level of spoken English (10 points).

Tradeable points – at least 20 required: points are awarded in relation to the salary (minimum salary to gain points is £23,040) and must be at least 80% of the going rate for the role. Tradeable points are also awarded for those with a PHD in a subject relevant to a job (10 points) or a PHD in a STEM subject relevant to a job (20 points).

Health and Care Visas

Currently, the list of professions which qualify for the Health and Care Visa contains a core set of roles and there has been controversy, especially in the light of the recent pandemic, that has highlighted the fact that so-called ‘key’ roles are not necessarily ‘skilled’ roles and will not qualify for a the ‘skilled worker’ entry route.

Care workers, hospital porters and hospital cleaners are among some of the roles frequently filled by migrants, and employers such as the NHS and care homes for the elderly are worried that they will not be able to fill all the jobs available with UK residents.

However, the government’s “further details statement”, published on 4 August 2020 said that the list of professions would be updated when the new ‘skilled worker’ route comes into force as part of the points-based visa system and a restructured skills threshold would be introduced.

Immigration lawyers for the ‘skilled worker’ route

If you need legal advice on immigration issues and visa applications, the team of immigration professionals at Wellers Law Group are here to help. We have appointments available for confidential fixed-fee consultations in which we can answer your questions and explain the immigration processes applicable to your individual situation.

To book your appointment call Rosalind Nunoo on 020 8290 7982.