How does the UK points-based visa system work?

A new points-based immigration system came into force in the UK on 1 January 2021.

The system requires non-UK citizens to apply for and be granted an appropriate work-related visa in order to enter the UK for work purposes. (There are exceptions for Irish citizens, British National Overseas passport holders, and certain other groups.)

The role must be with an approved employer (sponsor) and must be on the eligible job list.

Visa applicants must meet specific requirements relating to the job role they are going to fulfill and each requirement will provide a number of points relating to their visa application. If the applicant gains enough points, they will be eligible for the visa (subject to other immigration checks).

Skilled worker requirements

All persons coming to the UK to work must 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 fulfill the job offer requirements

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

From 15 February 2022, new immigration rules were introduced so that care worker and home carer roles could be fulfilled by overseas workers. The Health and Care Worker visa route is a sub-category of the Skilled Worker route.

What is a ‘skilled worker’?

Being a ‘skilled worker’, in terms of immigration applications, is less about the person and more about the job they will be doing. All ‘skilled worker’ roles are defined by Home Office criteria and relate to the skill level required to fulfill the job role.

For instance, a doctor with a medical degree and postgraduate diplomas is certainly a skilled worker, but if the role he or she applies for in the UK is for something unrelated and of a 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 ‘skilled worker 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 out 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 that will be carried out by the employee and the amount they will be paid for this work. An important-sounding job title alone will not be sufficient to achieve ‘skilled worker’ status for immigration employment purposes.

The government list “Skilled Worker visa: going rates for eligible occupation codes” states the required salaries/payment rates for each role, from chief executives to shopkeepers, chemical scientists to sheet metal workers.

According to the Gov.UK website, the immigration rules will be updated to expand the number of occupations which are eligible for the ‘skilled worker’ visa entry route.

There are different salary rules for some healthcare, and teaching and education leadership roles in the UK because they are governed by national pay scales which vary by geographical location.

What has changed in respect of ‘skilled worker’ visas?

Previously, applicants with a bachelor’s degree or an NQF Level 6 qualification or above would have fulfilled the entry requirements for a Tier 2 visa.

However, the points-based system opens up the entry requirements so that a number of job roles that previously wouldn’t have been eligible now fall under the ‘skilled worker’ category.

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). This means that a more diverse set of job roles can be fulfilled by non-UK citizens who qualify as ‘skilled workers’.

The points-based visa system – how to accumulate ‘points’

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

Mandatory points – 50 required: The applicant must have a job offer from a Home Office licensed sponsor (20 points), the job must be at an appropriate skill level (20 points), and they must have the required level of spoken English (10 points).

Tradeable points – at least 20 required: Further 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).

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 is 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 please call Lorraine Toal on 020 8290 7956 or email