The Skilled Worker Visa Route
What is the 'Skilled Worker' route of the Points-Based System?
From 1 January 2021, both EEA and non-EEA workers (excluding citizens of Ireland) have needed to apply for a visa from the Home Office in order to enter, live and work in the UK.
There are many types of visa route available. Some workers will be eligible for a visa based on the immigration status of their relatives or ancestry, or will apply as students or under the 'Global Talent' route; others will apply and be considered and scored by UK Visas and Immigration using a points-based system (PBS) to determine whether a visa will be granted.
The government has called this new route the 'Skilled Worker' visa, and it is replacing the existing Tier 2 visa route for non-EEA workers. It is structurally similar in many ways to the Tier 2 scheme which ties skilled workers to a specific job with a licenced employer as their sponsor.
This route is applicable for sponsoring skilled workers to whom the University has made a job offer.
The Global Mobility Team within People and OD Operations support the process. For anything not covered below, please contact People.GlobalMobility@manchester.ac.uk.
The International Staff Network Group is available to individuals as an additional source of information and support.
The University is licensed to provide a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) which demonstrates that an individual has a firm offer of appropriate employment, which contributes points to their score. As such it supports an individual’s visa application (but does not guarantee its approval, and does not give the migrant the right to work in the UK).
The CoS is not a paper certificate or document, but a virtual document with a reference number, issued by UKVI and provided to the individual via People and OD Operations.
A CoS assigned to an individual based overseas is classed as 'Defined' and needs to be requested from UKVI via their online system. If successful, they are usually granted within a day or two.
A CoS assigned to an individual currently in the UK is classed as 'Undefined'. An allocation of these types of CoS are granted to the University on an annual basis.
To obtain a CoS:
- The University must demonstrate that it has a genuine vacancy at an appropriate skill level that meets the minimum salary threshold.
- The University pledges to accept all of the legal duties expected when sponsoring the migrant. People and OD Operations will inform the
- line manager of their obligations when the sponsored worker is appointed
- individual of their obligations when the CoS is sent to them
As there is a financial cost associated with applying for CoS, we must assess that the individual is themselves likely to meet the criteria.
The Points-Based System allows applicants, having satisfied certain mandatory criteria, to trade off certain other criteria against a lower minimum salary.
To be eligible all applicants will need 70 points, however 50 of these are described as not ‘tradeable’ i.e. they must be obtained from meeting 3 mandatory requirements:
- Offer of a job by an approved sponsor (i.e. the University)
- Job at an appropriate skill level (minimum RQF3 / ‘A’ level equivalent qualification)
- Speaks English at required level (having passed an approved English language test, or having an academic qualification taught in English and recognised by UK NARIC)
The additional 20 points can be met by meeting one of three ‘tradeable’ criteria:
- Salary of £25,600 or above
- Job in a shortage occupation (as designate by Migration Advisory Committee)
- PhD in a STEM subject relevant to a job
The absolute minimum salary under the scheme is £20,480, for which no points are available; however it is possible to employ on a points-based visa a staff member earning £20,480 e.g. a researcher in their first role, with a PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the role (having obtained 50 ‘non-tradeable’ and 20 ‘tradeable’ points totalling the requisite 70).
There is also the option to achieve the required additional 20 points through the combination of the following two ‘tradeable’ criteria:
- Salary of £23,040 AND a PhD in a subject relevant to the job.
We are required to advertise jobs in accordance with University guidance and best practice.
In order to meet UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) criteria under the Skilled Worker route, we will continue to have to maintain full and complete records for inspection to demonstrate that the vacancy for which we have sponsored a worker was genuine, at the appropriate skill level and salary. We no longer need to provide evidence that we have conducted a resident labour market test (RLMT) for 28 days minimum.
- The University pays for the Certificate of Sponsorship from a Faculty budget. Payment is made in People and OD Operations.
- The University also pays the Immigration Skills Charge, if applicable, from a Faculty budget when paying for the Certificate of Sponsorship.
- The individual pays for their visa and immigration health surcharge (IHS) during the visa application process (Skilled Worker visa: How much it costs - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)), and is reimbursed by the University for standard visa costs from a central budget.
- The individual pays for all their dependents’ visas and health surcharges. The University will offer the individual an interest-free loan to repay these costs.
- The University will certify maintenance for Skilled Worker applicants and their dependents.
- The University will reimburse the costs of the standard visa fee, biometric residence permit (BRP) and immigration health surcharge (IHS) for employees.
- Claims should be made via the online expenses portal in MyView, by choosing 'incidental expenses' then 'Skilled Worker & IHS' Submitting a claim | Directorate of People and Organisational Development | StaffNet | The University of Manchester
We are unable to reimburse -
- UKVI appointment fees
- Priority Service
- Ecctis or English Language test costs
- TB test costs
- costs attached to a CoS assigned with a duration of less than 3 months
For more information see the University’s visa cost and loans policy.
The time it takes for a candidate to obtain a visa can be lengthy. The end-to-end process can take a couple of months. A realistic start date should be considered taking these steps into account.
Consideration should also be given to whether sponsorship is feasible for roles that have fixed start and end dates (for example, as a condition of funding) and whether a visa could be obtained in good time to meet those dates.
An outline of the process is as follows:
- The Global Mobility Team, in People and OD Operation will support the individual by issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship. We will send the indivdiual a form to complete with the basic details we require to understand their circumstances and we also provide information and links to guide them through their next steps.
- People and OD cannot issue the CoS unless the person provides evidence of their meeting the government's English language requirements. These are highly prescriptive and cannot be flexed, and for many people involve having to obtain certification from a third party (Ecctis) and provide this to People and OD. We unfortunately have no control over their processing times, but generally it takes a week or so, and we rely on the candidate to apply for this as soon as possible.
- If the hiring manager has identified the candidate requires an ATAS certificate (a decision based on both their area of research and their nationality, see here for guidance), that must also be provided to People and OD before we can issue the CoS. Again, the candidate must do this in a timely way as People and OD have no influence over the third party that the candidate is liaising with for the ATAS certificate.
- Once we have the candidate form returned to us, including their Ecctis and ATAS certificate if needed, the process to evaluate the case and issue the CoS should take around a week, but at peak times when more international staff are being onboarded, this can take longer. Generally speaking when we are having to prioritise cases we do this according to who is needed to start first.
- If the role falls into one of the relevant SOC codes, the individual and any dependants will need to provide a criminal record certificate from any country where they have lived for 12 months or more in the past 10 years.
- We will certify maintenance for the individual on the CoS to ease the visa application process so they do not have to provide evidence of funds.
- After we have issued the CoS to the individual, they must apply for the visa and pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). The time it takes for an individual’s visa application to be considered and processed by the Home Office varies by the individual's location, but is usually 2 to 3 weeks for an out-of-country (Defined CoS) application and up to 8 weeks for an in-country (Undefined CoS) application (https://www.gov.uk/visa-processing-times).
- Individuals must start in their role within 28 days of whichever is the later of -
- the start date recorded on the CoS or
- the date the visa becomes valid or
- the date permission to enter or permission to stay is granted.
- Individuals who have been assigned a Defined CoS (out-of-country) should remain outside the UK until their visa has been granted. They will need to provide evidence of their date of entry to the UK - this can be in the form of a stamp in their passport or physical or electronic document such as a travel ticket or boarding pass.
- Individuals who have been assigned an Undefined CoS (in-country) should make their visa application from within the UK and should remain in the country until their application has been processed. If you leave the UK whilst you have a visa application pending, that application will be deemed to have been withdrawn.
- Consideration should also be given to whether sponsorship is feasible for roles that have fixed start and end dates (for example, as a condition of funding) and whether a visa could be obtained in good time to meet those dates.
UKVI must be notified of a range of activities in relation to a sponsored worker.
Hiring managers and line managers will need to be aware of their roles and responsibilities during an individual's recruitment and employment.
Individuals will need to be aware of:
When an individual's contract in the same role is extended, the process of assigning a Skilled Worker CoS extension to them is the same as above, but tends to be smoother as they will have met all relevant criteria in their initial visa application.
However, if the individual and role fall into the ATAS requirement, the individual will need to submit an application in good time as the ATAS certificate must be provided to People and OD before the CoS can be issued.
Individuals requiring a CoS extension should complete the CoS Information Request Form - Skilled Worker extension and email it to People.GlobalMobility@manchester.ac.uk.
They will need to submit their visa application before their current visa expiry date, however we are only able to assign a CoS extension no more than three months in advance of the current visa expiry date.
Individuals should be in the UK when they submit their application and remain in the UK whilst their application is being considered.
If a redeployee or internal candidate holds a Skilled Worker visa this ties them to their current job. They can only be appointed into a job within the same occupation group while remaining on that visa. However, if the area of research changes and falls into the ATAS requirement, they will only be able to start the work once they have received ATAS approval.
They may not be able to take a job in the same occupation group if it is on a reduced salary, or work less hours thereby reducing salary, if this takes them under the salary threshold for sponsorship.
It is important to note that research-focused and teaching-focused academic jobs are in different occupation groups under the government's system for classifying jobs. This means that a research associate cannot move into a lecturer role, or vice versa, before they have obtained a new visa. They could however be appointed to another project.
Please contact People and OD Operations for advice before proposing or effecting any changes to a member of staff on a skilled worker visa.
Eligible prospective staff can apply for a Global Talent visa as an alternative to a skilled worker visa; the individual makes this application personally without being sponsored by the University. The visa has less restrictions for the individual than the Skilled Worker visa, and does not tie them to one job.
Student/Tier 4 covers international students, sponsored by the University to support their visa application to study in the UK. Their visa may allow them to work in the UK with restrictions. However their applications are processed by the University’s Student Services Immigration Team.
The University can also issue Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) under the Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange category for sponsored researchers. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.