The Skilled Worker Visa Route
What is the Points Based System or 'Skilled Worker' route?
From 1 January 2021, both EEA and non-EEA workers (excluding citizens of Ireland) will need 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.
What do I need to know as a hiring manager?
This route is applicable for sponsoring skilled workers to whom we have made a job offer. As a hiring manager or as a line manager, you will need to be aware of your roles and responsibilities during their recruitment and employment.
You will be supported by People and OD Operations. For anything not covered below, please contact Peoplefirstname.lastname@example.org.
The University is licensed to provide a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) which demonstrates that the 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.
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 you of your obligations as a line manager when the sponsored worker is appointed.
As there is a financial cost associated with applying for CoS, we must assess that the individual is themselves likely to meet the criteria.
People and OD Operations will be unable to issue any CoS until the Government launches its new system to us on 1 December 2020.
However we would ask that you email any requests as soon as possible to email@example.com with the subject 'Visa Request' together with the name and start date so that we can understand your requirements.
Once we have issued a CoS, your new starter will need to apply for their visa, a process which ordinarily takes non-EEA workers 2-3 weeks depending on where in the world they are. We would advise that it is currently taking longer due to the global pandemic, due to local lockdowns and you should plan accordingly for a delayed start date.
The Points-Based scheme 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 central budget. Payment is made in People and OD Operations.
- The University also pays the Immigration Skills Charge, if applicable, from a central 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 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:
- When you have asked People and OD to support someone by issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship, People and OD will send the indivdiual a form to complete with the basic details we require to understand their circumstances. We also provide information and links to guide them through their next steps.
- People and OD cannot issue the Certificate of Sponsorship (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 identifed the candidate requires an ATAS certificate (a desicion 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 Certificate of Sponsorship. 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.
- After we have issued the CoS to the individual, they must apply for the visa. The time it takes for an individual’s visa application to be considered and processed by the Home Office varis by the individual's location, but is usually 2 to 3 weeks (https://www.gov.uk/visa-processing-times).
- 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.
UKVI must be notified of a range of activities in relation to the sponsored worker. When the individual is appointed, you will receive an e-mail from People and OD Operations outlining your obligations which are also outlined here.
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 whiile remaining on that visa. 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 that managers not research-focussed and teaching-focussed 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 applied for 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.