News & Insights

The New Skilled Worker Route

Overview of the route 

The Skilled Worker route is a new points-based route for employers to recruit people to work in the UK in a specific job. The Skilled Worker must have a job offer in an eligible skilled occupation (at RQF level 3) from a Home Office-approved sponsor. A dependant partner and dependant children can also apply on this route and the route can lead to settlement, normally after five continuous years of residence in the UK.

All Skilled Worker applications, including dependant partner and child applications, made on or after 1 December 2020 will be decided in accordance with these new Skilled Worker rules.

What you need to apply

Under this new Skilled Worker route, applicants will need to be awarded 70 points in total, comprising 50 mandatory points and 20 tradeable points.

The applicant must qualify for the 50 mandatory points made up of:

  • Sponsorship (20 points)
  • A job at the appropriate skill level (20 points)
  • English language skills (10 points)


The applicant must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) for the job they are planning to do.

To be valid, the CoS must:

  • confirm the applicant’s name, that they are being sponsored as a Skilled Worker, details of their job (including salary), and PAYE details if required
  • where the application is for entry clearance, have been awarded by the Home Office to that sponsor for the specific job and salary details shown
  • include a start date, stated by the sponsor, which is no more than 3 months after the date of the CoS assignment
  • not have been used in a previous application (granted or refused), and
  • must not have been withdrawn by the sponsor or cancelled by the Home Office.

In addition to a valid Certificate of Sponsorship, the sponsor must be authorised by the Home Office and listed as A-rated on its register of licensed sponsors. The sponsor will also need to have paid in full any required immigration skills charge.

A job at the appropriate skill level

The applicant must be sponsored for a job in an eligible occupation code. It is up to the sponsor to choose an appropriate occupation code from the approved list of SOC codes.  The relevant decision maker will need to be satisfied that the sponsor has not chosen a less appropriate code for any of the reasons specified, for instance the role is at a lower skill level and SOC code is not eligible under the Skilled Worker route.

English language skills

An applicant must be able to show that he or she has English language ability on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in all components of at least B1 (intermediate) or alternatively a degree equivalent to a UK BA degree taught through English.

Tradeable points

The remaining 20 points can be awarded to the applicant in various different ways that are set out in full in the rules. This may be, for example, where the applicant’s salary equals or exceeds the minimum salary requirement of £25,600 per year or the going rate for the occupation code (whichever is higher).

Applicants may be paid less than the minimum of £25,600 per year, where they have an educational qualification, such as a PhD, or they are a new entrant into the job market, or alternatively where their job is listed in a health or education occupation or a shortage occupation role.  These applicants must be paid a minimum of £20,480 per year to claim points for salary.

Other requirements

In addition to the points-based requirements, applicants (along with any dependants) will need to complete the specified online application form, pay any fee and immigration health charge, provide any required biometrics, and a passport or other travel document to establish their identity and nationality. Applicants must be aged 18 or over.

There is also a mandatory financial requirement (maintenance) for skilled workers. If the applicant is applying to stay in the UK and has been there with permission for 12 months or more, they will automatically meet the requirement. However, where the applicant is applying for entry clearance, or has been in the UK for less than 12 months, they must have funds of at least £1,270 (held for 90 days before the date of application) or the A rated sponsor must certify that they will, if necessary, maintain and accommodate the applicant up to the end of the first month of their employment, to an amount of at least £1,270. The certification is reflected on the CoS at assignment to the applicant.  Sponsors can also certify maintenance for the applicant’s family members, by providing a covering letter with their application.

The applicant may also need to provide a criminal record certificate if they are being sponsored for a job in a relevant occupation code.

What it replaces

The Skilled Worker route replaces the Tier 2 (General) route and introduces some welcome changes. For instance, the general salary threshold has been lowered from £30,000 to £25,600 and the minimum skill threshold has also been lowered from graduate occupations to those skilled to RQF level 3 (i.e. A-level).

There is also no longer a requirement for sponsors to undertake a resident labour market test and the 12 month cooling off period, and six year minimum stay, are being removed, meaning that the Skilled Worker route will not restrict when applications can be made or the length of stay.

If you have any questions about the contents of this article or if you need any assistance with the Skilled Worker route, please contact [email protected] in the immigration team at FSP.