How To Get A Well-Paid Job And A Skilled Worker Visa In The UK

Information, tips and facts that will increase your chances of UK Skilled Worker Visa application success.

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Living in London
The traditional British red telephone box

It is a general perception that it is tough for skilled expats to come and work in the UK. It might be a lengthier and bumpier process than in other countries popular with expats, however, getting a UK Skilled Worker Visa is far from being impossible.

The fact is that the number of UK work visas granted to skilled foreigners is growing while the number of applicants getting a rejection is low. 

According to the UK government Statistics in 2020, the rejection rate for the UK work visa was 4.93%. It means that only 1 out of 20 applicants was refused. 

This article tells you how to become one of those lucky numbers in the UK Home Office statistics. 

If you don’t have a minimum of £50K of disposable savings stashed in your bank account and a great business idea, then Innovator  Visa is probably not the right choice for you. 

If it’s the case, then what you want is UK Skilled Worker Visa which replaced the General Work Tier 2 Visa.

A Skilled Worker Visa is what most skilled professionals go for. The real and only challenge here is to find a UK company willing and eligible to sponsor you.

Why a UK Skilled Worker Visa?

Because there’s much more to UK Skilled Worker Visa than just work, that’s why.

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Yes, perhaps it gives you a perfect chance to earn more money than you could ever do back home, save a whole lot and come back a wealthy person. The UK is one of the highest-paying countries after all and ranks really high in the list of the best countries to work in the world to make money.

However, it also gives you an opportunity to stay and live in the UK permanently if you wish so. 

You can come to the UK with a General Work visa for a maximum of 5 years and 14 days, or the time given on your certificate of sponsorship plus 1 month, whichever is shorter.

You can extend your Tier 2 Visa for a period of up to six years if you still work in a skilled role for a UK company eligible to hire skilled immigrants. 

If you want to stay in the UK for a longer period, without being restricted by your Tier 2 Visa regulations, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after living in the UK for five years. 

With ILR you can continue your professional career in the UK without any restrictions in terms of sponsorship, salary or actual jobs you do.

UK Skilled Worker Visa – applying tactically and strategically

You can get a UK Skilled Worker visa in three ways:

1. Look and apply for a job directly from your home country. If you can find a job with a UK company that can and wants to sponsor you, you are more than halfway there. The rest is much easier provided you can meet certain conditions (we will talk about them in detail later in Essential Tips).

2. Come into the UK as a full-time student and then use your university years not just to upgrade your existing qualifications, but also to network and get to know the job market in your field.

As a student, you can work up to 20 hours a week. It means you have an opportunity to find part-time work or internships in companies that are able to hire foreign workers.

Then you build up your relationships with the company and your reputation as a specialist. 

Remember, at this point, you have got your foot in the door and are in a more advantageous position than the same level specialists who are applying from abroad.

3. Come into the UK on a Youth Mobility Scheme if you are between 18-30 years old and from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, Taiwan.

You can stay for two years, work in most jobs, be self-employed and start your own business (as long as you don’t have employees) or use this time creatively to find a permanent position with an employer eligible to hire foreign citizens who can sponsor you to switch to a Skilled Worker Visa.

Whichever way you choose, the end result will always be a Skilled Worker Visa application. In the first case, you apply from your home country, in the case of the Student visa or Youth Mobility Scheme – you can switch the visas without leaving the UK.

Getting UK Skilled Worker Visa: essential tips

  1. Check if your job is eligible

First of all, not all jobs are eligible for a Skilled Worker Visa. To find out which job is eligible, you need to check a list of eligible occupations and codes for the Skilled Worker visa

For this, you need to know your job’s code which you can search in the ONS occupation coding tool. Or, if you already have a job with a UK employer, the employer can give you the code. 

Tip 1: The coding tool doesn’t have all the job titles in its database. In case your job title is missing, try to look for a similar job. 

Tip 2: Pay attention to the job description in the coding tool. It must match very closely with what you’ll be doing. 

Tip 3: Sometimes very similar job titles have different codes, for example, chefs and cooks. Chefs are eligible for a Skilled Worker visa, but cooks are not.

  1. Check whether the salary you are offered is eligible

Your salary should be at least £25,600 per year or £10.10 per hour, whichever is higher. However, there’s a catch: check the going rate for your job in the UK. The going rate is the amount of money that people are paid on average for the job at the moment. To qualify for the visa, your salary cannot be less than the going rate.

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As an example, if you are an electrical engineer and have been offered £35,000 per year, you are not qualified for a Skilled Worker Visa as the going rate for electrical engineers is £37,000.

Tip 1: This is where you can check the going rate for your job 

Tip 2: If you are a healthcare or education worker, the salary requirements are different for the eligible jobs. Check here whether your healthcare or education job is eligible.

For such jobs, the going rate is determined by national pay scales. You should be paid at least the national pay scale rate for the job you’ll be doing to qualify for the visa, be it a private or a public sector. Check the national pay scales for healthcare and for education

Tip 3: you can be paid as little as 70% of the going rate for your job if your salary is at least £20,480 a year and one of the following is true:

your job is on a shortage occupation list

you’re under 26, studying or a recent graduate, or in professional training

you have a STEM PhD level qualification that’s relevant to your job 

you have a postdoctoral position in science or higher education

There are other conditions that you have to meet to be granted a visa. 

Language proficiency

Your English should be at the minimum of B1 level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale. To demonstrate you have a necessary language level you can do one of the following:  

  1. Pass a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider 
  2. If you have a university degree that was taught in English, apply to Ecctis to evaluate your degree to confirm that your qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD. This will be enough to prove your language proficiency. 

Meeting the cost of application

Here’s how much you need to have to afford the application:

The application fee: from £610 per person. It depends whether you are applying in the UK or outside and for how long you want to stay in the UK.

The healthcare surcharge – £624 per year per person.

Necessary funds to support yourself: minimum £1,270 per person.

Other conditions are a bit trickier as at this point the second party is involved – a UK company eligible and willing to sponsor your UK Skilled Worker Visa application. 

We will talk later about how to get a job with UK companies eligible to sponsor an overseas applicant. Now let’s have a look at what your UK employer must do to help your visa application.

Your employer’s Certificate of Sponsorship.

Your employer provides you with a Certificate of Sponsorship. 

A certificate of sponsorship holds your personal details and information about the job you’ve been offered. It’s an electronic record, not a paper document. Your sponsor will give you a certificate of the sponsorship reference number to add to your application.

You can only use your certificate of sponsorship reference number once. You must use it 3 months after getting it.

How to secure a sponsor company for UK Skilled Worker Visa application

There are about 28K UK companies on a registered sponsor list, which can employ a skilled workforce from abroad. However, they have to jump through various bureaucratic hoops and pay an arm and a leg for every skilled immigrant they hire. 

If you keep this in mind and plan your job hunting strategically, you will have good chances to succeed.

Remember – preparation is key! So, do your research carefully and make sure you leave nothing to chance.

Apply for the right kind of job

Your best option is to apply for a job featured on the Shortage Occupation List with a company eligible to hire foreigners.

Currently and most probably in the foreseeable future, all kinds of engineering, nuclear industry waste, IT, AI, science, healthcare, and some other industries are among the worst affected by skill shortage. 

If you work in one of those industries, your chances are already looking good and most likely you will find your job on the Shortage Occupation List.

Give your prospective employer what they want (and a bit more)

Research what particular skills in or around your area of expertise are most desperately needed in the UK, hone them and get more experience while looking for a UK employer. 

It’s worth looking through various job sites such as Indeed, Total Jobs or Reed to see what exactly most companies in your area of knowledge are looking for and what they are ready to pay for the skills like yours. 

Make it easier for a company to hire you by eliminating their possible doubts

For a UK company to hire a foreign resident means dealing with more bureaucracy and financial demands. Naturally, they want to be sure they get what they want. 

Make it easier for them to take a positive decision about you by covering all the bases: 

  • Craft an excellent CV using what you have learnt about the company and the job you are applying for
  • Ensure the company can easily verify and prove your qualifications and experience
  • Have your portfolio ready if it’s applicable to your profession
  • Make sure you have all the references translated 
  • You might want your qualifications to be evaluated in the UK so that your prospective employer could see at once how your degree compares to a similar degree from a British University. Use this resource to help you with the task.
  • It might be even worth coming over to the country for a short while to be available for face-to-face interviews if you can. 
  • Use the help of a professional recruitment agency that specialises in international recruitment.

Looking for a job yourself is great and surely you should do it, however, using an agency (or even a few) might sufficiently boost your chances. 

Agencies often have built up good relationships with a lot of top employers and can give you exclusive access to their jobs. 

You’ll also get put forward for positions that you wouldn’t otherwise have heard about.

They can also help with CV and cover letter and even provide interview coaching and make sure that your job application looks as compelling, professional and relevant as possible.

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Ola Degteva (Editor)

Ola Degteva is a Content and Research Director at Expatra. Coming from a teaching and research background, she has been working in online publishing since 2010 when she became an expat. Having done 3 major international moves herself, Ola knows exactly what relocation and settling down in a new country involves and how important it is to plan ahead to make moving abroad less stressful.

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