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The Skilled Worker Route: What Employers Should Know

The revamped skilled worker (previously Tier 2) visa is part of the UK’s new points-based system and was introduced on 1st December, allowing employers planning to hire foreign nationals in the New Year to begin the application process now.

This new route will allow skilled workers to enter the UK on a long-term basis to fill a skilled job position in a wide range of skilled occupations including in IT, accountancy, teaching, and healthcare. Although the new tier will have many benefits for businesses, including giving them the option to recruit the most highly qualified from across the globe, the new change comes with a lot of uncertainty and pressure, too. In this article, we break down the key changes to be aware of if you’re considering employing tier 2 visa applicants.

What do employers need to do now?

  • If you employ EEA or Swiss nationals before the end of 2020, they are still subject to old free movement rules. Remember their applications under the EU settled status scheme will need to be submitted my 30th June 2021 to enable them to continue living and working in the UK without the need for sponsorship. You can support them with their application under the EU settlement scheme.

  • If you currently have a Tier 2 sponsor licence, it will automatically be updated so that you can continue to sponsor your existing Tier 2 workers and are ready to submit Skilled Worker applications from 1 December.

  • If you have a sponsor licence and have an allocation of certificates of sponsorship (CoS) which haven't yet been used, you can use those CoS for applications after 1 December 2020.

  • As before, workers' salaries must meet certain thresholds, but these have been reduced from 1 December; these vary depending on the position you’re offering, the age and experience of the candidate, and whether it is a shortage occupation role.

  • Minimum skill levels have also been lowered – from RQF6 to RQF3, roughly A-level equivalent.

Practical considerations

  • There are significant costs involved for employers, including the Home Office Sponsor License fee and the Certificate of Sponsorship fee. Employers should make sure that skilled worker sponsorship is a feasible option and that these costs can be budgeted early on.

  • Business that already hold a sponsor licence should ensure they are complying with reporting and recording obligations under the sponsorship system. There is very little flexibility for mistakes to be made, which could result in the loss of a sponsor licence, a fine or even imprisonment.

  • Many EEA and Swiss nationals will continue to work in the UK on the basis of their nationality; employers need to be careful that they don’t discriminate against European nationals. Employers can continue to rely on simply checking the individual’s EEA passport to satisfy a right to work check until 30 June 2021.

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