Employers can benefit from a reduction in the minimum salary requirements when sponsoring applicants under the Skilled Worker route. This includes applicants who are new entrants to the labour market. The pay for them can be 70% of the going rate for the relevant occupation code. Whilst this is designed to encourage recruitment and growth, sponsors can be concerned at the necessary salary increase when the time comes for the employee’s Skilled Worker visa to be extended.
Skilled Worker minimum salary requirements
When applying for permission to enter or stay in the UK under the Skilled Worker route, applicants must score 50 points. This is for meeting the sponsorship, skill level, and English language requirements. They must score a further 20 points for meeting the salary requirement. These points are tradeable; therefore, the salary requirement will depend on the individual circumstances of the application. One of the six tradeable points options (A-F) must be met to score 20 points.
Option A of the tradeable points is the most common selection, this requires a salary that meets or exceeds all of the following:
- £25,600 per year;
- the going rate for the relevant occupation code; and
- £10.10 per hour.
When choosing to sponsor an individual, it is important to check whether any of the other five tradeable points categories apply. If so, it can mean a reduction in the required salary.
Tradeable points options B-F are roughly as follows:
- Option B – If an applicant has an eligible PhD, their salary must equal or exceed £23,040 per year, 90% of the going rate, and £10.10 per hour.
- Option C – If an applicant has an eligible PhD in a STEM Subject, their salary must equal or exceed £20,480 per year, 80% of the going rate, and £10.10 per hour.
- Option D – If an applicant is sponsored in a shortage occupation, their salary must equal or exceed £20,480 per year, 80% of the going rate, and £10.10 per hour.
- Option E – If an applicant is a new entrant to the labour market, their salary must equal or exceed £20,480 per year, 70% of the going rate, and £10.10 per hour.
- Option F – If an applicant is sponsored under an eligible health or education occupation, their salary must equal or exceed £20,480 per year, and the going rate.
Skilled Worker extensions: salary increase
Under tradeable options B and C, applicants do not need to provide evidence of their relevant qualification again on extension and may continue to benefit from the reduction to the going rate. Under options D and F, they can continue to benefit from the reduction to the going rate provided they remain in a shortage occupation or in an eligible health or education occupation.
Option E for new entrants can cause significant concerns for sponsors because, unlike the other options, it may only be relied upon temporarily. The maximum period an applicant can rely on being a new entrant is four years. This includes time spent as a Skilled Worker, Tier 2 Migrant, and/or on a Graduate visa. As applicants must complete five years continuous residence in order to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), they cannot rely on the new entrant reduction for the full duration prior to ILR.
Ms Adams entered the UK in November 2018 with leave to enter under a Tier 2 (General) visa. She qualified as a new entrant and was employed under code 2317 as a Bursar earning £27,000 per year. Her four-year maximum period as a new entrant is now coming to an end. She is remaining in the same role, with the same employer, and is applying for a Skilled Worker visa. Her sponsor has sought advice and learnt that Ms Adams no longer qualifies as a new entrant. The minimum amount she must now be paid under code 2317 is £39,000. This is a significant increase.
The minimum salary requirements, found under Appendix Skilled Occupations, can be updated. Therefore, even where an applicant has not benefited from a reduction in the minimum salary requirements, the going rate may have increased come the time for an extension application.
Options for Sponsors
It is important that sponsors are mindful of the full going rate under option A of the tradeable points when employing new entrants. They will also need to consider whether the prospective employee has already held permission to stay as a new entrant, as they may be unable to benefit from the full four years.
When the employee no longer qualifies as a new entrant, the sponsor will need to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship reflecting the salary increase in line with the going rate. If the salary falls below the minimum threshold, the Skilled Worker application will be refused.
Sponsors may wish to consider whether the employee’s role may fall within a different occupation code. The occupation codes can be found under Appendix Skilled Occupations and further details of the job duties can be found using the ONS occupation coding tool. The Home Office will consider whether a less appropriate occupation code has been selected with the intention of paying the applicant a lower going rate. If an incorrect occupation code is used, the Skilled Worker application may be refused. The Home Office may also take compliance action against the sponsor if false or misleading information has been supplied.
How our immigration solicitors can help
Our immigration team are experts in supporting organisations with managing their sponsor licences and the Skilled Worker applications of their employees. We can advise and assist you with any questions you may have about minimum salary requirements, SOC codes, and extending the visas of sponsored workers. For advice on a no-obligation basis, please contact us or complete our enquiry form below.