Skilled Worker applicants who hold a PhD in a subject relevant to the role for which they will be sponsored can benefit from a reduced minimum salary requirement. We review how this works in practice.
Skilled Worker route – minimum salary requirements
Applicants must be employed in specific roles and must meet the minimum salary criteria, amongst other factors, in order to meet the Skilled Worker requirements.
The Skilled Worker minimum salary requirement is a points-based assessment. The applicant must receive 20 points under the salary requirement. In general, an applicant is granted 20 points if they will be paid at least the minimum salary (known as the ‘going rate’) for the Occupation code relevant to their role, or the minimum salary for the points ‘Option’ that applies to them.
The minimum salary an applicant must be paid for their role will differ depending on a number of factors including their qualifications and the nature of the role. There are six Options (A – F) by which the salary requirement can be met. These span a variety of circumstances, such as if the applicant is a ‘new entrant’ to the labour market, which we have explored here.
Generally, Option A is the ‘standard’ category. An applicant’s salary will need to equal or exceed all of the following:
- £25,600 per year;
- £10.10 per hour; and
- the going rate for the occupation code.
In certain scenarios discounts can be awarded and here we will look at how Option B works, for those who qualify as PhD applicants.
PhD applicant minimum salary requirement
20 points can be awarded for meeting the conditions of Option B providing the salary equals or exceeds all of the following:
- £23,040 per year;
- £10.10 per hour; and
- 90% of the going rate for the occupation code.
10 points are awarded for the educational qualification and 10 points are awarded for the applicant’s salary.
The minimum salary for applicants can therefore be significantly lower than the ‘standard’ Option A.
This Option is separate from Option C, which is for those who have a PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job they will perform. The minimum salary levels under Option C are even lower, so this should be selected as a preference, if it applies.
Applicants wishing to gain salary points under Option B can only do so if their role falls under certain occupation codes. Those codes which are marked in Appendix Occupation codes as ‘eligible for PhD points’ can be used, which includes roles such as ‘lecturer’, making this Option particularly attractive to Higher Education Institutions.
When the sponsoring organisation assigns the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to the applicant they will have to provide a ‘credible explanation’ of how the qualification is relevant to the job. The Home Office can ask for further clarity if they are unsure of the explanation provided and, in the most serious of cases, if the Home Office caseworker believes that the Occupation code selected is ‘not the most appropriate’ the application can be refused.
The applicant would have to provide a copy of their PhD certificate as part of their application. If the PhD was awarded from an overseas institution, the third party organisation Ecctis must confirm that it meets the recognised standard of a UK PhD. This organisation also confirms whether degrees were undertaken to the required level of English for the route, so applicants from non-majority English speaking countries may be able to rely on the certificate to demonstrate their English language as well as qualification requirements.
If the applicant will receive the minimum salary for the role, and can demonstrate they meet the above requirements, they should be granted 20 points.
Anything else to consider?
Applicants should review the full requirements of the route in order to have the strongest application.
Those applying under Option B are often applicants that also need to meet the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS). This applies to applicants of certain nationalities working in specific Occupation codes at a sponsor that is also a licensed student sponsor.
When applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), currently, the rules require applicants to receive a salary of at least £25,600 or the going rate, unless an additional exemption applies, such as if the role is also a shortage occupation. This may mean that applicants relying on Option B have to increase their salary in order to meet the ILR requirements.
How our immigration solicitors can help
We are experienced in advising both employers and individuals in relation to the minimum salary requirement and should you require any further information about this or any other aspect of sponsorship, please contact us or complete our enquiry form below.