UK Skilled Worker Visa: A New Opportunity to Move to the UK

US expat moving to the UK on the Skilled Worker Visa

In a significant development for aspiring immigrants, the United Kingdom has bid farewell to the former General Worker Visa, known as the Tier 2 visa, and introduced the Skilled Worker Visa. 

This overhaul reflects the UK’s commitment to attracting top-tier talent from around the world while simplifying the immigration process. If you’re considering embarking on a journey to work in the UK, this comprehensive guide is here to guide your way. 

In the following sections, we’ll share the eligibility criteria, explain the significance of the Certificate of Sponsorship, and provide a step-by-step overview of the application process. We’ll also cover whether or not dependents may accompany holders of the UK skilled worker visa to the UK – read on for full details of this just-introduced visa scheme.

Snapshot of expat life in the UK

  • Population: 67 million
  • Capital city: London
  • Currency: Pound sterling
  • Official language(s): English
  • Top cities for expats: London, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester
  • Approximate number of American expats: 200,000

Eligibility and requirements to obtain the Skilled Worker Visa in the UK

In order to be eligible to apply for the UK’s skilled worker visa, you must first:1

  • Meet the English language requirement
  • Have a confirmed job offer from an approved UK employer
  • Obtain a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from your employer that includes details on the role you’ve been offered
  • Be paid a minimum salary (the specific amount depends on the type of job you secure)
  • Perform a specific job on the list of eligible occupations

Once you receive the visa, you can legally work, volunteer, and study in the UK; bring eligible dependents to live with you; and freely travel abroad and return to the UK. The visa lasts for up to five years before it must be renewed (unless you change jobs or employers prior to that). 

⚠️ Important callout

You will not be eligible for state benefits or a public pension unless and until you are granted indefinite leave to remain. Fortunately, the Skilled Worker Visa route offers a pathway to permanent UK residency. After having lived in the UK for five years, you can extend the visa or apply to settle permanently in the country if you so choose.

UK Skilled Worker Visa jobs

It’s worth noting that the UK’s definition of a “Skilled Worker” includes much more than just tech workers. 

Some examples of eligible jobs include:

  • Chief executives & senior officials (e.g. CEO, Chief Medical Officer, Vice President)
  • Certain types of managers (e.g. Engineering Manager, Construction Manager, Human Resources Manager, Warehouse Manager)
  • Certain types of directors (e.g. Marketing Director, Sales Director, Advertising Account Director, Head of Public Relations)
  • Senior officers in the police force, fire, ambulance, prison, and related services (e.g. Police Inspector, Fire Service Officer, Prison Governor, Station Officer)
  • Managers & proprietors in the hospitality and leisure industry (Café Owner, Restaurant Manager, Theater Manager, Amusement Arcade Owner)
  • And many more

To know whether or not your job falls under the skilled worker visa category, you’ll need to locate the four-digit occupation code and confirm that it’s on the list of eligible positions

UK Skilled Worker Visa minimum salary

You must also typically earn a minimum salary in order to qualify for the UK skilled worker visa. While it will depend on the specific type of job you’re hired for, your salary must generally be the highest of the following three options:

  • £26,200 per year
  • £10.75 per hour
  • The “going rate” for the type of work you’ll be doing2

It’s worth noting that you may still be able to obtain a UK Skilled Worker Visa if a) your job is eligible and b) you earn at least £10.75 per hour even if your salary is less than the standard going rate, including if you work in a shortage occupation; are under age 26, currently studying/training, or have recently graduated; have a relevant PhD-level STEM qualification; or have a postdoctoral position in science or higher education.3

UK companies sponsoring the Skilled Worker Visa

There are over 85,000 different UK employers that can sponsor workers for the UK Skilled Worker Visa. Some of the more well-known ones include:

  • AstraZeneca
  • Aviva
  • Barclays 
  • Nike
  • Tesco
  • Unilever
  • Vodafone

UK Skilled Worker Visa: Application process

Wondering how to get a skilled worker visa in the UK? Here’s what you’ll need to do.4

  • Gather your required documents, which include:
    • A valid passport with a blank page for your visa 
    • Your job details (title, occupation code, and annual salary)
    • A Certificate of Sponsorship complete with reference number, the name of your employer, and their sponsor license number (note: we’ll go into more detail on this a bit later)
    • Other documents you may need could include:
      • Proof of adequate savings (typically at least £1,270)
      • A clean criminal records certificate
      • An ATAS certificate5
      • A UK PhD certificate (or Ecctis reference number if you received your PhD outside of the UK)
  • Pay the relevant fees:
    • The application fee (typically £625-£1,423)
    • The healthcare surcharge (typically £624 per year)
  • Prove your identity (either by getting your fingerprints and photos taken at a visa application center, or scanning your ID into the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app)
  • Apply for your visa online
  • Await an approval email with further instructions

Application processing time

If you have submitted your application and all of your documents correctly, you should receive a response within eight weeks. You may, however, be able to pay for an expedited decision.6

Documents required for Skilled Worker Dependent Visa UK

If you are going to bring a dependent, you must provide:7

  • An additional visa application for each person you bring along
  • An additional application fee (from £200 to £315 per dependent)
  • Proof of your relationship to any partner or children who will be coming with you
    • Any children over the age of 16 must live at the same address as you unless they study full-time at a boarding school or university, and you must provide proof of their address (e.g. bank statement, driver’s license, official letter from school/university)
  • Proof of their identity (typically a biometric residence permit)
  • Your application reference number

Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)

When the employer assigns a Certificate of Sponsorship to an employee, they need to pay a fee. The cost depends on the type of sponsor license the employer has.8

Type of License Cost of Certificate 
Temporary Worker£21
International Sportsperson- the CoS is assigned for more than 12 months£199
International Sportsperson- the CoS is assigned for 12 months or less£21

Countries with Free Certificate of Sponsorship

Sponsors of the following countries do not need to pay any fees for issuing a CoS.

Taxes in the UK for Skilled Worker Visa holders

US citizens who receive a Skilled Worker Visa will find it helpful to familiarize themselves with the following UK tax information:

  • Primary tax forms: Self Assessment tax return/SA100
  • Tax deadline: October 31 for paper returns, January 31 for online returns 
  • Reporting website: HM Revenue & Customs
  • Administrative language(s): English, Welsh available
  • Tax treaty: Yes
  • Totalization agreement: Yes

Who qualifies as a tax resident in the UK?

Those who have spent 183 or more days in the UK during the tax year are considered tax residents. 

Navigate both US and UK taxes with Bright!Tax at the helm.

We’ve worked with hundreds of US expats residing in the UK to ensure their US expat taxes are filed to perfection. What's more, we have an excellent UK tax partner, so our clients benefit from two sets of capable hands managing their taxes.

Meet Your US Expat Tax Team


  1. Skilled Worker visa: Overview
  2. Skilled Worker visa: Going rates for eligible occupation codes
  3. Skilled Worker visa: When you can be paid less
  4. Skilled Worker visa: Apply from outside the UK
  5. Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)
  6. Get a faster decision on your visa or settlement application
  7. Skilled Worker visa: Your partner and children
  8. UK visa sponsorship for employers

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UK Skilled Worker Visa - FAQ

  • Can a dependent of a skilled worker visa holder also work in the UK?

    Yes, if you bring a partner or child as a dependent on your UK Skilled Worker Visa they will be able to work as anything but a sportsperson or coach. (7)

  • What is the UK Skilled Worker Visa processing time?

    The typical processing time for the UK Skilled Worker Visa is eight weeks, although eligible applicants can pay an additional fee of £500 to receive a decision within five working days or £800 to receive a decision within the end of the next working day. (8)

  • How much does a skilled worker visa cost in the UK?

    There are a few different costs associated with the UK Skilled Worker Visa: (9)

      • The application fee: Typically £625 for a visa of up to three years and £1,423 for a visa of up to five years. If your job is on the shortage occupation list, however, you may pay just £479 for a visa of up to three years and £943 for a visa of up to five years.
    • Dependent application fee: Typically £285 for a partner, £315 for a child, and £200 for each additional child.
    • The healthcare surcharge: Typically £624 for each year that you’ll be in the UK.

    Savings: Typically at least £1,270.

  • What is a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)?

    A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is a document provided by a sponsoring employer to a sponsored employee that allows them to apply for a working visa.