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Skilled Worker visa: guidance for recruiting managers

An overview of the Skilled Worker visa and sponsorship requirements for recruiting managers.


As a recruiting manager, you will need to have an understanding of the requirements for an individual to be sponsored to work at the University under a Skilled Worker visa.

Genuine vacancy

Prior to getting your role approved, consider whether your recruitment need is genuine. UKVI carry out checks to determine whether a role is genuine or not and may request additional information and/or evidence from the University to establish this requirement. They define a 'genuine vacancy' as one which:

  • requires the jobholder to perform the specific duties and responsibilities for the job and meet all of the requirements of the relevant route
  • does not include dissimilar and/or predominantly lower-skilled duties
  • is appropriate to the University's business model/plan and scale

Examples of roles that are not considered to be genuine include, but are not limited to:

  • a role that does not actually exist
  • one which contains an exaggerated or incorrect job description to deliberately make it appear to meet the requirements of the route when it does not, or is otherwise a sham
  • a job or role that was created primarily to enable an overseas national to come to, or stay in, the UK
  • advertisements with requirements that are inappropriate for the job on offer (for example, language skills which are not relevant to the job) or incompatible with the University, and have been tailored to exclude settled workers from being recruited

It's therefore extremely important that the job description accurately reflects the requirements of the role, and the applicant's qualifications, skills and experience meet the selection criteria as detailed within it otherwise UKVI will not consider them to be suitably qualified to take up the role. For a list of generic academic and research job description templates, please visit our Preparing to Recruit webpage.

Recruiting to a vacancy

It's important that you read our Skilled Worker visa: SRF process guidance which details what actions you need to take and consider when recruiting to a vacancy on our e-Recruitment system, Stonefish, under the Skilled Worker visa route.

You should also familiarise yourself with the visa application process and visa timeframes so you can plan this into your recruitment process.

Mandatory and tradeable criteria

There are a number of mandatory criteria and tradeable criteria which applicants must meet in order to be eligible for sponsorship and further information on these can be found below. Due to the increase in salary thresholds, applicants will need to rely on tradeable points more frequently.

Mandatory criteria which must be met:

  • Applicant has received a job offer from the University accompanied by a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
  • Job is on the list of UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) eligible occupations
  • Job is at the required skill level
  • Applicant meets English language requirements

Minimum skill level

UKVI use an occupation code system designed by the Office for National Statistics to determine whether a role is eligible for sponsorship. Sponsorable roles need to be skilled to at least RQF Level 3 e.g. A-level. Roles at Grade 5 and below will not be eligible for sponsorship due to the skill and salary thresholds.

Prior to advertising a role, your HR Recruitment Co-ordinator will make an assessment against the job description for the role and assign the most appropriate Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code to it to ensure consistency and compliance with UKVI requirements. It is this code that is used by the University to assign a CoS to an applicant.

Minimum salary level

The rules around minimum salary requirements can be complex so the following information is provided for information purposes only and applies to new Skilled Worker visa applications from 4 April 2024.

The salary that is offered to an applicant must meet or exceed both of the following:

  • general salary threshold of £38,700
  • going rate for the SOC code (calculated and pro-rated based on the number of hours the applicant will contractually work)

If this salary requirement is met, the applicant will automatically gain an extra 20 points earning them the full 70 points needed for sponsorship.

If this salary requirement is not met and the SOC code for the role benefits from a lower minimum salary due to the applicant meeting one of the other tradeable point criteria below then it may still be possible to sponsor them:

If an applicant is looking to use their PhD or STEM PhD as a tradeable point, the SOC code for their role must be listed as being eligible for PhD points under the Government’s Appendix Skilled Occupations. Unless the job description specifically states a PhD as an essential criterion, it will be up to you, as the recruiting manager, to provide a credible explanation of how the applicant's PhD is relevant to the role they are being sponsored for when you raise the Staff Request Form (SRF) on Stonefish (e-Recruitment System). If an applicant is using a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) PhD as a tradeable point, you will also need to state how the PhD is in a STEM subject.

Your HR Recruitment Co-ordinator will raise and discuss any issues with you at shortlisting stage and also at offer stage if an applicant is relying on tradeable points as part of their application.

If successful following an interview, the applicant will be asked to provide evidence of their PhD qualification following this process. This is necessary for their visa application ('equivalent experience' will not suffice) and a CoS will not be issued to the applicant unless this evidence and all other requirements have been met.

Some roles will not be eligible for sponsorship even if they meet the minimum salary requirements. This may be due to the fact that they don't meet the required skill level or because they don't appear on the UKVI list of eligible occupations.

You should not offer a higher salary to an applicant solely for the purposes of sponsorship. As with all staff, any salary increases should be based on merit alone to avoid the risk of pay discrimination.

Other considerations

Other factors that will need to be taken into consideration include:

If the role is part-time

It might not be possible to sponsor an applicant on a part-time basis. The ‘going rate’ for a role can be pro-rated as long as the total applicable general salary threshold is met. Please contact your HR Recruitment Co-ordinator to check if the pro-rated salary for the role will meet the minimum salary thresholds.


Only guaranteed basic gross pay can be considered for sponsorship purposes. Allowances, pay or benefits (even if they are guaranteed) such as accommodation or cost of living allowances, market supplements or one-off payments cannot be taken into account.

Contracts or sponsorship for less than a year

Minimum salary requirements are based on annual salaries. If an applicant will be working in the UK for less than 12 months, UKVI will pro-rate their gross actual earnings to the equivalent annual figure to determine if they meet the salary requirement.

Immigration Skills Charge

Only a minority of roles are exempt from the Immigration Skills Charge (ISC). As a University, we may have to pay this additional charge when we assign a CoS to an applicant if the SOC code for their role does not appear on the ISC list. The ISC currently costs £364 for a 12 month period, so for an applicant on a three-year fixed-term contract the cost would typically be £1,092. Where applicable, the cost of the ISC should be recovered from the research grant.


If you have any questions, please contact us.

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