Skilled Worker visa guidance for students

Tier 2 visa guidance for students

This article was updated by the Great British Mag content team on 17 February 2021.

Interested in staying on in the UK after finishing your degree? Obtaining a Skilled Worker visa (formerly a Tier 2 visa) is a great way to do so – but there are very specific eligibility criteria for it. 

To help you understand if and how you can apply, we’ve answered some of the most common questions and concerns in this article.

What is the Skilled Worker visa?

The Skilled Worker visa replaced the old Tier 2 (General) visa. It is a UK visa issued to skilled workers from outside the UK.

To apply, you must have an eligible job with a Home Office-approved UK employer. You’ll need to be making a certain amount of money from that job (usually a minimum of £25,600 per year, although it may be higher if the going rate for your job is more than this) and have a certificate of sponsorship from your employer with information about your role. 

Once you’ve received a Skilled Worker visa for a specific role at a certain company, your visa is dependent upon staying in that role with that employer. Besides working your paid job, with this visa you are also eligible to do unpaid voluntary work as well as study. 

What do I need to apply for a Skilled Worker visa?

  1. Your current passport (with space for the visa stamp)
  2. Your certificate of sponsorship reference number from your employer 
  3. Proof of your proficiency in English (your UK university degree can act as proof)
  4. Bank statements showing you have enough money to support yourself while you’re in the UK (the required amount is dependent on your job)
  5. Tuberculosis test results if you’re from a relevant country
  6. A criminal record certificate if you’re working with vulnerable people, such as children or the homeless

Do you need to be able to speak English well to apply for a Skilled Worker visa?

Yes, you must be able to speak, read and write fluent English. You can prove this by passing an English language test or by being a national of another English-speaking country, like the United States. Having a university degree from a UK institution is another way of meeting this requirement.

How much does it cost to apply for a Skilled Worker visa?

The application cost of a Skilled Worker visa depends on how long you want your visa to last, where you’re applying from and what job you’ve been offered. 

A visa that lasts up to three years costs £610 to apply for from outside the UK or £704 if you are already in the UK on another visa. 

For a visa that lasts more than three years, the fees are £1,220 if you’re applying from outside the UK and £1,408 from inside.

However, if your job is on the Shortage Occupations list, then the fee is reduced to £464 (for a visa lasting up to three years) or £928 (for a visa lasting more than three years), no matter where you’re applying from. 

As well as the visa fees, the UK’s healthcare surcharge will also be payable – that’s £624 for each year you stay. It gives you access to medical care through the NHS. 

How long does it take to get a Skilled Worker visa?

If applying online from outside the UK, you’ll usually get a decision in three weeks. It may take longer if any of your documents need to be verified or you need to attend an interview – if that’s the case, you’ll be informed. 

If you’re already in the UK on another visa – a student visa or post-study work visa, for instance – it’ll take around eight weeks to receive a decision. 

There is a priority service and a super priority service though, which could see the process sped up to five days or just 24 hours. These services are only available in certain countries and require you to visit a visa application centre to verify your identity. These services cost extra and can be requested when you make your application. 

How much money do you need in your bank account when applying for a Skilled Worker visa?

When applying for a Skilled Worker visa, you must show that you’ve had at least £1,270 in your bank account for 28 consecutive days (the 28th day needs to be within a month of applying for your visa). 

If you can’t get these finds yourself but your sponsoring company is willing to provide it for you, then that’s fine too. Your sponsoring company must clarify that they’ll provide this money in your Certificate of Sponsorship, by filling out the ‘sponsor certifies maintenance’ section. 

How long does the Skilled Worker visa last?

The Skilled Worker visa lasts for up to five years, but you can apply to extend it as many times as you like, so long as you still meet the eligibility criteria. 

However, after five years of living and working in the UK, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency as long as other conditions are met – find out more on the government’s website

Is a skilled work visa the only way I can stay in the UK after my course ends?

No – there is also a post-study work visa called The Graduate Route. This lasts for two years immediately following your university course. You don’t need to have already found a job when you apply, and any employment that you do enter into doesn’t need to be for a skilled role, as per the Skilled Worker Visa. 

The Graduate Route is not extendable though, so unless you’re eligible to apply for a Skilled Worker visa before it runs out, you’ll need to return to your home country after two years. 

You may also want to read

What is the EU Settlement Scheme and what does it mean for students?

Can I stay and work in the UK after university?

Moving to the UK: your ultimate checklist