Sponsoring Skilled Workers

  • Right to work checks
  • Sponsoring Skilled Workers (previously known as Tier 2 visa holders)

    What is the Points-Based System?

    From 1 January 2021 all non-UK nationals need to apply for a visa from the Home Office in order to work in the UK. Some are eligible for a visa based on the immigration status of their relatives or ancestry; others apply and are considered and scored by UK Visas and Immigration using a points-based system (PBS) to determine whether a visa will be granted.

    EU citizens already living in the UK by 31 December 2020 and their families do not have to get a visa to work in the UK as long as they have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme, and have until 30 June 2021 to do so. Once they are successful in obtaining a Settled or Pre-Settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, they will be able to remain, work and study in the UK and claim the same benefits as UK citizens permanently or for a maximum of five years depending on the type of their status. Irish citizens do not need to apply to the scheme. 

    What is Skilled Worker route of the PBS?

    Skilled Worker visa of the PBS covers sponsored skilled workers to whom we have made a job offer. As a hiring manager or as a line manager, you will need to be aware of your roles and responsibilities during their recruitment and employment. You will be supported by the HR Recruitment Team.

    For anything not covered below, please contact the HR Recruitment Team (see contact details below).

  • The University is licenced to provide a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) which demonstrates that the individual has a firm offer of appropriate employment, which contributes points to their score. As such it supports an individual’s Skilled Worker visa application (but does not guarantee its approval, and does not give the migrant the right to work in the UK).

    The CoS is not a paper certificate or document, but a virtual document with a reference number, issued by UKVI and provided to the individual via Human Resources.

    To obtain a CoS:

    • The University must demonstrate that it has a genuine vacancy. The HR Recruitment Team will support you in this right from the start of the recruitment process.
    • The University pledges to accept all of the legal duties expected when sponsoring the migrant. The HR Recruitment Team will inform you of your obligations as a line manager when the sponsored worker is appointed.

    A Skilled Worker must have a job offer in an eligible skilled occupation and at an appropriate skill level (RQF3 - A-level/Higher equivalent or above). A Skilled Worker must be proficient in English and be paid the general salary threshold of £25,600 per year or the going rate for the job, whichever is higher. If the individual earns less than £25,600 - but no less than £20,480 - they may still be able to apply by ‘trading’ points on specific characteristics, such as a relevant PhD qualification, especially if in a STEM subject, a job in a shortage occupation or ‘new entrant’ criteria, against their salary. 

    New entrants include:

    • those under the age of 26 on the date of application; 
    • those switching from a Student, Graduate or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visas or those who have held a student visa in the last two years before the apply; 
    • and those working toward recognised professional qualification or moving directly into postdoctoral positions. 

    NB. Granting the application must not mean the applicant’s combined permission as a Skilled Worker and/or Tier 2 Migrant would be more than 4 years in total, whether or not the permission is for a continuous period.

    The English language requirement can be met by meeting one of the options below:

    • Nationals from the following English speaking countries automatically meet the English language requirement: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Malta, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and the US
    • a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provide
    • having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English
    • having a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English - if an applicant studied abroad, they will need to apply for confirmation through UK ENIC (formerly UK NARIC) that their qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD.

    In majority cases, the University has been able to sponsor academic and research workers (Lecturers, Senior Lecturers, Readers, Researchers). Some professional services roles, such as IT business analysts, architects and systems designers, are included in the Shortage Occupation List. Although Librarians, HR Officers, Nursery Assistants roles are listed in the ‘Eligible occupation codes’ table, roles like Admissions Officers and Library Assistants are not eligible for the Skilled Worker route. Therefore, each individual case of appointing migrants should be discussed with the Human Resources Recruitment team before any definite decision is made. Detailed guidelines for recruiting managers can be found here

    The Home Office interactive Skilled Worker Eligibility Checker (SWEC) tool is intended to enable applicants and recruiting managers to immediately see if vacancies are eligible for a Skilled Worker visa. The tool can be found here: https://visas-immigration.service.gov.uk/skilled-worker-points-calculator

    Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS),  run by the UK government's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), is designed to prevent the transfer of information and the spread of knowledge or technology that could be used in programmes to develop Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT), weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) or their means of delivery.

    With effect from 21 May 2021 any international person who will be undertaking research activities in the UK that could possibly result in the Intangible Transfer of Technology (ITT) to WMD and ACMT programmes of concern, at PhD level or above (NB. this means Lecturers, Senior Lecturers, Researchers, Postdoctoral Research Assistants), in one of the Academic Subjects/Fields of Research relevant to ATAS will be required to apply for government clearance by obtaining a free of charge ATAS certificate before they can apply for a Skilled Worker visa to start or continue working in the UK. If they do not include an ATAS certificate with their application, it may be rejected/refused. 

    Sensitive Academic Subjects include Mathematical and Computer Science, Biological Sciences, Engineering, Physical Sciences, Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects, Technologies, Medicine. There is also a quick assessor to see if ATAS is required or not here. 

    Exemptions exist for nationals from the UK/Ireland, EEA, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and USA and those applying for other visa types e.g. Global Talent Visas.

    The HR Recruitment team must confirm on the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) whether or not the ATAS requirement applies, and therefore the team will liaise closely with the recruiting managers to obtain answers to specific questions to establish if ATAS is required. Where an ATAS certificate is required, the recruiting department will also need to provide a short research statement summarising the research activities the individual will undertake. The individual will need to submit this information when they apply for their ATAS certificate

    It is recommended that individuals submitting an initial or extension visa application apply for their ATAS certificate as early as possible. Individuals can apply for an ATAS certificate in advance and certificates will be valid for 6 months. Applications will normally be processed within 10 working days, up to 15 working days between April and September 2021.

    Applicants will need to obtain the ATAS certificate prior to the CoS being issued. An applicant who should obtain ATAS and fails to do so could result in their visa application being refused, and could lead to the University’s sponsor licenses being revoked. 


    There is no limit on the length of time which can be spent under the Skilled Worker route. If the visa is issued for a fixed period further extensions might be possible. One month prior to the end of a visa, an individual receives an automated email from HR reminding them about that. If an extension for a current member of staff is required, you should contact the HR employee services team (see contact details below), as soon as possible to discuss, however please note that a CoS extension cannot be processed more than 3 months before an individual’s Skilled Worker visa is due to expire.

    If individuals are on a Skilled Worker visa and have been legally resident in the UK for five continuous years you may apply for indefinite leave to remain or “settlement”. This does not change their nationality; they will remain a citizen of their country of origin. UKVI provide guidance and a useful assessment tool on their website.


    • The cost for assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship will come directly from the recruiting Faculty or Directorate budget. A Skilled Worker Certificate of Sponsorship cost can be found here. Payment is made in HR.
    • The individual pays for their Skilled Worker Visa. International staff who are not currently resident in the UK at time of relocation may apply to the Dean of Faculty or Director for up to £3,000 for immigration visa fees for themselves or immediate family members (spouse/ partner and children only). This additional cost will be charged to the Faculty and Directorate and payment is at the discretion of the PVC/Dean or Director. For more information see the University’s Relocation Scheme.
    • The individual pays for all NHS Health surcharges required during the visa application process, and for their dependants’ health surcharges.
    • The University will certify maintenance for Skilled Worker visa applicants and their dependants.
    • Faculties and directorates may meet the cost of Skilled Worker visa renewals and applications for Settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain) for existing staff and their dependants, where their skills and expertise are judged to be essential and/or not easily replaced. The Financial Assistance to staff for immigration costs policy can be found here.

    The process to hire a sponsored worker can be lengthy, given the time it takes to complete shortlisting and interviews, and the time it takes for an individual’s visa application to be considered by the Home Office. This is usually 3 weeks.  Any delay in verifying the English language requirement (such as the applicant needing to sit an English language test or have qualifications verified by UK ENIC) will delay the visa application.  

    A realistic start date should be considered taking these steps into account.

    NB: The university cannot guarantee that any valid Certificate of Sponsorship application will result in the allocation of a Skilled Worker. You should never reject, or be seen to reject, any candidate (or potential candidate) on the grounds that they do not hold the right to work in the UK. It is recommended that right to work, or absence thereof, is considered as late in the selection process as possible for the following reasons:

    • This could amount to indirect discrimination on the grounds of national origin;
    • Those currently without right to work may be able to obtain it through another immigration route; and
    • It is not a foregone conclusion that those with the right to work will be successful in all the intermediate stages in the recruitment process.

     Consideration should also be given to whether sponsorship is feasible for roles that have fixed start and end dates (for example, as a condition of funding).

    UKVI must be notified of a range of activities in relation to the sponsored worker. When the individual is appointed, you will receive an e-mail from the HR Recruitment Team detailing your obligations which are also outlined here.
    If a redeployee or internal candidate holds a Skilled Worker visa they can only be appointed into a job within the same occupation group. This offers some very limited latitude. For example a research associate can be appointed to another related project but they could not be appointed to a lecturer role.
    There is Home Office guidance on taking a second job. Any member of staff working under a Skilled Worker visa is strongly encouraged to discuss the possibility of taking secondary employment with Human Resources first, to ascertain if this is permissible.

    Less commonly, prospective staff can apply for a Global Talent visa, but the individual makes this application personally without being sponsored by the University.

    Student visa covers international students, sponsored by the University to support their visa application to study in the UK. Their visa may allow them to work in the UK with restrictions. However their applications are processed by the University’s International Student Advice Team.

    The University can also issue Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) under the Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange (T5) category for sponsored researchers. Contact the HR Recruitment Team for further information.