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Skilled Worker Visa Sponsorship: A Guide For Employers in the UK

Do you want to employ South African citizens to work for you in the UK? You’ll need a sponsor licence, and they’ll need to apply for the Skilled Worker visa.

Call us at +44 (0)333 305 9375 or message us online. Our team of expert employment and immigration lawyers are on hand to put you through any confusion you may have. We can offer you a Skilled Worker visa guide and help your prospective South African employee come to the UK.

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    Introduction to Skilled Worker Visa Sponsorship

    If you want to get employees from overseas to work for you in the UK, you’ll need to sponsor their Skilled Worker visa application. The Skilled Worker visa permits such an employee to stay in the UK and work.

    To be able to sponsor a Skilled Worker visa application, you’ll need to have an authorisation from the Home Office known as a sponsor licence. This licence grants you the right to sponsor employees from abroad.

    You cannot sponsor just about anyone for any job. The job for which you offer sponsorship must be in the UK’s list of eligible roles. You must also be able to pay the minimum salary stipulated by the Home Office for that role.

    While many employers shy away from sponsoring employees from abroad, your business can take advantage of sponsorship and recruit talents from all over the world.

    Sponsoring a worker from abroad gives you the advantage of getting the best out there in the talent pool. And having the best talents working for you means you can beat the competition in the marketplace.

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    Eligibility Requirements for Skilled Worker Visa

    South Africans who want to apply for the UK Skilled Worker visa sponsorship must meet certain eligibility requirements. For each requirement, the Home Office allotts certain points to you. The total points for the visa is 70.

    Here are the requirements:

    Age Requirement

    South Africans applying for the Skilled Worker visa must prove they are at least 18 years old.

    Educational Qualifications

    Even though an educational qualification is not mandatory, you get some points if you have a Ph.D. This can make up for any other category you fall short in.

    Valid Employment Offer

    To get a Skilled Worker visa, you must show the Home Office that you have a valid job offer. The employment offer is considered valid if it is in the UK occupation list and is eligible for sponsorship.

    Licenced UK Sponsor

    Your job offer must come from a licenced UK sponsor. Your prospective employer must have an “A” rating sponsor licence.

    Certificate of Sponsorship

    Your UK employer has to issue a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) to you before you can apply for the Skilled Worker visa. The CoS must contain information about the job you are coming to do.

    Proof of Funds

    Another requirement as a Skilled Worker is to show you have enough funds to survive in the UK for at least one month before your salary is paid. You need to show you have at least £1,270 in the bank for a minimum of 28 days before you apply for a visa.

    The amount you need to show increases if you apply with your family. If you are going with just your spouse, you must show an additional £285. If you have children, you’ll have to show £315 for the first child and £200 for each extra child.

    This requirement can be waived if your employer specifies in the CoS that they’ll take care of your accommodation.

    Valid Passport

    Finally, you have to submit a passport with a validity that extends beyond the duration of your visa. The passport must have a blank page where your visa will be attached.

    Criminal Check

    When applying for the UK Skilled Worker visa, you must undergo a criminal record check.

    Job Eligibility and Occupation Codes

    Before you can apply for the Skilled Worker visa, you have to ensure:

    • Your job is on the list of jobs that can be sponsored.
    • Your employer has a valid sponsor licence.
    • Your job will pay the minimum wage as stipulated by the Home Office.

    If you want to know if your job meets the requirements, you have to check if the job’s occupation code is in the eligible occupation list. Your employer can tell you your occupation code if you do not know.

    Salary Requirements for Skilled Worker Visa

    Your employer must pay you at least the minimum wage stipulated by the Home Office. If the salary offered to you does not meet this requirement, the Home Office will refuse your visa.

    There are a couple of ways to check the minimum wage you’re entitled to. Your employer must pay the highest of the options below:

    • £38,700 per annum.
    • The average rate for your job category.

    Note that these figures are correct as of 2024.

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      English Language Requirement

      You must write a standardised English language test to show you can communicate and understand the English language. Your knowledge and understanding of English must be at least on the B1 level of the CEFR Scale.

      If you have a degree from the UK, this requirement is waived. Again, if you have a degree from South Africa, this requirement can be waived if you prove that you took your studies in English. However, such a degree must be verified and evaluated by the Ecctis.

      Lastly, if you are a nurse, doctor, midwife, dentist or veterinarian, you are exempt from taking the English language test if you have taken it before to gain acceptance into a professional body in the UK.

      Sponsorship Requirement for Employers

      Here are the Skilled Worker visa for employers requirements. As an employer, you’ll need to meet the following criteria:

      Valid Sponsor Licence

      You must hold a valid sponsor licence to get anyone from South Africa to the UK. A valid sponsor licence means you have an “A” rating licence. If you do not have this licence yet, here is all you need to know about the sponsor licence application.

      Offer an Eligible Job

      The job you are offering must be on the list of jobs eligible for sponsorship.

      Able to Pay the Minimum Wage for the Role

      You must also be able to pay the skilled worker at least the minimum wage for the role as mandated by the Home Office.

      Assess Candidate’s Suitability

      It is your responsibility as an employer to check if the person you want to sponsor can do the job for which you are employing them properly.

      Get Employees to Undergo Checks

      You must ensure that the employee from South Africa undergoes safety checks. One of such checks is the DBS.

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        Certificate of Sponsorship Requirement

        Your prospective employee would need to get a certificate of sponsorship from you before they can apply for a Skilled Worker visa.

        The certificate of sponsorship is not a document; instead, it is a unique number you can issue to the applicant. They must include this number on their application.

        There are currently 2 types of certificates of sponsorship: the defined CoS and the undefined CoS.

        You’ll need to issue South Africans outside the UK a defined CoS. The undefined CoS is for South Africans in the UK who are already on a different visa route and looking to switch to the Skilled Worker visa route.

        Application Process for Skilled Worker Visa

        To get the Skilled Worker visa, you have to apply online at the website of the Home Office.

        You must prove your identity as part of the application process. You can prove your identity by scheduling a biometric collection at a visa application centre near you. When you get there, your fingerprints and pictures will be taken.

        Note that the visa application centre may hold your documents and passport after collecting your biometrics. You’ll usually be notified of a decision by email, and your passport will be sent to you.

        It is possible for you to withdraw your application and get a refund for the fees you have paid. However, this is only possible if the Home Office has not begun processing your visa application.

        You can apply for the visa with your family. Each member of your family must complete a separate visa application and pay the necessary fees. If you want to travel with them, you’ll have to apply first so they can use your Global Web Form (GWF) or Unique Application Number (UAN) for their application.

        They will also need to schedule biometric collection at a visa application centre.

        You and your family can apply for the Skilled Worker visa up to 3 months to your employment start date.

        It is also vital to note that you must apply for a Skilled Worker visa within 3 months of getting the certificate of sponsorship. If you do not do this, the CoS will become invalid after 3 months. You’ll need to get another certificate of sponsorship from your employer.

        Supporting Documents for Skilled Worker Visa

        If you are looking to apply for a Skilled Worker visa, then you have to submit the following documents:

        • Reference number of your certificate of sponsorship.
        • Evidence you understand English.
        • Valid South African passport.
        • Occupation code.
        • Job title and salary per annum.
        • Employer name and licence number.
        • Bank statements proving you have enough money to support yourself for a month.
        • Marriage and birth certificates if travelling with family.
        • Tuberculosis test result.
        • Criminal history certificate, if it applies. You must provide this from South Africa and any other country where you have spent at least 12 months.
        • Valid ATAS certificate, if it applies.
        • Ecctis number or PhD certificate

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          Skilled Worker Visa Cost and Processing Times

          Processing Times

          If you are in the UK when applying for a Skilled Worker visa, it will take 8 weeks to get a decision from the Home Office.

          If you are outside the UK, you only need to wait 3 weeks for a decision from the Home Office.

          You may get a faster decision if you pay for the expedited process. But this will only be if you are told you can when making your application.


          The fees for the visa depend on where you are and how long you will be staying on the Skilled Worker visa. The range of the application fee is £719 to £1,500.

          For South Africans outside the UK, the following applies:

          • £719 per person if you want a 3-year visa.
          • £1,420 per person if you want a 5-year visa.

          For South Africans in the UK, the following applies:

          • £827 per person if you want a 3-year visa.
          • £1,500 per person if you want a 5-year visa.

          You will also need to pay £624 per annum for the NHS surcharge. This fee is paid per family member.

          You must also show you have held a minimum of £1,270 for a month. This is waived if your employer indicates they’ll cover your accommodation for a month.

          Duration of Skilled Worker Visa

          The Skilled Worker visa can last for 3 to 5 years, depending on what your employer wants. After 5 years, you can apply for an extension or the ILR.

          Note that you can extend the Skilled Worker visa if you meet the eligibility criteria.

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            Additional Work with a Skilled Worker Visa

            It is possible to do extra work while you are on a Skilled Worker visa as long as it is not affecting the job that got you sponsorship. It is also possible to do voluntary unpaid work.

            The maximum you can work additionally is 20 hours per week. But you must ensure that the extra job is on the shortage list and has the same level and occupation as your primary job.

            If you want to work for more than 20 hours in your new job, then you must also be sponsored by another employer.

            Comparison to Tier 2 Visa

            The Skilled Worker visa replaced the UK Tier 2 General visa, the UK’s work visa, on 1 December 2020. Here are some of the significant changes:

            • The minimum salary employers needed to pay on the Tier 2 visa was £30,000, but with the Skilled Worker visa, it was reduced to £26,200.
            • The monthly limit on CoS issuance for Tier 2 was abolished.
            • The Resident Labour Market Test that employers have to show before looking for employers abroad was also scrapped.
            • The restricted and unrestricted CoS was replaced with defined and undefined CoS.
            • The skill threshold was reduced from RQF level 6 to RQF level 3.
            • The Indefinite Leave to Remain minimum salary threshold was reduced too. Previously, immigrants on a Tier 2 visa needed to earn at least £35,800 per annum for 5 years before applying for ILR. With the Skilled Worker visa, immigrant workers must earn at least £25,600 annually.

            Conclusion and Next Steps. How can IAS Lawyers help?

            As an employer looking to expand their business and maintain relevance in the UK marketplace and the world, it will greatly benefit you if you can hire employers from different countries. With such a large talent pool, you can dominate the marketplace.

            This is why you need to be able to sponsor prospective employees from outside the UK. To do this, you must have a valid sponsor licence. If you do not already have this, our expert lawyers can help you apply for it. If you already have the sponsor licence, you can hire workers overseas by following this UK Skilled Worker visa guide.

            Our team is also ready to help your employee from South Africa apply for a Skilled Worker visa. The process can often be daunting due to the details, but we are experienced and can break the process down for you. We can guide you to gather your documents, apply for a sponsor licence and teach you what you need to do to maintain your sponsorship rights.

            For more information about what we can do for you, call us at +44 (0)333 305 9375 or message us online.

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                      Frequently Asked Questions

                      An employer can sponsor a Skilled Worker visa for someone already in the UK. However, the person must not be on the following visas:

                      • A short-term study visa.
                      • A tourist visa.
                      • A seasonal or temporary worker visa.
                      • A domestic worker in a private home visa.
                      • A Child Student or Parent visa.

                      If you have a sponsor licence, it takes 3 weeks to sponsor a Skilled Worker. But if you do not have a sponsor licence, you’ll have to apply for one and wait 8 weeks for approval and 3 weeks for the worker’s application to be approved.

                      You cannot appeal a Skilled Worker visa refusal. However, you can get an administrative review if you feel the caseworker who handled your application made a mistake.