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Human Resources

Visas and Immigration

The Skilled Worker visa is the primary route for skilled international workers to enter the UK.  Much like it's predecessor, the Tier 2 visa, this route is sponsored and the University must meet certain requirements before we can offer an individual sponsorship. 

A Resident Labour Market Test is no longer required before sponsorship can be considered but all recruitment must be in line with the Queen Mary's recruitment and selection policy.  All post should be advertised for at least 14 days and evidence of the shortlisting and interview process must be uploaded to Oleeo before an offer is authorised. 

In order to apply for a Skilled Worker visa the individual will require a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). This is an electronic document issued by the Home Office.  It is the responsibility of the hiring department, not the individual, to request a Certificate of Sponsorship from Human Resources.

All requests will be assessed by HR to ensure that both the role and the individual are eligible for a sponsorship under the Skilled Worker visa route. Only once these criteria are satisfied can a CoS be processed.

HR assess requests for CoS once a week, each Thursday.  If the request satisfies the compliance panel then a CoS can be issued:

  • if the individual is in the UK, then the CoS can be issued that day;
  • if the individual is outside the UK, then an application will be made to the UKVI and the CoS issued should the application be approved.

Those who are eligible for sponsorship will be provided with a Certificate of Sponsorship for the duration of their appointment, up to a maximum of 5 years. 

There is no limit to the time that can be spent sponsored under the Skilled Worker visa, but individuals may be eligible to apply for settlement in the UK after 5 years of continuous residence in the UK.  

Sponsored individuals cannot commence employment until they have succesfully applied for a Skilled Worker visa.

Requirements For Sponsorship

Below is an overview of the requirements for sponsorship under the Skilled Worker route.

Before sponsorship can be considered the job must be assessed to ensure that it meets the genuine vacancy test. 

A genuine vacancy is when the:

  • individual performs the specific duties and responsibilities listed on the job profile;
  • role does not include dissimilar or predominately lower skilled duties;

The Home Office will consider a role to not be a genuine vacancy where:

  • the duties in the job description have been exaggerated or incorrectly listed in order to make the role look like it is eligible for sponsorship;
  • the job adverts have requirements that are inappropriate for the job, for example a language skill which is not relevant;
  • the job has been primarily created to enable an overseas worker to come the UK.

It is essential that all jobs meet these requirements before sponsorship is considered, a breach would put Queen Mary at risk of losing its sponsorship license.

It is essential that the job profile accurately reflects the requirements of the role, and that the applicant's qualifications, skills and experience meet the selection criteria that have been detailed.


It is not possible to sponsor an applicant who does not hold the qualifications that have been listed as essential in the job profile. If the individual is currently undertaking an essential qualification HR must be assured that they will have completed and been awarded the qualification before their start date at the latest.   



The role must be considered to be skilled to at least A-Level or equivalent (Regulated Qualification Framework level 3 or above).

The Home Office maintains a list of occupations for which sponsorship can be provided, these occupations are listed in Appendix: Skilled Occupations

The main duties detailed on the job profile for the role are compared to this list to identify the correct occupation.  It is not based on the job title, but the actual activities the role will entail. Human Resources will be able to confirm the standard occupational classification (SOC) code that is appropriate for any particular role. 

A copy of the job profile should be provided to Human Resources before a role is advertised to enable an assessement of its suitablilty for sponsorship. Hiring managers are not expected to review all the codes, but their input may be requested.  Human Resources will make the final decision on what code is appropriate to ensure consistency across the University.

An offer of employment should not be made to an individual who may require sponsorship until Human Resources have confirmed that both the role and the individual are eligible for sponsorship.

The below is provided for information only, though it is expected that most jobs will meet the above salary requirements there may be a need to consider the option of using tradeable points. 

Human Resources will raise and discuss these issues when reviewing any applications where tradeable points may need to be relied on.

Going Rate 

Each SOC code has a “going rate” that is based on Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) data.  Each salary listed in Appendix: Skilled Occupations is based on a 39-hour working week which may be pro-rated for other working patterns. 

The salary paid must be meet the greater of the minimum salary threshold, £25,600, or the “going rate” for the chosen SOC code.

Where Less can be Paid

It is possible to pay between 70% and 90% of the usual “going rate” for a job.  The salary payable must be at least £20,480 per year and one of the following criteria must be met:

  • the job is in a shortage occupation;
  • the applicant is a new entrant to the job market; they must be either under 26, studying or a recent graduate, or in professional training;
  • the applicant has a science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) PhD level qualification that’s relevant to the job (if the relevant PhD level qualification in any other subject the salary must be at least £23,040);
  • the job is a postdoctoral position in science or higher education.

Shortage Occupations

The Government maintains a shortage occupation list containing skilled jobs where there is a shortage of workers in the UK.  If the job is on the shortage occupation list, a salary of 80% of the job’s usual “going rate” can be paid.

New Entrant

Individuals can be sponsored as a ‘New Entrant’ for up to a maximum of 4 years if

  • they are under the age 26 when applying
  • they hold or last held (within the past 2 years) a Student (Tier 4) visa and they have completed a UK bachelor, masters degree, or at least 12 months study towards a UK PhD.
  • the job offer is a postdoctoral position in codes including 2311 for higher education teaching professionals or 2119 used by the University for all postdoctoral researcher positions
  • they are switching within the UK from a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)  visa

New Entrants must be paid 70% of the "going rate" or £20,480 per year, whichever is higher.

Relevant PhD

Only select jobs will be able to make use of the relevant PhD salary discount.  If your job is on this list and the salary is less than the required minimum then you will need to provide details of how the individual’s PhD is relevant to the role.


Only guaranteed basic gross pay can be relied upon to meet the salary requirements. Allowances cannot be included.

Part-time working

It can be more difficult for sponorship to be provided for part-time appointments. The part-time salary must meet the absolute minimum salary threshold of £25,600, £20,480 for a new entrant, or £23,040/£20,480 if tradeable points are available.  Please do get in touch with Human Resources to discuss specific cases.

There are two types of Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS): 

  • Defined, for those who are applying on a Skilled Worker visa from outside the UK.
  • Undefined, for Skilled Workers applying from inside the UK, and applicants on all other visas.

Defined Certificates of Sponsorship

The University must make an appliciation to the Home Office for a defined CoS when you wish to employ an individual who is not based in the UK.

Application Process

HR will make an application to the Home Office for a defined CoS on your behalf. Once submitted a CoS application will be assessed by the Home Office.  Assessment decisions are made on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week.

Undefined Certificates of Sponsorship

The University may issue an undefined Certificate of Sponsorship where you wish to employ an indiviual who is based in the UK in an eligible visa category.

We can issue an undefined CoS in the following circumstances:

  • Switching immigration category: Where an individual who is already in the UK under another immigration category is eligible to switch to a Skilled Worker visa. 
  • Extensions: Where you need to extend leave for an individual who is already in the UK working for you and has or was last granted leave under Tier 2 (General) or as a Skilled Worker.
  • Changes of employment (1): A current University employee who was last granted leave under Tier 2 (General) or Skilled Worker and who wants to change to a new job which falls in a different SOC code.*
  • Changes of employment (2): An individual who was last granted leave under Tier 2 (General) or Skilled Worker while sponsored by a different UK employer, who wants to start a new job at the University (Please note: this does not include employees transferring to the University under TUPE – seek advice from HR in such cases).*

*Please note: where an individual is making a change of employment application, in either of the above scenarios, they cannot start the new job until their Skilled Worker visa has been issued.

Application Process

The University has an annual fixed allocation and can make a CoS application at any time.  All necessary documents pertaining to sponsorship should be sent to HR to ensure that a timely application can be made. 

If sponsorship is required Human Resources will send a Certificate of Sponsorship application form to the hiring manager.

The Skilled Worker CoS application form, which must be fully completed and submitted to Human Resources, lays out the required information and documentation that will allow the University to demonstrate to the Home Office that the requirements of sponsorship have been met. Incomplete application forms will be rejected and returned, this will delay the sponsorship process. 

Please Note: The information requested is essential for the sponsorship process. Incomplete forms will be returned.  

Once Human Resources are satisfied all the Home Office requirements have been met, a Skilled Worker Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) will be issued for the duration of the contract, up to a maximum of 5 years in the first instance. 

During sponsorship it is important that any changes to a Skilled Worker visa holders employment is reported to Human Resources.

Requests for Certificates of Sponsorship are assessed by HR on a weekly basis, each Thursday. 

There are costs associated with sponsoring any individual which are payable by the hiring department.

  • Each Certificate of Sponsorship will cost £239.
  • The Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) is payable for some positions. The cost will be:
    • £364 for any stated period of employment up to 12 months, plus
    • £182 for each subsequent 6-month period stated on the CoS

Please Note: The cost of sponsorship is not a valid reason to reject an individual for a position.  All candidates should be assessed on the merit of their application alone.  Rejection of a candidate on the basis of cost would leave the University open to a claim of indirect discrimination under the Equality Act (2010).

Exemptions to the Certificate of Sponsorship fee

From 26 February 2022, nationals from countries who have ratified the Council of Europe’s Social Charter of 1961 will no longer be exempt from the £239 fee for a Certificate of Sponsorship. Further information on CESC nationals is available at:

Exemptions to the Immigration Skills Charge

You will be exempt from the ISC if:

  • you are employing someone who is switching into the Skilled Worker route from Tier 4 or the Student route;
  • you are employing someone in a PhD level SOC code;
  • you are employing an overseas worker for less than 6 months; or
  • you are extending the visa of an exempt employee.

Once a CoS has been assigned to an individual, they have three months in which to make their visa application.  It is essential that HR are kept informed of any issues that arise during the application period.

Please Note: A CoS can be used once only. If a visa application is rejected then a new CoS will be required.

While the sponsored individual is expected to start work on the date listed on their CoS it may be possible to make changes depending on the status of their visa application. Changes to the start date must be reported to the Home Office within 10 days of the change. It is essential that HR are kept informed of any changes to the start date before they are made.   

After an application has been submitted there is a 4 week limit on any delayed start. If you have any cases where a start date may be delayed speak to HR as early as possible.

The sponsored individual must make plans to arrive in the UK before their first day at Queen Mary.  This is to allow us to verify the individual and undertake a right to work check before their start date.  If a right to work check is not undertaken before their start date then the individual will not be able to start work on this day.

Individuals arriving on or after their start date will have their start date amended to reflect the date in which the right to work check is taken, this will also be reported to the Home Office.

When checking the right to work, a copy of the entry stamp should also be taken.  We must ensure that the individual does not enter before the 'valid from' date on their visa. 

Review immigration status of successful applicant

If the successful applicant is not a settled worker then they will need to assess their current immigration status and whether they are the following should be considered before requesting sponsorship.

 Eligibility for Tier 2 Sponsorship

If the individual is applying from outside the UK we need to make sure that they have not previously been sponsored under Tier 2 in the past 12 months.  

Individuals who have previously been sponsored under Tier 2 by any employer in the UK, and have now left the UK and their visa lapsed or expired are subject to a 12 month colling off period.  They cannot return to the UK on a Skilled Worker visa during the 12 months period after they left the UK.  

Individuals on a Tier 2 visa who left the UK after 1 December 2020 will not be subject to the 'cooling off' period. 

Failure to apply this rule will result in automatic refusal of their visa with no refund.

Where the individual left the UK before their Tier 2 visa expired, the 12 month cooling off period can start earlier than the date their visa expired but only if they can provide evidence of having not been in the UK for a period of 12 months before the date of their new Tier 2 visa application.

  • The cooling off period does not apply to individuals who are already in the UK under Tier 2 and are applying for an extension of their existing leave or making a change of employment application.
  • It does apply where they are overseas and their previous grant of Tier 2 leave has expired or lapsed, or they are in the UK and have switched into a different immigration category.
  • The cooling off period does not apply to the Skilled Worker visa or to those who were on Tier 2 but left the UK after 1 December 2020.

Individual holds a Tier 2 or Skilled Worker visa:

Sponsored by Queen Mary: Please send a copy of the job description to the Human Resources to consider the new role against the individual’s current appointment and sponsorship. 

  • If the new appointment is within the same occupation for which they are currently sponsored it is likely that HR will just need to report to the Home Office changes to their employment. 
  • If the new appointment is within a different occupation then a new Skilled Worker visa will be required. For example the individual holds a postdoctoral position and has applied for a teaching role. This will is considered a change of employment, the individual will require a new certificate of sponsorship and visa.  The individual cannot commence the new role until they have received their new visa.

Sponsored by external organisation: This is a change of employment, the University will need to request a new certificate of sponsorship. The individual cannot commence the new role until they have received their new visa. 

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