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Human Resources

Skilled Worker Visa

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.

From 21 May 2021 the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) will be extended from students to cover academics and researchers. 

ATAS is for security clearance from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) for researchers working is subjects where the employee’s knowledge could be used in programmes to develop Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT), weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) or their means of delivery. 

Academics and researchers in certain science subjects, mathematics, engineering, technology or medicine who require sponsorship under the Skilled Worker route to work in the UK may need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) clearance certificate. 

Nationals of EU countries, the European Economic Area (EEA), Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland or the United States of America do not need an ATAS certificate.

Please note that when an ATAS certificate is required, an application for a certificate must be made before Queen Mary can issue a Certificate of Sponsorship. 

Find out more about the subjects and occupations that are affected by the scheme on our ATAS Pages

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.

Application processing times will depend on where the application is being made but processing times can take up to 8 weeks.  Applicants will need to submit an online application and prove their identity either in person for non-EEA nationals or via an official app for EEA nationals.  

Applying from outside the UK

Once the individual has applied online, proved their identity, and provided their documents, they'll usually get a decision within 3 weeks.

An application may take longer, for example because:

  • supporting documents need to be verified
  • a need to attend an interview
  • personal circumstances, for example if they have a criminal conviction

Applying from inside the UK

Once the individual has applied online, proved their identity, and provided their documents, they'll usually get a decision within 8 weeks.

An application may take longer, for example because:

  • supporting documents need to be verified
  • a need to attend an interview
  • personal circumstances, for example if they have a criminal conviction

The Home Office requires all organisations that sponsor employees, including the Queen Mary, to keep certain records and report particular changes to them.

While the sponsored individual has a duty to keep the University updated, the University also has a duty to maintain these details and report any changes. As the manager of a sponsored worker, you are responsible for ensuring that the University is meeting our reporting and recording duties as described below:


Please ensure that you (or the sponsored employee that reports to you, where appropriate) tell Human Resources immediately if:

  1. The sponsored individual does not arrive to start work on the first day of employment, and the reason if known (e.g. a missed flight).
  2. They take unauthorised absence for more than ten consecutive working days.
  3. If significant changes to their employment are being planned or considered. For example, change of role, job title, duties, hours or salary (except for annual increments and cost of living) or TUPE transfer. Depending on the change, we may have to notify or seek approval from the Home Office before it can take place.
  4. If the University is no longer required to sponsor the individual. For example, because:
    • Their contract of employment has been terminated for any reason (including resignation)
    • They wish to take more than one month’s unpaid leave (other than maternity, paternity, adoption or sick leave)
    • They have changed immigration status (for example, obtained indefinite leave to remain, acquired British Citizenship or moved to an immigration tier that does not require a Sponsor). You must see documentary evidence (passport stamp and/or letter from the Home Office) of any change in immigration status and send copy to the Compliance Team (with printed name, signature and date).
  5. If the individual loses a professional registration or accreditation which is required for their job.
  6. If the employee wishes to take up other employment whilst still being sponsored and employed by the University.
  7. Any suspicions that the employee is breaching the conditions of their leave to reside in the UK.
  8. You have any information which suggests that they may be engaging in any criminal activity.

Record Keeping

The University must also keep up-to-date records of sponsored individuals’ contact details and when they are absent from work, which means that we need you to:

  1. Remind the individual to inform your departmental administrator immediately if you are aware that their contact details (including home address, home telephone number or mobile telephone number) are changing. Alternatively, they can update their own details on MyHR which is found at
  2. Ensure that the individual follows your department/institution’s procedure for booking annual leave and their leave is always recorded, using the method that has been agreed locally.
  3. Ensure that the individual contacts you (or other appropriate person in your department/institution) if you they need to be absent from work for any other reason (e.g. sickness, bereavement) and that their absence is always recorded. Either you or a designated person in your department/institution must record sickness absence on MyHR; please ensure you know what your local arrangements for this are.
  4. Following discussions with the Home Office, it is no longer necessary for the University to keep records of the whereabouts of sponsored individuals in PhD level roles who are working away from their usual place of work. This exception does not extend to those in non-PhD level roles. In these circumstances, departments are asked to ensure that they know where their sponsored individuals are at all times, and to keep a record of all absences exceeding a day, including time working away from Queen Mary.


Failure to comply with this could result in our licence being revoked, suspended or downgraded to a B-rating, and/or a reduction to the number of CoS the University is allowed to assign.

If the University loses its licence, it will no longer be able to sponsor individuals as Skilled or Temporary Workers under the points-based immigration system and all existing sponsored employees would have their leave curtailed.

Some jobs require the applicant to provide an overseas criminal record certificate as part of the visa application. A criminal records certificate will need to be provided for those applying from outside the UK who are being offered a job working in:

  • education, for example teachers, education advisers and school inspectors, childminders, teaching assistants
  • healthcare, for example nurses, doctors, paramedics, managers, pharmacists, dentists and dental nurses, ophthalmic opticians
  • therapy, for example psychologists, speech and language therapists, counsellors
  • social services, for example social workers, managers, probation officers, welfare and housing officers

Those teaching in Higher Education will not require a criminal record certificate.

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