Visas & Immigration:
Job Applicants

Visa information for Job Applicants

Under UK legislation, all migrants are now required to hold a valid visa to lawfully reside in the UK. This guide provides all the necessary information you need to apply for a visa in order to work for Abertay University. It also covers other visa-related steps during the recruitment process.

The UK Immigration Rules outline how an individual may enter, work in, and remain in the UK.  The Points-based System is part of the Immigration rules which currently regulates a migrant’s right to work within the UK and specifically, under the Skilled Worker Visa route (formally the Skilled Worker visa).

There are five tiers under the Points-based Immigration system but only four are currently used by the UK Government. 

This guide is for applicants applying for a Skilled Workers Visa, and explains how to switch from a Student Visa to a Skilled Worker Visa.

Immigration into the UK from 1 January 2021

The UK Government introduced a new single immigration system on 1 January 2021.

The new system includes:

  • A single immigration system for all nationalities, focused on talent and skills.
  • A new skilled workers route open to all nationalities with no cap on numbers – no requirement for businesses employing high skilled employees to undertake a resident labour market test. There will be a minimum salary threshold introduced but this will be consulted on.
  • A new time limited route for temporary short-term workers from low-risk nationalities of all skill levels with no cap on numbers. There will be conditions; including cooling-off period to prevent this route being used for long-term working.
  • Irish citizens will continue to have the right to live and work in the UK.

Migrant workers must have a job offer with a sponsoring employer that is confirmed with a Certificate of Sponsorship, at the appropriate skill level and speak English to the relevant requirement.  These three criteria are mandatory requirements and provide the applicant with 50 points. 

The applicant also needs to provide evidence of an additional 20 points which are 'tradeable'.  This can be by way of their salary, the job being in a shortage occupation role as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), or by holding a PhD qualification.  Different points are awarded depending on the 'tradeable' criteria applicants have, as detailed in the UK government website.

  • The minimum salary requirement is £25,600 or the 'going rate' for the job. For some public sector jobs, the 'going rate' will be referenced to the national pay scales.
  • It is possible to pay a lower salary no lower than £20,480 through 'tradeable points' – i.e., if the migrant worker has a PhD relevant to the job or the job is in a 'shortage occupation' or they are a 'new entrant'. Only one of these tradeable characteristics can be used.
  • The Government has accepted the MAC recommendation to include postdoctoral researcher. See paragraph 5.58 of the MAC report.

The Immigration Health Surcharge and the Immigration Skills Charge will apply, and includes migrant workers from the EU. That is unless a reciprocal agreement is in place.

Visitors from the EU, EEA or Switzerland will can come to the UK for up to 6 months, including tourists and business visitors.

Immigration during the COVID19 pandemic

Most UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) have resumed service where local restrictions allow. Where services are resuming, existing customers will be contacted.

Priority and Super Priority services are only available in some locations. Ongoing global restrictions mean some UKVI services remain closed. 

If you intend to leave the UK but have not been able to do so, and you have a visa or leave that expired between 1 December 2020 and 31 January 2021, you may request additional time to stay. This is known as 'exceptional assurance'.

If you’re unable to travel back to the UK due to coronavirus travel restrictions and your leave has expired, a short break in continuous residence will be overlooked. However, you are expected to make your next application as soon as possible.

Points-based immigration system

From 1 January 2021 the UK government introduced a new Immigration Bill. This meant the end of free movement within the EU, and opened a new Points Based System for highly skilled workers.

The Skilled Worker visa route for applications went live at the start of December 2020 and officially came into force on 1 January 2021.

The points-based system covers the most highly skilled workers, skilled workers, students, and a range of other specialist work routes including  global leaders and innovators. 

As part of the new Immigration system, the government brought the skills threshold down from Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 6, to Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 3. They also suspended the cap on the number of people who can use the skilled worker route, and removed the resident labour market test.

These changes will be followed by further improvements to the UK’s sponsorship system and the operation of the UK border. 

In the longer-term this includes the introduction of Electronic Travel Authorities to ensure foreign nationals have the relevant permission to enter the UK in advance of travel.  They confirmed that there will be a phased approach to ensure the new system is implemented smoothly, and to allow sufficient time for everyone to adapt.

Skilled worker - criteria

The new points-based system is designed to ensure that all applicants, both EU and non-EU citizens, are treated equally post-Brexit. 

This system is designed to provide effective, flexible arrangements for skilled workers to come to the UK through an employer-led system.

All applicants will need 70 points to be eligible for the skilled worker route. The applicant must prove that they have a job offer from an approved sponsor, that the job offer is at the required skill level, and that they speak English.

This makes up 50 points of the required 70 points needed to be successful. 

The applicant can acquire a further 20 points by meeting the relevant additional requirements.  Find out more on the UK Government's policy statement about the points-based system.

A total of 70 points is required to be eligible to apply - see the table below. It is worth noting that some characteristics are tradeable.




Job offer by an approved sponsor



Job at appropriate skill level



Speaks English at required level



Salary of £20,480 (min) – £23,039



Salary of £23,040 – £25,599



Salary of £25,600 or above



Job in a shortage occupation as designated by the MAC.



Education qualification: PhD in subject relevant to the job



Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job




The NARIC/Ennic codes are only required where the person cannot meet the minimum salary requirements, but have a STEM or non-STEM PhD and can therefore ‘trade points’ to a lower salary threshold which means they can then be sponsored.


Foreign nationals entering the UK for the purpose of work or study will need to obtain a visa for which they are expected to pay a fee.  The Home Office levies the Immigration Skills Surcharge and the Immigration Health Surcharge on employers.  There are exemptions  which such as some short-term business visitors and short-term students. 

For employers sponsoring skilled migrants, the process will be streamlined to reduce the time it takes to bring a migrant into the UK by up to eight weeks.

Visit the UK Government site for the proposed visa process and other details. 

The four types of Visitor Visas

There are four types of visitor visa routes which depend on the purpose of your visit.


Standard Visitor visa

  • The maximum length of stay is 6 months.
    • Or up to 11 months for private medical treatment.
    • potentially up to 12 months for an academic visitor.
  • Genuine intention to visit such as:
    • for tourism, like taking a holiday or visiting family and friends.
    • for certain business activities, e.g., attending a meeting.
    • taking a short course of study.
    • taking part in research or an exchange programme as an academic.
    • for medical reasons, for example to receive private medical treatment.
  • Prohibited activities:
    • to perform paid or unpaid work for a UK organisation or business, or work as a self-employed person.
    • to live in the UK for long periods of time through frequent visits.
    • to claim public funds (known as benefits).
    • to do a course of study that lasts longer than 6 months.
    • to marry or register a civil partnership, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership. You’ll need a Marriage Visitor visa instead.
  • Permitted Activities – general
  • Please go to the UK Gov website to check your eligibility.

Marriage/civil partnership visit

You will not need a Marriage Visitor visa if you come to the UK on or before 30 June 2021.

From 1 July 2021 you’ll need to apply for a visa, unless one of the following applies:

    • you have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.
    • you have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme, and you have not got a decision yet.
    • you’re an Irish citizen.
  • You can come to the UK to:
    • marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK within 6 months of your arrival - you must use a venue licensed for this purpose.
    • pass through the UK in transit on your way to another country.

Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE) visit

You may be able to visit the UK for a paid engagement if you’ve been invited as an expert in your profession. You can stay in the UK for up to 1 month.

  • You can apply for a Permitted Paid Engagement visa if you:
    • are invited by a UK-based organisation or client.
    • come to the UK to do specific paid work without having to be sponsored under the points-based visa system.
    • meet the other the other eligibility requirements.
  • You may not have to apply for a visa. What you need to do depends on your nationality.

Transit visit

You might need a Visitor in Transit visa if you’re:

    • changing flights in the UK on your way to another country.
    • going through UK border control, for example to check in your luggage for a connecting flight.
    • leaving the UK within 48 hours.
    • not working or studying while in the UK.


Long-term Visitor Visas

If you need to visit the UK regularly, you can apply for a long-term Standard Visitor visa. This can last for 2, 5 or 10 years if you need to visit the UK regularly over a long period. You can stay for a maximum of 6 months on each visit.

You’ll need to meet the requirements of the route you are applying for, and pay the UK application fee.

Guidance can be found on the UK Government page about advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents.

English language tests are available in most countries, but may be suspended in some countries due to coronavirus restrictions.

Recruitment through a Skilled Worker Visa route

To recruit a foreign worker, each employer must hold a Sponsor Licence. 

There are two types of sponsor licences: the Skilled Workers Visa for long-term job offers, and/or the Temporary Worker Licence.  Abertay currently holds licences for both the Skilled Worker Visa and the Temporary Worker Visa.

Once the employer is satisfied that the foreign worker is the best candidate and is eligible to apply, they will provide the foreign worker with a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).  The foreign worker requires a CoS to apply for their Skilled Worker visa.

The Skilled Worker visa  will allow an employee to stay for up to 5 years and 14 days, or up to 6 years with extensions.  An employee under a Skilled Worker visa is not permitted to remain in this category beyond 6 years.

After 5 years, you may be able to apply to settle permanently in the UK (known as 'indefinite leave to remain'). This gives you the right to live, work and study here for as long as you like, and apply for benefits if you’re eligible

Most visa applications for anyone seeking to visit, work or study in the UK are made online.  The charges depend on the visa type, and can be found on the UK Government visa fees page.  These fees are usually reviewed in March every year, but can be reviewed at any time. This means you must advise all applicants to check the fees website before submitting any applications.

The requirements that need to be met in order to successfully apply for a Skilled Worker visa can be found on the UK Visas and Immigration website (UKVI).

However, it is advised that each applicant seek legal advice before submitting an application under the Skilled Worker visa route.

Recruitment through Tier 4

During term time students who hold a Student Visa are only entitled to legally work up to 20 hours per week, or 10 hours if below degree level.  The term ‘work’ in this context covers both paid and unpaid activities.

Managers will be informed in writing if they have a member of staff who is on a Student Visa. This is to ensure that they do not work more than 20 hours per week. In addition to this, the HR Co-ordinator will write to the Tier 4 holder to ensure that they understand that they cannot work more than 20 hours per week as stated in their contract of employment.

A Student Visa report is scheduled to run on a monthly basis, detailing the number of hours claimed by the employees.  This will be monitored by the HR Advisor to ensure the Student Visa employees are complying with the regulations.

Switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2

Students on a full-time Student or Tier 4 visa have certain time restrictions covering their work:

  • No more than 10 hours per week in term-time if your course is below degree level For example, a Foundation or Pre-Sessional course.
  • No more than 20 hours per week in term-time if your course is at degree level.
  • A full-time role during vacation.

The times refer to the amount of time that you can work in any one week. So for example, if you work during term-time, and also complete some unpaid voluntary work, the combined time you do these activities for cannot exceed 10 or 20 hours per week, depending on your course level.

Due to coronavirus (COVID-19), there’s currently no limit on the number of hours you can work or volunteer if you have a second job as an NHS doctor, nurse, or paramedic.

You might be able to apply to ‘switch’ to a Skilled Worker visa if you’re already in the UK on another type of visa. You must not travel outside of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man until you get a decision. Your application will be withdrawn if you do so.

You’ll usually get a decision within 8 weeks of your application date.

You’ll be contacted if your application will take longer, for example because:

  • Your supporting documents need to be verified.
  • You need to attend an interview.
  • Of your personal circumstances, for example if you have a criminal conviction.

You may be able to pay to get a faster decision, and you’ll be told if this is possible when you apply.

Applying for a Visa

Most visa applications for anyone seeking to visit, work or study in UK are made online

The fees depend on the required visa type.  These fees can be found on the UK Government website.  Fees are usually reviewed in March every year, but can be reviewed at any point. Therefore, you must advise all applicants to check this website before submitting any application.

The Skilled Worker visa (formerly a Tier 2 visa) allows an employee to stay for up to 5 years and 14 days, or up to 6 years with extensions.  An employee under a Skilled Worker visa is not permitted to remain in this category beyond 6 years.

After 5 years, you may be able to apply to settle permanently in the UK (known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’). This gives you the right to live, work and study here for as long as you like, and apply for benefits if you’re eligible.

Applying for a Visa if your Visa Application Centre (VAC) is closed

You can apply for a visit visa from any UK VAC. You should apply for all UK visas from the country you’re living in.

If your VAC is closed due to coronavirus restrictions, you can apply online and submit your application and biometrics to a VAC anywhere in the world. You must make sure you’re permitted to travel to that country beforehand.

You need to select the country where you would like to submit your biometrics at the start of your application. You’ll can make any type of UK visa application. 

This concession has been extended to 31 March 2021.

For more detailed information please visit the UK Government page for advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents

Who can use Airport eGates

There are over 250 eGates in place at 15 air and rail ports in the UK.

Nationals from the countries below, who have a biometric symbol on the cover of their passport are able to use automated eGates on the arrival into UK, free of charge.

This means they will no longer need to complete a landing card on arrival from those countries. 

This includes: 

  • Australia,
  • Canada,
  • Iceland,
  • Japan,
  • Liechtenstein,
  • New Zealand,
  • Norway,
  • Singapore,
  • South Korea,
  • Switzerland,
  • USA.

Potentially this list may include a national from an EU country. 

International Students

International students arriving for a short term period of up to 6 months should not use the eGates as they will need an official stamp in their passport. This is unless they have applied for entry clearance before travel. Without this stamp these individuals cannot perform the activities they are coming to the UK for.

Long term students who already have student visa or a student biometric residence permit can also use the eGates.

Permitted Paid Engagements

If you are coming to the UK from the list of countries below to carry out Permitted Paid Engagements you will need to get a stamp in your passport.  This includes academic professors, guest speakers or those studying a PHD. 

  • Australia,
  • Canada,
  • Iceland,
  • Japan,
  • Liechtenstein,
  • New Zealand,
  • Norway,
  • Singapore,
  • South Korea,
  • Switzerland,
  • USA.

These travellers require a specific grant of leave which is given in the form of a passport  stamp. Without this stamp these individuals cannot perform the activities they are coming to the UK for.

Absence from the UK

EU Settlement Scheme

Holders of settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme can spend up to 5 years in a row outside the UK without losing their status. 

Swiss citizens and their family members can spend up to 4 years in a row outside the UK without losing their settled status.

Holders of pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme can spend up to 2 years in a row outside the UK without losing their status. However, they should bear in mind the need to maintain continuous residence to ensure they are eligible for settled status.

Visa holders

No more than 180 days absence is allowed in a consecutive 12 month period for visa holders. This calculation is based on whole days, absences of less than 24 hours are not counted. 

Employers must record and authorise all absences for those holding Skilled Worker visas and Student visas.

English Language Tests

If the visa you are applying for asks you to prove your English language ability, you need to demonstrate this by passing a test with a Home Office approved Secure English Language Testing (SELT) Provider. These are found in Home Office approved centres, both in the UK and Overseas.

Accredited SELT Test Centres

UK and Overseas

  • IELTS SELT Consortium 
  • Pearson Education Ltd 
  • PeopleCert International Limited Consortium 

UK only

  • Trinity College London 

Overseas only

  • PSI Services (UK) Ltd 

The level of English language ability you are required to prove can change according to the visa you’re applying for. Please check the guidance for your visa to find out the level required.

There are some exemptions that apply. See the full details of exemptions on the UK Government website.

Graduate route – applying for job

The Government have introduced a new Graduate route which will be open for applications form 1 July 2021. The Graduate route will enable international students to remain in the UK to work or look for work for 2 years (3 years for doctoral students) after they have successfully completed a degree at undergraduate level or above in the UK. All international students who have successfully completed a degree (or other permitted qualification) at undergraduate level or above at a Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance, and who have valid Student (or Tier 4) Visa at the time of application, will be able to apply.

The Graduate route will be unsponsored, meaning applicants will not need a job offer in order to be eligible. There will be no minimum salary requirements nor caps on numbers. Graduates on this route will be able to work flexibly, switch jobs and develop their career as required. Whilst the route will not lead to settlement, those on the route will be able to move into another work-based route, such as the Skilled Worker route – which does lead to settlement – once they meet the requirements.

Fee arrangements for CESC nationals

The Home Office (UKVI) have published guidance explaining who is eligible for a reduction in  certain fees under the Council of Europe’s Social Charter of 1961 (known as CESC). It includes information for work visa applicants and sponsors.

The guidance has been updated to add the Graduate route to the list of immigration routes eligible  for the fee reduction.

You can view the updated guidance on the government website here.

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