Nighat Sahi

Published 8 November 2023

Navigating Skilled Worker Visa Applications From Outside the UK

In a recent post, I outlined the process for navigating the UK visa processing system. However, with so many different immigration routes (many of which have their own specific requirements), in this post, I take a more detailed look at what is required for a skilled worker visa application made from outside the UK. 

What is a skilled worker visa?

A skilled worker visa allows you to come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job with an approved employer. It used to be known as a Tier 2 (General) work visa.

Who can apply for a skilled worker visa?

Ensuring you are eligible for a skilled worker visa is an essential first step of the application process. To be eligible, you must:

  • work for a UK employer that’s been approved by the Home Office
  • have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from your employer with information about the role you’ve been offered in the UK
  • do a job that’s on the list of eligible occupations

There is a government list of eligible occupations with accompanying codes. You will need the code for your application. The listed occupations include a vast range of jobs including financial managers and directors, managers and directors in retail and wholesale, leisure and sports managers, engineers, IT specialists, psychologists, accountants and lawyers.

There are also minimum salary requirements, and you will need to be able to show you can speak, read and write English. The specific eligibility will depend on your job but if you are not eligible for a skilled worker visa, you may be eligible for some other sort of visa.

Getting your application in order

When applying from outside the UK, you must do so online. You will need various documents in support of your application and failure to have them in order could jeopardise the success or delay your application.

You will need:

  • your certificate of sponsorship reference number, the name of your employer and their sponsor licence number
  • proof of your knowledge of English
  • a valid passport or other document that shows your identity and nationality
  • your job title and annual salary
  • your job’s occupation code

There are other documents you may need that include (but aren’t limited to) evidence of your savings / ability to support yourself, tuberculosis test results (for listed countries), a criminal record certificate (certain jobs), a valid ATAS certificate (certain jobs) and your UK PhD certificate, or your unique Ecctis reference number (if your qualification is from outside the UK).  

If you’re from outside the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein you will also need a blank page in your passport. If you’ve lived in more than one country and or are under 28, you may also need extra documentation.

When to apply

You can apply for a UK work visa up to 3 months before the day you are due to start work in the UK.

Proving your identity

  1. The UK Immigration: ID Check App  

The ID Check App can be used to allow certain visa applicants to confirm their identity digitally rather than having to attend a Visa Application Centre. To use it you will need a biometric passport and a compatible smart phone. However only certain people /nationalities can confirm their identities using the App. If you do use the App, you will not be issued with a biometric residence permit.

 Before you can use the App, you will also need to have  started your immigration application and created a UK Visas and Immigration account online.

  • Alternative verification

If you cannot use the App, you will have to attend a Visa Application Centre to have your fingerprints and photograph taken in order to get a biometric residence permit. A biometric residence permit can be used to confirm your identity, right to study or right to any public services or benefits you’re entitled to.

Application processing times

The standard processing times for applications by a skilled worker from outside the UK is 3 weeks either from the date you verify your identity and submit your documents and application online using the ID Check App or from when you attend an appointment at a Visa Application Centre to provide your fingerprints and a photograph (biometric information). The Government does regularly publish actual processing times as opposed to what they should be and at the moment, the actual processing time for a skilled worker is 3 weeks.  

If successful, a visa can be granted for up to 5 years and is capable of extension although you will have to apply to extend it.

Getting it right

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) visa application processing is both strict and highly scrutinized and a high percentage of applications are refused each year. If your UK visa application is refused, it remains permanently on the record and will be visible if you apply again. Some of the most common reasons for refusal involve not having the right documentation. Making sure you have applied for the right kind of visa is equally important.

Click here for information about: Navigating Skilled Worker Visa Applications From Inside the UK

 If any of the above affects you, or you would like to discuss what you need to do to apply, please call 020 3988 0170 or email us at

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