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 Alternatives to visa sponsorship under the Skilled Worker Route
Immigration law

Alternatives to visa sponsorship under the Skilled Worker Route



With the Skilled Worker general salary threshold having increased to £38,700 per annum earlier this month, and the corresponding going rates for roles also increasing, there are going to be many organisations and workers who are priced out of the Skilled Worker route. This does not however mean that the existing skills shortages in the UK are going away. Employers and prospective staff alike are going to have to consider whether there are any alternative visa routes available to employees to remain in or relocate to the UK for work purposes.

Some alternatives to visa sponsorship:

Global Talent visa

The Global Talent route is a great option for individuals who can meet the eligibility criteria. The route is much more flexible than the Skilled Worker route, as the applicant does not need a job offer from a Home Office licenced employer and, in a lot of cases, offers a route to settlement after three years, as opposed to the standard five-year qualifying period under the Skilled Worker route.

Whether a candidate will be eligible to apply will depend on their area of expertise. Applicants to this route usually need to apply for an endorsement from a UK Visas and Immigration (‘UKVI’) recognised endorsing body, which are as follows:

  • The British Academy, for the humanities and social sciences
  • The Royal Society, for science and medicine
  • The Royal Academy of Engineering, for engineering
  • Arts Council England, for arts and culture (including fashion design and architecture)
  • Tech Nation, for digital technology
  • UK Research and Innovation, for researchers

In limited circumstances, it is possible to apply to the route without an endorsement where the applicant has received a prestigious prize.

Unlike the Skilled Worker route, Global Talent migrants are not subject to any minimum salary requirement. The main eligibility criterion for the visa is securing an endorsement. When it comes to an extension of stay or settlement, the applicant needs to show that they have earned an income from their endorsed talent during their last permission as a Global Talent migrant, but again there is no minimum amount needed.

This route may be a viable alternative to various professionals whose subject area expertise is covered by one of the endorsing bodies and for whom sponsorship under the Skilled Worker route is now more difficult.

Youth Mobility visa

Eligibility for this route is largely dictated by the applicant’s nationality and age. As of 4 April 2024, the number of eligible nationalities has expanded, with the following now eligible:

There are limited places on the scheme each year, with each country having its own annual quota.

Applicants from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Korea can apply if they are aged between 18-35 years, with all other listed nationalities eligible up until the age of 30. Some countries have additional country specific requirements. For example, Indian nationals are required to hold an eligible qualification (a bachelor’s degree or above), either taught in the UK or equivalent to UK standards, amongst other additional criteria. Applicants must also meet a financial requirement, demonstrating an ability to support themselves in the UK.

Successful applicants will receive a grant of permission to enter the UK for a two or three-year period (depending on their nationality) and are permitted to take employment in the UK. This is a one-time only visa and so an individual cannot apply for this visa if they have previously been in the UK under the scheme. Also, an applicant will not be eligible to apply to the scheme where they have children under the age of 18 that live with them or who they are financially responsible for.

Graduate route

The Graduate route is available to international students in the UK who want to work, or look for work, following the successful completion of an eligible course of study at degree-level or above. Successful applications can expect a two-year grant of leave in the UK (or three years if relying on a PhD level qualification). The Graduate route is a great option for students looking to gain work experience in the UK and is often used as a stepping stone to secure sponsorship under the Skilled Worker route.

There are also benefits to being on the graduate route when it comes to switching into the Skilled Worker route. Applicants with permission under the Graduate route are classed as ‘new entrants’ when switching into the Skilled Worker route. This means that they would be eligible for a reduction in the salary threshold required. Instead of having to earn £38,700 per annum, they would instead have to be paid the higher of £30,960 per annum and 70% of the ‘going rate’ for their particular role.

It is worth noting that the Home Office has commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to conduct a review of the Graduate route to better understand how the route is currently being used and whether there are any indicators of abuse. Depending on the outcome of that review, changes to this route may be afoot.

High Potential Individual visa

The High Potential Individual visa route is similar to the graduate route in that it is aimed at graduates but rather than focusing on UK studies, the route is open to graduates from the world’s top 50 (non-UK) universities.

To qualify for this route, the applicant’s institution must appear as a top 50 ranked university in at least two Home Office recognised ranking systems in the year that they graduate. The applicant must also have graduated from a qualifying institution within five years of the date of the visa application. As with most visa routes, applicants have to be able to demonstrate proficiency in English and that they can financially support themselves in the UK.

The Home Office publishes the Global Universities List which contains details of the eligible institutions for those graduating that year. The most recent list contains 39 institutions, the majority of which are based in the USA.

Successful applicants will receive a two-year visa (or three years, if relying on a PhD level qualification) which permits employment and self-employment in the UK without the need for employer sponsorship. As with the Graduate route, it offers applicants the chance to gain valuable work experience in the UK which may assist them in securing sponsorship from a UK employer in the future.

UK Ancestry visa

As the name suggests, this visa is dependent on the applicant having an ancestral link to the UK. To be eligible, an individual needs to be a Commonwealth citizen (including Zimbabwe), BOC, BOTC or BNO and have a UK-born grandparent. In addition, eligible applicants must be at least 17 years of age, be able and willing to work in the UK and have enough money to support themselves and any dependants without recourse to public funds.

Those fortunate enough to meet the requirements will receive a five-year visa which will enable them to work in the UK, in both employment and self-employment, and it is a route to settlement after five years continuous residence in the UK.

Each individual’s circumstances will be different; there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to deciding on the best work visa route. Our team of specialist immigration solicitors will be able to provide you with tailored advice on the options available to you to work in the UK. Get in touch today with a member of our team to discuss your requirements.


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Call us for free on 0330 159 5555 or complete our online form below to submit your enquiry or arrange a call back.