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Applications under the Point Based System

The points-based immigration system is the means of regulating immigration to the United Kingdom from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). The scheme was phased in between 2008 and 2010.

It is composed of five “tiers” which replaced all the previous work permits and entry schemes, including Scotland’s Fresh Talent Initiative. The system is administered by the UK Border Agency.

Tier 1 (General)

The Tier 1 (General) category allows highly skilled people to look for work or self-employment opportunities in the UK. Tier 1 (General) migrants can seek employment in the UK without a sponsor, and can take up self-employment and business opportunities here.

This category is now closed to applicants who are outside the UK, and to migrants who are already here in most other immigration categories.

You can apply to extend your stay in the UK under Tier 1 (General) if you are already in the UK with permission to stay (known as ‘leave to remain’) in one of the following immigration categories:

  • highly skilled migrant
  • writer, composer or artist
  • self-employed lawyer
  • Tier 1 (General)
  • Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP), if you are eligible to switch into Tier 1 (General).

Your total points score must be at least 95 points if you currently have permission to stay in the UK as:

  • a Tier 1 (General) migrant under the Immigration Rules in place before 19 July 2010;
  • a highly skilled migrant;
  • a writer, composer or artist; or
  • a self-employed lawyer.

If you are in any other eligible category, your total points score must be at least 100 points (unless you are covered by the HSMP Forum judicial review judgment – see below).

Your total score must include 10 points for English language skills and 10 points for maintenance (funds).

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)

The Entrepreneur subcategory is for those wishing to setup or take over a business (or businesses) in the UK that they will be actively involved in running. It grants three years leave and those applying must have over £200,000 of funds.

Tier 1 (Investor)

The Investor subcategory is for those who wish to invest £1,000,000 in the United Kingdom. Like the Entrepreneur type, it offers three years grant of leave.

Tier 1 (Post Study Work)

Under Tier 1 Post-study work students who have successfully completed a degree at a UK institution can apply for permission to work in the UK for two years without needing a work permit. Holders of postgraduate certificates and postgraduate diplomas were originally eligible to apply, but these qualifications were removed from the eligibility in April 2009.

For your application to be successful, you must score a total of 95 points and meet all the other requirements of the Immigration Rules – see ‘More information’ below.

If you are already in the UK in a different immigration category, you may be able to ‘switch’ into Tier 1 (Post-study work)

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

The Exceptional Talent sub-category is for those who are recognised or have potential to be recognized as exceptionally talented leaders in the fields of science, humanities, engineering and the arts. This visa is issued for an initial maximum period of three years and four months.

This new visa sub-category was launched on July 20, 2011 and goes into practice from August 9, 2011.

Tier 2

Tier 2 covers skilled workers with a job offer from a UK-based employer and was introduced in November 2008. It replaced the provisions for work permit employment, ministers of religion; airport-based operational ground staff, overseas qualified nurse or midwife, student union sabbatical posts, seafarers, named researchers, Jewish agency employees, and overseas representatives.

There are several categories under Tier 2, these are:-

  • General (Subject to annual limit of 21,700);
  • Minister of Religion;
  • Sports and Creative workers;
  • Intra Company Transfer (ICT);

There are three sub-categories in the ICT category, these are:-

  • Established staff. This route is for established, skilled employees to be transferred to the UK branch of their organisation to fill a post that cannot be filled by a settled worker.
  • Graduate trainee. This route allows the transfer of recent graduate recruits to a UK branch of the organisation, for training purposes.
  • Skills transfer. This route allows the transfer of new recruits to a UK branch of the organisation to acquire the skills and knowledge that they will need overseas, or to impart their specialist skills or knowledge to the UK workforce.

However, before you can apply under this category you need a valid certificate of sponsor, which can only be issued by a sponsor who is registered with the UK Border Agency.

Points Scoring

Points are awarded under the points based system for the following:

  • Qualifications (this ranges from GCSE A-Level equivalents to PHD’s);
  • Future Expected Earnings (the salary that is received by the applicant);
  • Sponsorship (the type of sponsorship you are applying under);
  • English language skills;
  • Available maintenance (funds used to support yourself).

Tier 4 (General) & Tier 4 (Child)

Tier 4 is the points based immigration route for non-EEA students, which was introduced at the end of March 2009.

To qualify for leave to remain in the UK as an adult student you must score 40 points.

You can score:

  • 30 points for having a valid confirmation of acceptance for studies, which you get for studying a course at an acceptable level with an approved education provider (also known as a ‘Tier 4 sponsor’), and for having acceptable English language skills; and
  • 10 points for having enough money (also known as maintenance or funds) to cover your course fees and living costs.

Tier 4 of the new system is not intended as a route to settled status in the UK.

The requirements for Tier 4 are still subject to change at short notice. You must read the latest UKBA Tier 4 guidance before making an application under Tier 4.:

Tier 5 (Creative and Sporting)

This section explains how you can come to the UK or remain here in the creative and sporting worker category.

The creative and sporting worker category is for people coming to the UK to work or perform as sportspeople, entertainers or creative artists for up to 12 months.

If you are a sportsperson, you must be internationally established at the highest level in your sport, and/or your employment must make a significant contribution to the development and running of sport at the highest level in the UK.

If you are a coach, you must be suitably qualified to do the job.

Tier 3

(Never used)

Tier 3 was originally designed for low-skilled workers filling specific temporary labour shortages, however it is currently suspended by the UK Government. A strong supply of labour from the European Economic Area (EEA), members of which do not require visas to work in the UK, has meant it has never been required since the points-based system was implemented in 2008.


In order to be eligible to apply under certain categories of the Points Based System, the applicant must have a sponsor which is on the UKBA register of sponsors. The register of sponsors lists all organisations that the UK Border Agency has licensed to employ migrant workers or sponsor migrant students. On 31 March 2009, the register of sponsors replaced the register of education and training providers published by the Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills (and previously by the Department for Education and Skills).

Under the points-based system, if you are an employer or education provider who wants to act as a sponsor, you will need a licence. When you get a licence, you are added to the register of sponsors.

The register of sponsors lists the name, location and sponsor rating of every registered organisation.

Only certain organisations/employers can be eligible for licences. Licences can only be applied for if:

  • The potential sponsor is a legitimate organisation working within the law in the UK;
  • There are no reasons to believe that the potential sponsor is a threat to immigration control; and
  • the organisation will meet its sponsorship duties.
  • These criteria are to ensure that those working or studying in the UK do so legally. If the potential sponsor is awarded a sponsor licence, they will be given a sponsor rating
  • this will be an ‘A rating’ or a ‘B rating’, and will be listed on the register. Instead of an A or B rating, Tier 4 (General) sponsors can apply for a Highly Trusted sponsor licence.

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