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The points-based immigration system is currently being phased in as the means of regulating immigration to the United Kingdom from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). The scheme is composed of five "tiers" which will replace all the previous work permits and entry schemes, including Scotland's Fresh Talent Initiative.




Tier 1

Tier 1 covers highly skilled workers and was introduced on 29 June 2008. It is split into a number of sub-categories each with their own requirements.

Tier 1 (General)

Tier 1 (General) applies to highly skilled potential migrants looking for a job or wishing to become self-employed in the UK, and has replaced the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP). [1] Applicants to Tier 1 (General) are awarded points for attributes including age, previous or prospective salary and qualifications. Applicants must score at least 75 points for primary attributes and 10 points each for English language and having the necessary funds to ensure maintenance in the UK.[1] Applicants do not need to have a formal job offer made by a licensed UK employer in order to apply under this category.

The current Highly Skilled Migrant Programme has been phased out over the course of 2008 and highly skilled migrants already in the UK now come under Tier 1 of the new points-based system.

Tier 1 (Post Study Work)

Under Tier 1 (Post-study work)[2], students who have successfully completed a first or postgraduate degree at a UK institution can apply for permission to work in the UK for 2 years without needing a work permit. Postgraduate certificates and postgraduate diplomas have not been eligible since April 2009.

Post Study Work combined the previous International Graduates Scheme (IGS) and Fresh Talent - Working in Scotland Scheme (FTWiSS) into a single UK-wide 2-year work scheme. Those working under the IGS can switch into the new scheme for a maximum total leave of 24 months[3].

The UK Border Agency describes Tier 1 (Post Study Work) as "a bridge to highly skilled or skilled work. People with Post Study Work leave will be expected to switch into another part of the points system as soon as they are able to do so".[4].

Key features:

  • To apply in the UK, applicants must have obtained their qualification with the immigration status of student or dependant. Those who obtained their qualification with another status, or who completed their studies outside the UK, must apply in their home country.
  • Those switching in the UK from student to Post Study Work need to show they have had a cash reserve of at least £800 for at least three months, with this 3 month period ending no longer than 30 days before the application. Those applying for entry clearance in their home country will need to show a cash reserve of at least £2800.[5]. Applicants with dependants need to show additional maintenance.
  • The application fee to extend leave in the UK under Post Study Work is £500 by post, or £700 in person. Entry clearance applications for the scheme at a British Embassy or High Commission are expected to increase to £205 (£200 for FTWiSS and IGS)[6].
  • The deadline for applying is 12 months after "date of award", which is defined as the actual date when formal notification of the result was received.

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)

The Entrepreneur [7] 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 3 years leave and those applying must have over £200,000 of funds.

Tier 1 (Investor)

The Investor [8] subcategory is for those who wish to invest £1,000,000 in the United Kingdom. Like the Entrepreneur type, it offers 3 years grant of leave.

Tier 2

Tier 2[9] covers skilled workers with a job offer from a UK-based employer and will be introduced in November 2008. It will replace the existing 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, Training and Work Experience Scheme (TWES), Jewish agency employees, and overseas representatives (news media)[10].

Tier 3

Tier 3 is for low skilled workers filling specific temporary labour shortages but the government does not expect this tier to be required while low-skilled labour demand can be met from within the European Economic Area.[11]

Tier 4

Tier 4 started to operate in 2009 and is for students.

Tier 5

Tier 5[12] began in November 2008 and covers temporary workers and youth mobility. It replaced the previous schemes of Working Holidaymaker, au pairs, BUNAC, the Gap Year entrants concession, the Japan: Youth Exchange Scheme and the concession for research assistants to MPs [13].

This category will be made up of 5 sub-categories and the Youth Mobility scheme. These sub-categories include: Temporary workers - International Agreement; Temporary Workers - Charity Workers; Temporary Workers - Creative and Sporting; Temporary Workers - Religious Workers; and Temporary Workers - Government Authorised Exchange. Of the general requirements for all of these sub-categories, a major requirement is that individuals are able to come to the UK for a maximum of 12 months (except for the Youth Mobility and International Agreement Schemes where successful applicants will get 24 months) in order to seek temporary and short-term work, after which they will be expected to leave. Applicants under all Tier 5 sub-categories need to score 30 points for a valid certificate of sponsorship from a licensed UK employer (except the Youth Mobility Scheme), and 10 points for maintenance (having enough funds to support themselves in the UK - currently this is £800).

Public reception

One of the justifications for the move to a new immigration system has been the perceived need to restore public trust in immigration law and controls.[14] The system has been criticised by the opposition Conservative Party because it lacks an overall cap on the number of people who can qualify under the points criteria.[14] There have also been concerns that, in failing to provide for the possibility of low-skilled migration from outside of the EEA, the system might cause skills shortages in sectors such as the construction industry in the run-up to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.[15]


  1. ^ a b "The points-based system: How it works". UK Border Agency. Retrieved 2008-03-16.  
  2. ^ Tier 1 (Post Study Work)
  3. ^ "UK Border Agency- Tier 1 (Post Study) - Transitional arrangements". UK Border Agency. Retrieved 2008-08-02.  
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Highly skilled migrants under the points-based system: Statement of intent". Border & Immigration Agency. Retrieved 2008-04-27.  
  6. ^
  7. ^ UK Border Agency | Entrepreneurs
  8. ^ UK Border Agency | Investors
  9. ^ UK Border Agency - Tier 2
  10. ^
  11. ^ Dominic Casciani (2008-02-29). "Migration: How points will work". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-03-16.  
  12. ^ UK Border Agency - Tier 5
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b Patrick Wintour (2007-12-06). "Smith seeks to restore trust in immigration system". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-03-16.  
  15. ^ "Games 'may need non-EU workers'". BBC News. 2008-01-22. Retrieved 2008-03-16.  

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