Introduction To Immigration Tiers

The following information is related to the UK's new points based system, which is not yet been fully implemented. It is possible that information may change from time to time..

In 2008/2009 the UK will be overhauling its immigration law and implementing a “points” based system for non-European Union migrants looking to come to the UK for work, education or training.

The new immigration system will be broken into five tiers that will replace the current system of 80 or so routes that make it up currently. Each tier will have different conditions, entitlements, and entry requirements for migrants looking to work in the UK.

Outlined below is the governments new points based tiered immigration system. Please note this information is subject to change.

Five Tiers

The five tiers are outlined below client on the tier to get more detailed information

  • Designed for highly skilled migrants, entrepreneurs, investors, and graduate students. This Tier is to replace the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP), the Entrepreneur and Investor schemes, and the International Graduates Scheme.
  • Tier 2: Designed for skilled workers who have a job offer from local companies. This tier will encompass the current UK Work Permit rules.
  • Tier 3: Designed for a limited number of lower skilled workers to fill “in demand” with temporary shortages in the labour market.
  • Tier 4: Students looking to study in the UK.
  • Tier 5: Designed for youth mobility and temporary workers. This would relate to those for example who come under Working Holiday agreements with other countries.

Note - Tiers 3 and 5 are temporary migration solutions and migrants who fall under these tiers will not be able to move to a different tier from within the UK. The UK has suspended Tier 3 in favour of migrants from the EU. This may change depending on labour market demands.

Tiers 1, 2, and 4 will qualify to move to another tier once they are in the UK if they meet the requirements of that particular tier. Tiers 1 and 2 may potentially lead to establishing settlement if the permanent residence requirements are met at the time of application.

Points Structure

Each tier will require the applicant to score a determined number of points to gain entry clearance or extension of his or her leave to remain in the UK. Points will be awarded based on various criteria specific to each tier. In all tiers, points will be awarded for criteria which show that the individual is likely to meet the immigration requirements.

In Tiers 1 and 2, points will be awarded for criteria such as

  • Age
  • Previous salary or prospective salary
  • Qualifications

This system is similar to the current Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) Sponsorship

All migrants applying under Tiers 2-5 will be required to have sponsorship from a licensed sponsor (an employer or educational institution). The certificate of sponsorship assures that the migrant is able to perform the particular job or course of study.

Highly skilled Tier 1 migrants do not require a job offer and therefore they do not need a sponsorship.


Dependents are permitted to come to the UK with the primary applicant. However, they will not be permitted to work if they accompany a student under Tier 4 or a temporary worker under Tier 5 if in both cases the individual has been given less than 12 months leave to remain in the UK.

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