If you are a foreign national wishing to work or study in the United Kingdom but you are subject to immigration control, you must first apply for a UK visa. The UK immigration authorities use a five tier points-based system with each tier divided into various categories for different types of work or study visa applications.
UK’s first point based immigration system was launched in February 2008 by the Labour government based on the Australian system. It replaced a labyrinthine stratagem which saw 80 different types of visa granted. Since the UK is a member of the European Union the points-based system only applies to people who are entering the country from outside the European Union. However, after BREXIT, such system might be applied to all member states of the European Union too, though such thing is still unknown.
What is the Points Based System (PBS)?
The points-based visa system is the main UK immigration route for migrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) to come to the United Kingdom, to work, study, invest or train, which separates applicants into five ‘tiers’.
In order to be eligible for a visa in any of the five tiers you must pass a points-based assessment. Each tier has different conditions, entitlements, and entry requirements for people wishing to live and work in the UK and each tier will necessitate you to allocate a sufficient number of points to gain entry clearance or leave to remain in the United Kingdom. Points are allocated according to traits, such as age, qualifications, earnings, language and funds, with a different number of points needed for each of the five tiers.
The ability to fund your initial stay in the UK and your ability to speak English will play a very significant role in most cases.
The system is designed to ensure that no one who might jeopardize the health of other persons in the UK is admitted. Furthermore, those unable to support themselves or their dependants in the UK for medical reasons, and those that require major medical treatment (unless explicitly granted), will not be granted with any of the points-based system visas.
Read about the new Points Based Immigration System that will come to force from 1 January 2021:
Points Based Calculator
You can use our UK Points Based Calculator to determine whether you qualify for one of the visas in the Points Based System:
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Points Required for Each Tier
Based on the tier the candidate will have to allocate the necessary points which vary on the type of visa they are applying for. The required points may differ from each other as follows:
Depending on the age, one can allocate 5 to 20 points. The system privileges young applicants assessing them with more points than those older.
- English Language:
Each applicant must obtain 10 points for English language ability. Nationals of countries where English is an official language automatically obtain ten points, while nationals of other countries must first take a test to prove their English ability.
Some tiers assess education level from 30 to 50 points and others from 5 to 15 points.
Depending on the tier earnings or maintenance, candidates financial means are assessed with 15 to 45 points of 5 to 20 points.
- UK experience:
Some of the tiers may evaluate the experience that one has had in the United Kingdom with 5 points.
- Certificate of Sponsorship:
CoS is evaluated with 30 to 50 points.
The five tier visa system consists of the following:
Tier 1 Visas
For highly skilled individuals, entrepreneurs, investors, and graduate students from outside the European Union and the European Economic Area who would offer productivity and growth within the UK. The candidate does not need a job offer in order to be eligible to apply, but must pass a points-based assessment. This tier has three main routes.
- Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur – This route would permit the recent graduates to open a business in the UK.
- Tier 1 Entrepreneur – This route would authorize the migrant to establish themselves in business within the UK.
- Tier 1 Investor – This route is meant for persons who want to make an investment of at least £2,000,000 in the UK.
- Tier 1 Exceptional Talent – This route is for persons who have been considered to have exceptional talent in their field of expertise.
In some cases, the visa holder can bring their partner or children to the UK with them, but he or she must show proof of sufficient funds to provide for them. Then, they will be able to apply under a family visa.
Length of stay is up to 3 years and 4 months. The period of stay may be extended up to 2 years more.
Points allocated for a Visa in the Tier 1 category
Under Tier 1 applicants must score at least 95 points, including at least 75 points scored for primary attributes, as outlined in the following tables:
|Under 28 years||20|
|28 or 29||10|
|30 or 31||5|
|less than £20,000||0|
In addition the applicant can gain up to 25 more points if they fulfill any of the following criteria:
|5 points||If £16,000 or more of the applicant’s previous earnings for which points are claimed were earned in the UK,
or the applicant has completed full time study in the UK for at least one full academic year,
or has been awarded a qualification at bachelor’s degree level or above.
|10 points||For English language proficiency|
|10 points||For available funds (maintenance) who are overseas and have £2,800 in available funds
or to applicants who are in the UK and have £800 in available funds.
As per the English language Criterium, nationals of countries where English is not an official language, must take a test in order to prove their English language ability. One of the most popular and widely accessible Approved English Language Tests for migrants to the UK is the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), in which applicants must score at least 6.5 on each of the 4 components.
Nationals of these countries automatically claim 10 points for English language ability.
- Antigua & Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand
- St Kitts & Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent & the Grenadines
- Trinidad & Tobago
- United States of America
This category is for ‘skilled workers’, professional sports people, and clergy members from outside the EEA with a job offer to fill gaps within the UK labor force. It includes skilled workers who are transferred to the UK by an international company, skilled workers where there is a proven shortage in the UK, ministers of religion and sports people. This tier has four main routes.
- Tier 2 General Visa – This route will apply to migrants who have a job offer within the UK for a medium – highly skilled employment.
- Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer Visa – This route offers overseas companies to transfer medium or highly skilled staff, to the same company or organization based in the UK.
- Tier 2 Ministers of Religion Visa – This route would apply to migrants who have a pastoral role to take employment within the UK in the community of their religion.
- Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa – This route would apply to sports personnel and highly skilled coaches who wish to take up employment within the UK.
Points allocated for a Visa in the Tier 2 category
Under Tier 2, at least 70 points, including 10 for maintenance and 10 for English, are needed from the following tables to apply for entry:
|Bachelor’s or Master’s||10|
|Certificate of Sponsorship||Points|
|Offer of job in shortage Occupation||50|
|Offer of job that passes Resident Labor Market Test||30|
|Intra Company Transfer||30|
|Competence in English||10|
This category was designed for low-skilled workers filling specific temporary labor shortages within the UK. But after the system began operating, the British government decided there was no need for further unskilled immigration from outside the EU. Under the coalition, it has been removed.
This category is for students aged over 16 from outside the EEA who wish to study in the United Kingdom, either at a school, college, or university. Applicants must have a place at a registered UK educational establishment before they can apply. This tier has two main routes.
- Tier 4 Child Student Visa – applies to children between 4 – 16 who wish to come to the UK and attend an independent school to continue their education.
- Tier 4 General Student Visa – to study post 16 education within the UK.
Points allocated for a Visa in the Tier 4 category
Under Tier 4, students need to score 40 points, consisting of:
- 30 points for a full-time place on a course with an approved education provider which is at level 3 or above on the National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) framework. Full-time means a minimum of 15 hours of classroom study per week.
- 10 points for maintenance.
This category contains six sub-tiers of temporary workers, including creative and sporting, charity, religious workers, and the youth mobility scheme which enables about 55,000 young people every year to work in the UK on working holidays. The visas are awarded to young people from countries that have reciprocal arrangements with the UK.
- Youth Mobility Scheme – Participating Countries who have young migrants that while working temporary will become familiar with the diversity in culture of the UK.
- Tier 5 Temporary Workers Visa – There are a number of roles that fall into this category, which include: International agreement, sports and creativity, religious workers, charity workers and government authorized).
Tiers 3 and 5 are temporary routes, and migrants who have benefited from them will not be able to switch out of them once in the UK. Those in Tiers 1, 2 and 4 will be eligible to switch between tiers subject if they fulfill the requirements of the tier they wish to switch into. Dependents are allowed under Tiers 1, 2, 4 and 5.
However, dependents will not be allowed to work where accompanying a student (tier 4) or a temporary worker (tier 5) who has been given permission to remain for less than 12 months in the UK.
Points allocated for a Visa in the Tier 5 category
Under Tier 5, temporary workers need to allocate 40 points, consisting of:
- 30 points for a Certificate of Sponsorship from an overarching sponsor body, and
- 10 points for maintenance
Those on the youth mobility scheme must score 50 points, consisting of:
- 30 points for nationality,
- 10 points for age (in the age range 18-30 years old) and
- 10 points for one’s capacity to support oneself financially