Tier Points-Based System

If you are a foreign national wanting to work or study in the UK but you are subject to immigration control, you must first apply for a UK visa. The UK Border Agency uses a five tier points-based system with each tier divided into various categories for different types of work or study visa applications. Tier 1 is for high-value migrants, Tier 2 for skilled workers,Tier 4 for students and Tier 5 for temporary skilled or youth mobility workers.

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa

From 6 April 2015 a business plan is compulsory for all initial applications for a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa. Contact us for a Business Plan writing service as part of your application.

This category is one of the very few remaining categories, which allows to come to the UK to work. The trick is you will have to work for yourself in your own UK-based business and usually need funds of £200,000.

APPLYING OUTSIDE THE UK (ENTRY CLEARANCE)

You need to have an equivalent of minimum GBP 200,000 in funds. The funds can be shared with one other person and/or can be from the third parties (sponsors), in which case very specific documents will be needed (and even specific details on those documents). If the funds aren’t in the UK then your bank would also need to confirm the money can be transferred to the UK.

Furthermore, you also need to prove you are genuinely intending to run a business in the UK. You may be planning to start your own or buy an established business or join one as a director. However, at the initial application stage you need to show you are well-prepared for that. The following information is not strictly required by the Immigration Rules, yet you are unlikely to secure an Entrepreneur visa without most of them: a Business plan, Market research, contacts with potential clients, contacts with accountants and/or lawyers who advise on business and especially employment law in the UK. Your previous experience and qualifications will also be taken into account.

There is also English language requirement and maintenance, ie a certain amount of funds held for 90 days, in addition to the main GBP 200 000 amount.

The main challenge with this application is, well, not the money (without the money you would not be considering it at all). If any of those reading this page were already refused a visa in the past, they would know that the main challenge is to get the documents right and that includes the ‘Specified Evidence’ as well as extras, such as a business plan (the visa officers actually read it!). In our work we spend hours meticulously going through the details on the documents (as well as checking the order of documents).

It is most probable that you may be invited for an interview (and this is where all the questions about your business plan will be asked!), however, such interviews are relatively rare for applications outside the UK. Most commonly, such interviews are conducted with those applying inside the UK, please see the section about interviews below.

We also offer service of writing a Business Plan for an Entrepreneur visa.

If successful, you would have a visa for 3 years plus 4 months. You can only work for your own business and can’t work for others. Also, you are not supposed to work as a ‘contractor’.

APPLYING INSIDE THE UK (SWITCHING):

First of all, you have to be eligible, which means your current visa must allow such a switch.

Examples of switching:

–       If you have a Tier 2 visa (sponsored work visa allowing to work only for the sponsor).

–       If you have a Tier 1 General visa, you can only switch to an Entrepreneur visa if you had already registered a business in the UK before 6 April 2015. However, you can apply outside the UK any time.

–       If you have a Tier 4 (Student) visa, you can only switch to an Entrepreneur visa if you have £50,000 from a funding competition endorsed by the UK Trade & Investment or from a UK Government Department. If not, you have to apply from outside the UK and with the full amount of £200,000.

Tier 1 (General) visa

Remember! Home Office has already stopped extending Tier 1 General visa from 6 April 2015, as from this date no such applications are accepted for extension. Last ILR applications based on Tier 1 General will be in April 2018. Those Tier 1 General migrants who can’t qualify for ILR by then will also be prevented from switching to a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa unless they are already running a business on 6 April 2015 (but there is nothing preventing from applying into this category from abroad).

Points Test

Points are awarded to a Tier 1 (General) Skilled applicant based on:

  • Qualifications;
  • Age;
  • Past earnings (at least the equivalent of UK £25,000 from the 12 months the applicant is claiming);
    Note:
     Applicants who earn at least the equivalent of UK £150,000 from the 12 months they are claiming will automatically receive 75 points towards their application and automatically qualify provided they receive the mandatory points for English language ability and funds available.
  • UK work experience;
  • UK qualifications;
  • English language ability; AND
  • Funds available to maintain yourself while in the UK.

Common Examples of Tier 1 General applications and type of work/sources of earning 

  • Migrants, who work in the UK as contractors, ie working for a company on a self-employed basis, such as having their own limited company. This may include a combination of working as an employee, then as a contractor or other way around. We can deal with applicants who pay themselves a director’s salary, dividends or receive profit as a sole trader (self-employed without a limited company).
  • Migrants, who worked as employees, either in one job or in several jobs during the 12 months we need to assess for a visa (in the last 15 months).
  • Migrants, who worked abroad during their previous Tier 1 visa, often worked in the Middle East or in Asia.
  • Migrants, who previously were on Tier 2 ICT visas working for IT companies and banks in the UK.
  • Migrants, who for the purpose of a Tier 1 application, combined Earnings from their work abroad. In such cases they could use an an uplift (5.3) for the part of income from actual work conducted while they were present abroad. This was applicable to initial Tier 1 General applications only (not to extensions).
  • Migrants, who work in the UK, often in IT and financial sector, on a Work Permit, Tier 2 or Tier 1 General visas.

We offer Same-Day Service by which you will get decision on the same day.

Tier 1 Investor Visa

Tier 1 (Investor) visa is designed for high net worth individuals who want to relocate themselves and their family to the UK. Only a few hundred of these visas are granted per year and very few immigration firms have a consistent track record in Investor visa applications.

Tier 1 (Investor) visa category applies to the main applicant and all immediate family members, including spouse and children under the age of 18.  Initially, investor visa is granted for three years and four months and can then be extended for another two years, by providing evidence that an investment of at least £ 2 million was made in the UK.  There is no requirement to demonstrate English language ability. Work, study and business activity is permitted. The length of time required to qualify for permanent residence depends on the amount of investment, as follows:

  • Investment of £2 million – eligibility for indefinite leave to remain after 5 years in the UK
  • Investment of £ 5 million – eligibility for indefinite leave to remain after 3 years in the UK
  • Investment of £ 10 million – eligibility for indefinite leave to remain after 2 years in the UK

The number of days that the applicant is permitted to spend outside of the UK has been increased to 180 days per year. Applicants in the first category are eligible to apply for British citizenship after having spent 6 years in the country, while those in the second and third categories are eligible to apply after 5 years of residence in the UK.

The investment into the British economy can be made as follows

United Kingdom Government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading companies that are registered in the United Kingdom. Investment in share or loan capital in active and trading companies that are registered in the United Kingdom can include investment held in foreign currencies.

Minimum age of main applicant now reduced to 16

The Immigration Rules now permit children aged 16 and 17 years to apply under the Tier 1 (Investor) category, provided that their parents support the application and confirm that they are happy with the care arrangements in place. Whilst in the UK with this type of leave, Tier 1 investor children are permitted to study for their A-levels at a private school and can then progress to university. This means that they can use this route to achieve indefinite leave to remain by the time they are 21 years old, assuming they meet the requirements including that regarding residence. This is a simpler route to settlement than that under the Tier 4 student category. Furthermore, subject to meeting the specific residence requirement (see below), such individuals could then potentially be British citizens by the time they are 22 years old.

Residence requirement that must be met in order to qualify for naturalisation (British citizenship)

It is very important to note that the residence requirement for becoming a British citizen is very different to that which has to be met when applying for indefinite leave to remain (ie settlement).

Whilst a Tier 1 (investor) migrant can spend up to 180 days out of every 12 month period they live in the UK abroad without jeopardising their eligibility for settlement, when it comes to applying for British citizenship, they must not have spent more than 450 days out of the UK during the 5 year qualifying period, and no more than 90 days during the final 12 months of this.

This is something we strongly advise all potential applicants to bear in mind if their long-term plan is to apply for citizenship.

Tier 2 Visa

Tier 2 of the Points Based System replaced work permits from 27 November 2008.

There are different subgroups of Tier 2:

  1. Tier 2 (General), the provisions of which are summarised in this Information Sheet
  2. Intra-company transfers which could apply to you if you are employed by a multi-national company outside the UK which has a UK branch
  3. Sportspersons
  4. Ministers of Religion.

Tier 2 requirements: an overview

In order to apply under Tier 2 (General), you must meet all the following requirements.:

  • Your employer must have a Tier 2 sponsor licence
  • Your job must have a particular skills level
  • There is a minimum wage level of £20,800 (£20,500 if your certificate of sponsorship was issued before 6 April 2015), though this depends on the job and can be higher
  • Usually the job must have been advertised as required by the Home Office, but most Tier 4 students who have graduated recently are exempt from this advertising requirement (resident labour market test)
  • You have to prove that you have English language skills, which you meet if you have a UK degree, and meet maintenance requirements
  • If you want to, or must, apply outside the UK, or if you apply in the UK and you have immigration permission as a Tier 4 partner, your job must score a minimum number of points.
  • If you want to make your immigration application in the UK, you must meet certain additional requirements

Tier 2 employers

An employer who is on the Home Office list of Tier 2 (General) Licensed Sponsors can issue a certificate of sponsorship to a potential employee who would not otherwise be allowed to work in the UK. If you want to be in the UK under Tier 2, you must be sponsored by an employer who has a Tier 2 sponsor licence.

If are not sure about which employers in the UK in your area of work are Tier 2 sponsors, or if you have to apply through recruitment agencies, you should discuss with careers advisers in your university or college or with your professional body (if relevant) how best to ensure that you apply for jobs with employers who have a Tier 2 sponsor licence.

The jobs for which people are sponsored under Tier 2 are in the following sectors:

  • Information and communications
  • Health and social work
  • Professional, scientific and technical
  • Education
  • Financial and insurance

Shortage occupations

Shortage occupations are jobs that employers find difficult to fill using settled workers only. If a job is on the shortage occupation list, your employer does not have to carry out the resident labour market test before offering the job to you. There is a list for the whole of the UK and a separate list that applies only to jobs in Scotland.

PhD level jobs

PhD level jobs are mainly research posts. You do not necessarily have to have a PhD in order to be offered a PhD level job, and some occupations that require a PhD are not on the list of PhD level jobs. They are still subject to the resident labour market test. However, the advertising requirements for PhD level jobs are more relaxed than for most other posts and an employer will be able to offer you employment if you are the best applicant even if settled workers who apply could undertake the work.

Skill levels

If you are not already in the UK with Tier 2 or work permit immigration permission, the minimum skills level for most occupations is described as National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 6. The lists of jobs that are at this level and above are in the Immigration Rules Appendix J. The relevant tables are table 1 (occupations skilled to PhD-level) and table 2 (occupations skilled to NQF level 6 and above).

One exception to this requirement applies to you if you have a specified job in one of the creative sector occupations (artists, authors, writers, actors, entertainers, presenters, dancers, choreographers, or product, clothing and related designers), in which case the minimum skills level is NQF level 4. For these particular jobs only, table 3 (occupations skilled to NQF level 4 and above) is relevant.

The other exception that could apply to you is if you have an offer of a job that is on the list of shortage occupations. In this case, the minimum skills level is NQF level 4. The list of shortage occupations is in Appendix K of the Immigration Rules.

Wage levels

The lowest wage you can be paid for a Tier 2 (General) job is £20,800 (£20,500 if your certificate of sponsorship is issued before 6 April 2015). The minimum wage for each different occupation varies and you will find the relevant wage for your job in the tables we refer to above in Skills levels of Tier 2 jobs. In many cases, the minimum wage is more than this, and you cannot be sponsored under Tier 2 if your job will pay less than the minimum wage associated with your occupation.

Sometimes wages below £20,800 are mentioned in the occupations tables. This is because some people who are already in the UK with Tier 2 or work permit immigration permission (leave) can rely on lower wage levels if they need to apply to extend their leave. There is also an exception for nurses and midwives who are working towards registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. If these two exceptions do not apply to you, you cannot rely on wages lower than this minimum level.

For example, from 6 April 2015, the minimum wage in table 2 (occupations skilled to NQF level 6 and above) for tax advisers is £19,800 for new entrants. If you meet the definition of new entrant, the lowest wage you can be offered is £20,800. If you do not meet the definition of “new entrant”, the minimum wage you can be paid is £33,900 (the “experienced worker” rate).

New entrant

Tier 2 (General) applicants who meet the definition of “new entrant” can rely on the lowest wage for each occupation, subject to a minimum of £20,800 (£20,500 if your certificate of sponsorship was issued before 6 April 2015).

You meet the definition of “new entrant” if you fall within one of the following categories:

  • you are under 26 years old on the date when you make your Tier 2 immigration application
  • your Tier 2 sponsor recruited you by carrying out a university milk-round (check with your employer if that applies to you)
  • you meet the requirements of the PSW exemption from RLMT.

The employer is probably correctly saying that you need to have permission to work in order to start the job. For those with current Tier 4 leave, or those coming to the end of Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) leave, this would usually mean being sponsored by the employer under Tier 2.

If you need Tier 2 immigration permission in order to stay in the UK for work, you should check before applying whether the employer has a Tier 2 Sponsor License.

TIER 4

Under Tier 4 students can apply to enter the UK as a child student between 4 and 17 years old, as an adult student over 18, alternatively as a child or student visitor. There are 4 categories to choose from:

  • Tier 4 (Child)
  • Tier 4 (General)
  • Child Visitors
  • Student Visitors

The UK is home to some of the world’s best universities, colleges and schools.  The UK government offers Student Visas to welcome foreign students who want to study in the UK.

The Tier 4 Student Visa replaces the old UK Student Visa.

If you have been offered a full-time place at a UK educational institution, you may be eligible to enter the UK on a Student Visa.

Student Visa UK Requirements

  • You must have a secured place at a UK-based institution for full-time study. Full-time means a minimum of 15 hours of classroom study per week.
  • You plan to study minimum B2 level of English language course of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) but exceptions can be made if you are a government-sponsored student or if you want to study a pre-sessional English course that meets certain requirements.
  • You must be able to support yourself without access to public funds, as well as pay for the course and all accommodation and maintenance.
  • It is essential that applicants state that they intend to return to their home country after the course is completed.

Student Visa UK Conditions

  • Successful applicants are normally granted a one year visa initially, depending on the length of the course.
  • If you are applying under Tier 4 (General) to study a course that is below degree level and is not a foundation degree, you may only work 10 hours per week.
  • If you are applying under Tier 4 (Child) and you are 16 or 17 years old, you may only work 10 hours per week during term time.
  • If you are applying to study a course under Tier 4 (General) for six months or less, you are not able to bring your family members.
  • If you are applying to study a course lower than degree level (excluding foundation degree courses) under Tier 4 (General), your
  • dependants will not be able to work (unless they qualify to work in their own right under Tier 1 or Tier 2 of the points-based system).

List of Tier 4 changes by Dates:

  • From 12 November making students at publicly funded further education colleges leave the UK before applying for Tier 2 or Tier 5 work visas, rather than being able to switch visas from within the UK; because of the added inconvenience to Tier 4 students this will have the effect of reducing the number of skilled graduates from overseas working in the UK.
  • From 3 August banning Tier 4 Students at publicly funded further education colleges from working while they study. Currently most migrant students at colleges may work up to 10 hours per week. This will impact students from poorer countries the most, as often their families will be unable to offer financial support.
  • From 12 November stopping Tier 4 college students from extending their visa after their course finishes, unless they begin studying at an institution with a ‘direct, formal link’ with a UK university.
  • From 3 August restricting new courses that Tier 4 University students may study to those which have ‘a link to their previous course’, or which ‘support their career aspirations’, as determined by their university.
  • From 12 November reduce the time that Tier 4 students may study at a further education college, from 3 years to 2 years. Many further education courses can run for more than 2 years.
  • From the Autumn banning family members of Tier 4 students (Tier 4 dependants) from taking on ‘low skilled’ work. The changes would allow dependants to take on skilled work only; effectively discriminating against students from poor countries, whose families often did not have the opportunity to gain the skills needed for this sort of work.
  • Introducing stricter English language requirements for Tier 4 visa applicants.

Individuals wishing to study for 6 months or less may qualify for a student visitor visa, however, some nationals will still require entry clearance in this category.

TIER 5

Under Tier 5 temporary skilled workers can apply to enter the UK for a short time although generally they will need to be sponsored by an employer in the UK. There are 5 categories of temporary worker here, plus the youth mobility category (note, the youth mobility scheme is not an employment route):

  • Creative and sporting
  • Charity workers
  • Religious workers
  • Government authorised exchange
  • International agreement
  • Youth mobility scheme

If you currently have permission to stay in the UK you may be able to switch to or from your category and/or tier from inside the UK although this will involve a fresh points-based assessment.