From 2008 onwards changes are being made to the UK immigration process. One of the major changes is the introduction of a points-based application system for those who wish to come to the UK to work. As well as introducing a points system for people applying to work in the UK the new system also redefines many of the existing work categories.
The Points-Based System
Under the new system foreign citizens applying to live or work in the UK will have to score a certain number of points in a range of categories in order to secure their visa or permit. The number of points that must be scored and the areas they relate to will vary depending on the type of visa that is being applied for.
The UK Border Agency website has a “points calculator” so that potential applicants can find out in advance whether their application is likely to be successful. Points are given in three general areas:
- Age, qualifications, salary, experience of the UK, sponsorship – different criteria apply to different categories of worker. Some applicants must be sponsored, or have a job offer, in order to apply. Others may be entitled to apply because of the skills and qualifications they have;
- English language skills – the importance of being able to communicate in English is a prominent feature of the new immigration system;
- Available funds – applicants may have to show that they can support themselves once they arrive in the UK.
Under the new system immigrants will be divided into five categories:
- Tier 1 – Highly skilled workers;
- Tier 2 – Skilled workers;
- Tier 3 – low-skilled workers;
- Tier 4 – Students;
- Tier 5 – Applicants under the youth mobility scheme and temporary workers.
Tier 1 – Highly Skilled Workers
Tier 1 applies to highly skilled individuals, investors, entrepreneurs and graduates of UK universities. The previous system for this category of worker ended on 29 June 2008. Applicants under Tier 1 must score at least 75 points for age, qualifications etc and 10 points each for English language skills and available funds.
Applicants in Tier 1 can subsequently switch to a different immigration category and may bring dependents with them.
Tier 2 – Skilled Workers
Tier 2 applies to sponsored skilled workers with job offers who are needed in the UK due to a shortage of that type of worker. This replaces many of the previous work permit categories and is due to come into force in November 2008. Ministers of religion and sports people will also apply under this category. General workers in Tier 2 will need a total of 70 points made up of 50 points for qualifications, salary etc and 10 points each for funds and English language skills.
Workers in Tier 2 may switch to another immigration category and can bring dependents.
Tier 3 – Low-skilled Workers
This immigration category is intended to provide workers to fill a short-term gap in the labour market. Workers in this category would not be able to switch to another immigration category and cannot bring dependents to the UK. This Tier is not currently in operation as at October 2008.
Tier 4 – Students
This category is due to be implemented in spring 2009 and will introduce stricter requirements for foreign nationals wishing to study in the UK. Students may switch to a different immigration category and can bring dependents but dependents may not work if the student’s permission to stay is for less than 12 months.
Tier 5 – Youth Mobility and Temporary Workers
This Tier applies to a range of temporary workers including au pairs, students on gap years and voluntary workers. This category is due to be introduced in November 2008. Applicants in most categories of worker covered by this Tier will need 40 points divided between sponsorship and available funds.
Workers in this Tier cannot switch to a different immigration category and dependents are allowed but may not work if the temporary worker is permitted to be in the UK for less than 12 months.