On 19 May 2008, the United Kingdom implemented temporary changes for highly skilled migrants claiming points on their Tier 1 (General) visa application. The changes affect how some professional qualifications earned overseas are assessed.
Normally, UK NARIC -- a privately owned company -- verifies professional qualifications as being equivalent to a UK Bachelors, Masters, or PhD when the UK Border Agency does not do so in-house. However, UK NARIC is "unable to verify the full range of professional qualifications at this time", the UK Border Agency said in a release.
For the time being, an original letter from the relevant UK professional body confirming that an applicant's overseas qualification is equal to either a UK Bachelors, Masters, or PhD degree will be acceptable when claiming points for a professional qualification.
According to the UK Border Agency, the letter:
- must be original, on official letter-headed paper or stationary of the appropriate UK professional body
- must have been issued by an authorised official of the organisation
- must confirm the qualification, including the country and the organisation that awarded the qualification
- must state which academic level (Bachelors, Masters or PhD) the qualification is equivalent to
- must state a person of contact within the appropriate UK professional body issuing the letter
Letters of equivalency are not needed for Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) visa holders extending their leave to remain as a Tier 1 (General) migrant if the applicant has previously scored points for an acceptable professional qualification on their previous application.
The United Kingdom's Tier 1 for General Highly Skilled Migrants sub-category, part of its five-tier points based system, is in the process of being phased in for highly skilled workers who wish to immigrate to the UK. It will eventually replace the HSMP, which has been in operation since 2002.
Both programs are points based systems which assess applicants based upon their age, qualifications, and proficiency in English, amongst other criteria.