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UK Visa Points-Based Immigration System

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The United Kingdom's points-based visa system (previously 5 tier visa system) is the main UK immigration route for migrants to come to the UK to work, study or train.  A number of significant changes were made to the UK visa points based system on 1 December 2020, before the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020.  There are very similar UK visa categories that used to come under the Tier 2 visa scheme.  You now have the Skilled Worker visa and GBM Senior or Specialist Worker visa (formerly Intra-Company Transfer visa) schemes. Since just before the Ukraine war the Tier 1 Investor visa no longer exists.

The new UK visa points system introduced on 1 December 2020 is in many ways very similar to the previous four 'tiers' points based immigration system. In order to be eligible you must pass a points-based assessment. In Skilled Worker visa applications, points are awarded if the applicant is sponsored by an employer, is being paid a high enough salary, meets the English language requirements and meets the financial requirement.

You must reach a points score above a minimum threshold if your application is to be successful. The minimum number of points required varies for each UK visa category.

UK Points Based Visa System

The UK visa points based system consists of the following:

  • UK Work Visa  This is for 'skilled workers' from outside the EEA with a job offer from an UK employer with a sponsor licence. It includes the Skilled Worker visa category (RQF Level 3 and higher), those who are transferred to the UK under the intra-company transfer visa by an international company, and ministers of religion and sportspeople.
  • Tier 3 Visa : This category was originally designed for low-skilled workers filling specific temporary labour shortages and no longer exists. The Government never allocated any visas under this scheme. 
  • Student Visa: Previously called the Tier 4 visa, this category is for overseas students who wish to study in the UK. Applicants must have a place at a UK educational establishment with a sponsor licence before they can apply.
  • Temporary Work Visa : This category replaces the similar Tier 5 visa scheme, and contains six sub-tiers of temporary worker 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.

Other UK visas

The UK points based visa system covers most work, study, and investment visas. But visitor visas, family visas, and some UK business visas fall outside of the five tiers.

  • UK Visitor Visas: This section has the information you need to enter the UK as a visitor, whether for business or pleasure 
  • UK Family Visas: Whether you want to bring your family to the UK, or join a family member already living there, this section covers the main UK visa options for families.
  • UK Business Visas: This section covers a number of long term business visas that fall outside of the UK visa points based system.

Further information, help, and advice's team of specialists has over thirty years of experience in international visa services, and have helped thousands of people to study and work in the UK. We work in conjunction with OISC registered advisers who can submit your UK sponsor licence application and visa application to UK Visas and Immigration at the Home Office. 

For more information and advice on UK immigration law and UK visa applications please contact us on 0344 991 9222 or at