The United Kingdom will be implementing sweeping changes to its immigration system for non-European Union nationals who want to work, study, or train in Britain. The system will be broken into five tiers which will encompass highly skilled migration, work permits, students, working holiday makers, and just about all other routes related to employment, study, business, or investment.
This article aims to give a broad overview of the new points system, how points are allocated, and highlight aspects of the system which have not been covered in depth yet. For an up-to-date detailed structure of the new points-based tiered immigration system, please see our UK Tiered Immigration section.
The new points based system is expected to simplify existing UK immigration law. Currently, there are a multitude of immigration schemes such as the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) and the UK Work Permits program, as well as schemes for those wishing to start a business or make significant foreign investment in the country.
The new tiered immigration system will make the structure and requirements for immigration much clearer. For example, the HSMP, business entrepreneurs, investors, and those coming under the current International Graduates Scheme will fall under Tier 1 and skilled workers with a job offer will fall under Tier 2, replacing the current UK Work Permits scheme.
The points system has a fairly simple structure, but some clarification in some of its more subtle aspects is in order.
Attribute points and Control points
Each tier will have points requirements that potential migrants must pass to be accepted into the UK under the respective tier. According to current documentation released by the Home Office, points for Tier 1 and 2 are broken into to sections of criteria called "attributes" and "control".
Attribute points for Tier 1 are very similar to the criteria under which migrants score points in the HSMP, such as age, qualifications, past earnings, and previous UK work and study experience. The control criteria in all tiers indicate to UK immigration authorities how likely a migrant will comply with the conditions of their visa.
The attributes part of the points test for Tier 1 -- as currently planned -- require a person to score 75 points (which is incidentally the current pass-mark for the HSMP). In the Tier 1 section of our website, this is termed as Specific Criteria.
Some of the attributes are absolutely required for the applicant to be accepted and others will only be positive indicators -- i.e., a potential migrant will not be refused if points are not scored for a non-required attribute, but points earned for this attribute will give them an advantage.
For example, a required attribute under Tier 1 for General Highly Skilled Migrants would be the Qualification requirement. Without at least a Bachelors degree, it would be impossible for an applicant to score enough points to meet the 75-point pass mark.
However, under the currently planned rules, someone with a Bachelors degree who made at least the equivalent of GBP 40,000 for the previous year of their application would score 75 points, regardless of the applicant's age or previous UK experience.
The applicant will also have to score the required number of points under the control factors section of the points test, which indicate to UK immigration authorities how likely a migrant will comply with the conditions of their visa, such as finding employment suited to their skill level under Tier 1. For Tiers 3 through 5, the control factors would be the only requirements needed to pass.
Control factors for Tier 1 include English language requirements and the amount of money the applicant has to fund their initial stay in the UK and provide support for any dependants (this is called Maintenance on our website).
Under current plans for the Tier 1 Investor sub-category, the need for English language and Maintenance are waived. It is expected that Investors will have enough money to support themselves and any dependants and will not require knowledge of English because they should have no particular need to work.
Foreign graduates of UK educational institutions coming under the Post-Study Work sub-category of Tier 1 will not require to show English language ability as their study in the UK assumes acceptable knowledge of English.
For now, details about how points will be allocated for Tiers 2 through 5 are sparse. As control factors are considered the only criteria for accepting a migrant's application, it's expected that sponsorship by an employer or university and the ability to support one's self will play an important part in most, if not all, tiers.