The New 5-Tiered Point-Based Immigration System

Explaining the new Government policy for migration to the UK

03 November 2008. In an attempt to better identify and attract migrants who have most to contribute to the UK and to provide applicants for entry with a simpler system to understand and clearer and more consistent rules, with a reduced scope for abuse, the Government has set up a new Australian-style points-based approach to managing the flow of migrants coming to the UK to work or study.

In a changing environment where an expanded European Union allows for an accessible and mobile workforce, the Government has decided to look again at migration to the UK as a whole. The starting point is that employers should look first to recruit from the UK and the expanded EU before recruiting migrants from outside the EU.

The main focus of the system is to bring in migrants who are highly skilled or to do key jobs that cannot be filled from the domestic labour force or from the EU. It also means to facilitate the entry of international students to achieve higher and further education.

The system is construed so as to be robust against abuse: only those of benefit to the UK are to be admitted and once here they must comply with the conditions of their leave. Strong action will be taken against those who seek to abuse the system.

Underpinning the new system is a five tier framework.

  •  Tier 1: Highly skilled individuals to contribute to growth and productivity
  •  Tier 2: Skilled workers with a job offer to fill gaps in UK labour force
  •  Tier 3: Limited numbers of low skilled workers needed to fill specific temporary labour shortages
  •  Tier 4: Students
  •  Tier 5:Youth mobility and temporary workers: people allowed to work in the UK for a limited period of time to satisfy primarily non-economic objectives

The new system will be introduced in a phased manner, Tier by Tier.

For each Tier, applicants will need sufficient points to obtain entry clearance or leave to remain in the UK. Points will be scored for attributes which predict a migrant’s success in the labour market, and/or control factors, relating to whether someone is likely to comply with the conditions of their leave.

Points will be awarded according to objective and transparent criteria in order to produce a structured and defensible decision-making process. Prospective migrants will, prior to making their application, be able to assess themselves against these criteria, reducing the number of speculative and erroneous applications.

All applicants in Tiers 2-5 will need to provide a certificate of sponsorship from an approved sponsor when making their application. The certificate of sponsorship will act as an assurance that the migrant is able to do a particular job or course of study and intends to do so. The sponsor’s rating, an expression of their track record or policies in sponsoring migrants, will determine whether applicants receive more or fewer points for their certificate.

In order to sponsor migrants, employers and educational institutions will need to make an application to the Home Office, satisfy the requirements for the particular Tier in which they wish to sponsor migrants, and accept certain responsibilities to help with immigration control.

In due course, financial securities will be required of those whose personal circumstances or route of migration suggests that they present a high risk of breaching the immigration rules.

Transitional rules for Skilled and Temporary Workers: a Breakdown

Closing time for the potential sponsors