How to enter the UK under Tier 1 (General), highly-skilled migrant route

Apply now, before the new rules become effective and Tier 1 (General) deleted.

02 December 2010. If you are planning to migrate to the UK under the highly skilled immigration route, it is wise to apply now before the new rules become effective.

Entering the UK for work will become more difficult without a job offer once the Tier 1 (General) route is changed in April 2011. The highly skilled tier of the Points Based System (PBS) will be restricted to all but entrepreneurs, investors and the exceptionally talented.

In December 2010 the Government announced the plan to introduce the permanent cap on skilled immigration. The decision is expected to drastically reduce the number of visas issued annually to skilled migrants.

The Home Office said the tightening of the economic routes is just one part of a package of measures to reduce net migration. The next move will be to tighten the Tier 4 of the PBS – the student route. The Home Office has in fact announced that a consultation will be launched before the end of the year focusing on this route which currently accounts for two thirds of migrants entering the UK each year.

Tier 1 (General)

The Tier 1 (General) category allows highly skilled people to come to the UK to look for work or self-employment opportunities.

You do not need a job offer when you apply to enter or stay in the UK under this category, but you will need to pass a points-based assessment, based on Attributes and the mandatory English proficiency and Maintenance funds requirements.

The UK government introduced a limit on the number of initial applications from outside the UK that can be granted under Tier 1 (General) of the points-based system until 31 March 2011.

The limit is 600 Tier 1 (General) visas issued every calendar month. If the limit is not reached in any given calendar month, the unused capacity will be carried forward to the following month.

Starting April 2011, Tier 1 (General) will be closed.

Eligibility requirements

You do not need a job offer if you are applying as a highly skilled worker.

You can apply under Tier 1 (General) if you scored the required points with the Self-Assessment Points calculator if:

  • you are outside the UK and applying for permission to enter the UK under this sub-tier; or
  • you are already in the UK with permission to stay (known as 'leave to remain') an immigration category that allows you to switch into Tier 1 (General); or
  • you are already in the UK with leave to remain under Tier 1 (General) and you want to extend your permission to stay under this category; or
  • you are already in the UK under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP), you want to extend your stay and you are eligible to switch into Tier 1 (General)

Required points

You will need a total of at least 100 points to be able to apply: ⎫ 80 for attributes;

  • 10 points for English language skills and
  • 10 points for maintenance.

ATTRIBUTES: You need to score at least 75 points across:

1) Age: 5-20 points
2) Qualifications:

a. 30 – 45 for initial applications

b. 30 – 50 for extension applications

3) Previous Earnings: 5- 80 points
4) UK Experience: 5 points

English language requirement

The ability to meet the required English standard is a mandatory requirement.  If you cannot meet this level, your application will be refused.

Under all sub-categories of Tier 1, you must prove that you are able to speak English to a competent level so to improve your potential to succeed in the UK labour market.

The standard required is comparable to that of level C1 on the Council of Europe's Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR).

10 points will be awarded to you if you meet the English proficiency standard; and 0 if you do not.

There are three ways you can meet the requirement.  You can:

1) hold an English language qualification provided by a UKBA-approved English test provider which meets the standards of the Tier you are applying under; or
2) hold a degree that was taught in English as confirmed by the UK NARIC database as equivalent to a UK Bachelors degree; or

3) be a national of a majority English-speaking country, that is: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Christopher (Kitts) and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States of America

In addition to the normal 3 ways to score points, you will also meet the English language requirement if:

  • you were given permission to stay in the past under the highly skilled worker or entrepreneur categories of tier 1 and are applying for an extension; or 
  • you were given permission to stay as a highly skilled migrant under the immigration rules that came into force on 5 December 2006, and you are applying for an extension under a tier 1 category.

If you are applying for permission to stay (known as 'leave to remain') under the highly skilled worker category and have received a previous grant of leave under an immigration category that did not require a particular standard of English, you must meet the English language requirement.

Maintenance requirement

Under all sub-categories of Tier 1, you must be able to demonstrate that:

1) you have £2,800 for yourself and (where applicable) £1,600 for each dependant accompanying you; and

2) you have held these amounts for a minimum period of 3 months immediately preceding and dated no more than 1 month prior to the date you submit your application.  The balance should not fall below the required minimum at any time during the 3-month period.

The application process

To apply for permission to enter for work in the UK under this tier from outside the UK, you will need to:

1. access the online Self-Assessment Points Calculator to see whether you can score enough points to make a successful application and check the documentary evidence you require;
2. fill out Application Form VAF9 – PBS Migrant ; and

3. fill out Appendix 1: Tier 1 (General) Migrant

To apply for permission to enter or to remain under PBS from inside the UK, after you do the Self-assessment, you need to fill out the Tier 1 (General) application form.

 If you are sending any dependant applications at the same time as your own application, send your application and dependant applications in the same envelope.

Duration of visa

If you are given permission to come to the UK under Tier 1 (General), you will be able to live and work in the UK for a maximum period of 2 years. Towards the end of that period, you will need to apply for permission to extend your stay if you want to remain here.

Extension of visa

You can apply to extend your stay at the end of the 2 years you have been in the UK under the skilled worker category (Tier 2 General).

If your application is approved, your permission to stay may be extended for a maximum of 3 years (or 2 years if you are currently a Tier 1 (General) migrant whose current permission to stay was granted before 6 April 2010).


At the end of this period, you may have lived continuously in the UK as a highly skilled migrant for 5 years, you can then apply for settlement.

If you are not yet eligible for settlement, you can apply for permission to extend your stay under Tier 1 (General) again.

Partners of highly skilled workers are eligible to apply for settlement at the same time as the highly skilled worker, provided they have lived with their partners in the United Kingdom for a minimum of two years before applying for settlement.

Children of highly skilled workers are eligible to apply for settlement at the same time as the highly skilled worker, provided the child meets the requirements of the immigration rules.

Right of appeal

Outside the UK, a refusal of entry clearance under PBS does not attract a full right of appeal.

You can appeal only on one or more of the following grounds referred to in Section 84(1)(b) and (c) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002:

  • that the decision is unlawful by virtue of Section 19B of the Race Relations Act 1976 (c.74) (discrimination by public authorities), and/or
  • that the decision is unlawful under Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (c.42) (public authority not to act contrary to Human Rights Convention) as being incompatible with the appellant's Convention rights.

However, all applicants can apply for an Administrative Review, which is a mechanism for reviewing refusal decisions. 

On the contrary, a refusal of a dependant’s application for entry clearance as the family member of a PBS migrant attracts a limited or full right of appeal as applications made by dependants are not assessed on ‘points’.

If you made an initial application from inside the UK, you can appeal against a refusal decision only if you have the statutory right of appeal.

If your application to extend your stay was refused, you may have the right to appeal. You will be given details of why your application has been refused and what action is available to you, including any right to appeal.

Administrative Review

If your application for entry clearance under the points-based system is refused and you think that an error has been made, you can ask for your application to be reviewed (‘Administrative Review’).

Administrative review is a process used to assess whether your claimed points have been correctly awarded.

The Administrative Review is free of charge. You must ask for an Administrative Review within 28 days from the date the refusal notice was issued.

Apply for a review using Administrative Review Request Notice form (GV51) .

Dependent family members

Your husband, wife, civil partner or eligible partner and children under 18 can apply to join you as your dependants in the UK.

Your dependants will not be applying under the points-based system, but as the dependant of a points-based system Migrant.

They will need to make their application using Application form VAF10 – PBS Dependant either online or on paper depending upon the facilities available in the country in which they are applying.

Eligibilty requirements

Your dependants can apply if:

  • they have a visa for this purpose; and
  • you can support them without any help from public funds (the maintenance requirement is not the same for all tiers and sub-tiers of the Points Based System).

Your partner (married, unmarried, same sex) is eligible for entry clearance if:

  • you intend to live together; and
  • the relationship is subsisting; and
  • your partner does not intend to stay beyond any period of leave granted to you.

Dependent children must be able to demonstrate that they:

  • have not formed their own independent family,
  • are unmarried and not leading an independent life.

If your dependent child is working full-time or earning enough money to support himself/herself, it is unlikely that they will qualify for entry to the UK as a dependant.

If a dependent child has previously been married or formed a civil partnership, or lived in a relationship that is similar to marriage or civil partnership, they will usually be considered to have formed an independent family and will not be eligible to enter the UK as the dependant of his/her parents.

Although dependent children may seek employment whilst in the UK, they must remain financially dependent on their parent to qualify as dependants.

Supporting documents

Your dependants should include all the documents necessary to show that they qualify for entry to the UK as your dependants. If they do not, their applications may be refused.

As a guide, your dependants should include:

  • evidence of their relationship to you;
  • a copy of the pages from your passport/travel document showing your permission to stay, if you are already in the UK;
  • unless single, evidence of your marital status, e.g. marriage or civil partnership certificate;
  • the official record of any conviction(s),

There is no requirement to provide funds for personal maintenance.

Application Fees

Your dependents will pay the same fee as you.

Fees are regularly revised. The latest revision for work visas was 22 November 2010.

Right of appeal

Dependants have a limited right of appeal if your entry clearance application is refused; a full right of appeal if your application has been successful.

By Federica Gaida

November 2011

Related articles:

UPDATE: Life in UK Test is now mandatory for skilled, highly skilled migrants APRIL 2011

Everything you want to know about immigration cap

The Tier Systems – An Overhaul of the Immigration System 

Revised application fees for work visas



Disclaimer: The above article is meant to be relied upon as an informative article and in no way constitutes legal advice. Information is offered for general information purposes only, based on the current law when the information was first displayed on this website. 

You should always seek advice from an appropriately qualified solicitor on any specific legal enquiry. For legal advice regarding your case, please contact an Immigration Solicitor.


For questions regarding the subject covered in this guide,


and post your question under the appropriate category (‘ENTERING THE UK').



Britain could find itself accepting more asylum seekers

Anti-Muslim hate crime widespread: Report