Overview of Tiers 1 - 5
2008 saw the UK Border Agency implementing sweeping changes to UK immigration law through the development and introduction of a Points Based System (PBS) for non-European nationals wishing to come to the UK to work, study or train.
The Points Based System (PBS) consists of five tiers and replaces over 80 routes to migrate to the UK. Each tier carries very specific conditions, entitlements and entry requirements. Tier 1 was put in place in early 2008, Tier 2, Tier 4 and Tier 5 were implemented late November 2008, and Tier 3 is currently suspended.
Tier 1 is broken into four sub-categories; including general for highly skilled workers, entrepreneurs, investors and foreign graduate students of UK educational institutions.
An outline of the new points based tiered immigration system has been provided below.
Tier 1: For highly skilled migrants, entrepreneurs, investors, and graduate students. This is designed to replace the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP), the Entrepreneur and Investor schemes, and the International Graduates Scheme.
Tier 2: This is for skilled workers who have a job offer. This tier will encompass the current UK Work Permit rules.
Tier 3: For a limited numbers of lower skilled workers to fill temporary shortages in the labour market.
Tier 4: Students.
Tier 5: For youth mobility and temporary workers, such as those who come under Working Holiday agreements with other countries.
Tiers 3 and 5 are temporary migration schemes and migrants who fall under these tiers will not be able to switch to a different tier from within the UK. The UK has also suspended Tier 3 in favour of migrants from the EU; however, this may change depending on labour market demands.
Tiers 1, 2, and 4 will be eligible to switch to another tier once they are in the UK if they can meet the requirements of that tier. Tiers 1 and 2 can potentially lead to settlement if the permanent residence requirements are met at the time of application.
Each tier requires applicants to score a sufficient number of points to gain entry clearance or extend their leave to remain in the United Kingdom. Points will be awarded for various criteria specific to each tier.
In Tiers 1 and 2, points will be awarded for criteria such as age, previous salary or prospective salary, and qualifications; a system similar to the current Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) which has proven very successful.
All migrants applying under Tiers 2-5 will be required to have sponsorship from a licensed sponsor (an employer or educational institution). The certificate of sponsorship assures that the migrant is able to perform the particular job or course of study.
Highly skilled Tier 1 migrants do not require a job offer and thus do not require sponsorship.
Dependants are allowed to come to the UK with the main applicant. However, they will not be allowed to work if they accompany a student under Tier 4 or a temporary worker under Tier 5 if -- in both cases -- the individual has been given less than 12 months leave to remain in the UK.