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Points-Based Immigration System

Under the UK’s points-based immigration system, all foreign nationals wanting to come and work in the UK must now fulfil a specific set of requirements.

For more information about the points-based immigration system and how to come and work in the UK, speak to one of our immigration advisors on 0333 305 9375, or contact us online today.


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    What is the Points-Based Immigration System?

    The points-based immigration system is a means to assess and select skilled foreign workers to come and work in the UK.

    It came into effect on 1 January 2021 following the UK’s departure from the EU and replaced the UK’s old five tier immigration system.

    Under the new system, only applicants who can accumulate enough points in certain criteria may apply to come and work in the UK. These criteria include things such as salary level, education and English language skills.

    There are a range of different visa routes available under the new system, including the following:

    Skilled Worker Route

    The Skilled Worker route encompasses many professional routes for skilled workers to be employed from countries overseas. Candidates can live and work in the UK for up to five years at a time under this route, as well as having the possibility of being eligible for indefinite leave to remain.

    If you wish to apply under this route, you must demonstrate all of the following:

    • You have a job offer from a Home Office licensed sponsor
    • The job offer is at the required skill level – RQF 3 or above (A Level and equivalent)
    • You speak English to the required standard

    In addition to this, the salary for the job you’ve been offered must either meet or exceed the general salary threshold of £25,600. If not, then it must instead meet the specific salary requirement for that occupation, otherwise known as the ‘going rate’.

    If you earn less than this threshold, you may still be eligible to apply by making up the points in another category within the points system. For example, you may gain enough points by being employed in a sector with a shortage of workers, or by having a PhD related to the job.

    These are known as ‘tradeable’ points.

    Note that the absolute minimum salary threshold for all applicants is £20,480. However, there are different salary rules for those who work certain healthcare or education jobs that meet the relevant national pay scale, and for applicants at the start of their careers.

    Skilled Worker visas cost around £625 to £1,423 to obtain, depending on your circumstances. You will also need to show evidence that you can support yourself financially when in the UK.

    How Are Points Awarded for the Skilled Worker Route?

    Overview of Points

    Points are awarded for the Skilled Worker Route across two categories. These are mandatory and tradeable characteristics.

    Mandatory characteristics cover the essential prerequisites that all applicants must have in order to be eligible for the visa. Eligible candidates who meet all the mandatory criteria will be awarded 50 points.

    Tradeable characteristics are additional requirements that applicants can gain points in to meet the minimum points threshold. Candidates must be awarded at least 20 points in tradeable characteristics to be eligible for the Skilled Worker visa.

    A total of 70 points are needed to be eligible to come and work in the UK.

    As an example, a candidate will gain the 70 points needed to be eligible to work in the UK if they:

    • Meet all the mandatory characteristics (50 points)
    • Have a job offer between £23,040 and £25,599 (10 points), and
    • Have a PhD in a field related to their job (10 points)

    Mandatory Characteristics

    Offer of job by approved sponsor20
    Job at appropriate skill level20
    Speaks English at required level10

    Tradeable Characteristics

    Salary of £20,480 to £23,039 or at least 80% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)0
    Salary of £23,040 to £25,599 or at least 90% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)10
    Salary of £25,600 or above or at least the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)20
    Job in a shortage occupation as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee20
    PhD in a subject relevant to the job10
    PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job20

    Health and Care Worker Visa

    The Health and Care Worker visa is part of the Skilled Worker route. It offers its own specific eligibility criteria for those who work in eligible health and care roles, such as those in the NHS, social care, or organisations that provide services to the NHS.

    Like most roles in the Skilled Worker route, the Health and Care Worker visa has minimum salary requirements that you must meet in order to be eligible. In most cases, this is £25,600 per year or £10.10 per hour, whichever is highest (or the ‘going rate’ for the role, if this figure is higher).

    However, you may still be eligible for this visa if you don’t meet the salary requirements and you fulfil one or more of the following criteria:

    • Your job is in a shortage occupation
    • You’re under 26, studying, a recent graduate, or in professional training
    • You have a STEM PhD level qualification that’s relevant to your job (if you have a relevant PhD level qualification in any other subject, then your salary must be at least £23,040)
    • You have a postdoctoral position in a scientific role

    You must have a confirmed job offer and a certificate of sponsorship from an employer in order to be eligible for this visa.

    Like other roles in the Skilled Worker route, this visa can be extended as many times as you like as long as you meet the eligibility criteria. You will also have the option to apply for indefinite leave to remain once you fulfil the residency requirements.

    Health and Care Worker visas cost between £247 to £479 to obtain, depending on your circumstances. You will also need to show evidence that you can support yourself financially when in the UK.

    We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

    Global Talent Route

    The Global Talent route is a route intended for those who are able to achieve the highest number of points in the points system. It is designed to attract leaders, talent and emerging individuals in the fields of science, humanities, engineering, the arts and digital technology.

    Under this route, candidates can live and work in the UK for up to five years at a time. There is also the possibility of indefinite leave to remain for eligible candidates on this visa.

    Unlike the Skilled Worker route, the Global Talent route does not require candidates to have a job offer, or to be sponsored by an employer. However, candidates must instead be endorsed by a recognised, Home Office endorsed UK body.

    People who have also won certain prestigious awards from around the world will also be eligible for the Global Talent route.

    In addition, scientists and researchers can benefit from a quicker endorsement process as part of a fast track STEM scheme.

    As of January 2021, the list of Home Office-endorsed bodies include the following:

    • The Royal Society (science and medicine)
    • The Royal Academy of Engineering (engineering)
    • The British Academy (humanities)
    • UK Research and Innovation (science and research)
    • Tech Nation (digital technology)
    • Arts Council England (arts and culture)

    The Global Talent visa costs £623 to obtain.

    Graduate Route

    The Graduate route enables eligible candidates to stay in the UK for at least two years after successfully completing an educational course or programme.

    It is available for people who have completed a UK bachelor’s degree, postgraduate degree or other eligible course and are in the UK on a Student visa (or the old Tier 4 General student visa).

    Undergraduate and master’s degree students will be able to stay for two years under the route, whilst PhD students will be able to stay for three years.

    You don’t need to have a job offer or sponsorship to be eligible for this route.

    Under the Graduate route, candidates can:

    • Work in most jobs
    • Look for work
    • Be self-employed
    • Continue living in the UK with their partner and children, if they’re eligible
    • Do voluntary work
    • Travel abroad and return to the UK

    Unlike the Skilled Worker or Global Talent routes, the Graduate route cannot be extended beyond its initial validity period. However, candidates may switch to other routes such as the Skilled Worker route after the Graduate route expires.

    Graduate visas cost £715 to obtain.

    Senior or Specialist Worker Route

    The Senior or Specialist Worker route allows candidates to come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job at their employer’s UK branch.

    The eligibility criteria for this route is as follows:

    • You must be an existing employee of an organisation that’s been approved by the Home Office as a sponsor
    • You must have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from your employer with information about the work you will do in the UK
    • You must do a job that’s on the list of eligible occupations
    • You must be paid at least £42,400 per year

    This route is valid for either five years or the time given on your certificate of sponsorship plus 14 days, whichever is shorter. You will be able to apply to extend your stay or apply for another one as many times as you like up to the maximum total stay.

    The maximum total stay allowed for the Senior and Specialist Worker route is:

    • Five years in any six year period if you’re paid less than £73,900 a year
    • Nine years in any ten year period if you’re paid £73,900 a year or more

    Under this route, you will be able to:

    • Work for your sponsor in the job described in your certificate of sponsorship
    • Study
    • Bring your partner and children with you as your dependants, if they’re eligible
    • Do voluntary work
    • Travel abroad and return to the UK

    You will not be able to have a second job, access public funds or apply for indefinite leave to remain through this route.

    Senior or Specialist Worker visas cost around £625 to £1,423 to obtain, depending on your circumstances. You will also need to show evidence that you can support yourself financially when in the UK.

    How to Apply Under the Points-Based System

    Most candidates will have to apply online for visas under the new points-based system.

    As part of the application process, you will have to demonstrate that you meet the specific criteria for the route or visa you’re applying for through supporting documents. You may also need to show that you’ve scored the specific number of points needed for your route.

    All applicants will need to verify their identity with a valid passport or travel document. You can do this through the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ smartphone app. You will also create a UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) account, which you can use to view your application or access your immigration status information.

    If you’re unable to verify your identity using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app, you may need to attend a local visa application centre to have your biometrics information taken. Note that your nearest visa application centre may be in another city or country from where you live.

    You will then have to pay the relevant application fees for your route or visa. Additionally, all applicants will have to pay the immigration health surcharge if they’re coming to the UK for more than six months, except if they’re exempt from doing so, such as for candidates with a Health and Care Worker visa.

    You can travel to the UK once your application has been successfully processed and you’ve received your entry clearance and visa.

    For more information about the application process, including specific instructions on how to apply for all UK visas, reach out to us today for assistance on 0333 305 9375, or contact us online today.

    What Are the Rules for EU Workers?

    The new points-based immigration system aims to attract foreign workers to the UK based on their skills and abilities over where they’re coming from.

    This means that for the most part, EU citizens are subject to the same restrictions and eligibility criteria for these routes and visas as citizens from anywhere else in the world

    EU citizens who wish to stay in the UK needed to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, for which the deadline was 30 June 2021. The Settlement Scheme gives EU citizens the ability to live, work, study and claim public funds in the UK.

    There are a couple of instances where you will still be eligible to apply for the Settlement Scheme if you missed the deadline. These include if you either:

    • Have a later deadline – for example, you’re joining a family member who was living in the UK by 31 December 2020
    • Have ‘reasonable grounds’ for being unable to apply by 30 June 2021 – for example, if you had an illness or were the victim of domestic abuse

    However, if you missed the deadline and are not eligible to apply under the two exceptions listed above, you must apply under the new points-based immigration scheme if you wish to stay in the UK for longer than six months, or work.

    If you’re a skilled migrant worker from the EU and are interested in coming to work in the UK, IAS can help. Speak to one of our specialist immigration advisers on 0333 305 9375, or contact us online today.

    How Can IAS Help?

    If you’re looking to come and work in the UK under its new points-based immigration structure, it’s important that you’re up to speed with all of the necessary rules, restrictions and requirements set out by the UK government.

    This includes ensuring that you meet the eligibility criteria for the route or visa you’re applying for, as well as making sure that you have all the necessary supporting documents and evidence you need to get your application approved.

    Whether you’re looking to apply as a skilled worker or one of the other immigration routes such as the Youth Mobility Scheme, IAS can help.

    We are expert and professional immigration lawyers with a long history of helping foreign workers to come and live and work in the UK. We can assist you through every step of the application process, including identifying which route is right for you, establishing your eligibility, and helping you assemble your documents and evidence.

    For more information about the services we offer and what we can do for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on 0333 305 9375, or contact us online today.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    The Home Office regularly publishes and updates the Register of Worker and Temporary Worker licensed sponsors on the UK government website. The register also includes information about the category of workers they’re licensed to sponsor and their sponsorship rating.

    The Global Talent visa allows winners of certain prestigious prizes and awards to come and live and work in the UK.

    These prizes cover a variety of fields, including:

    • Architecture
    • Arts and culture
    • Digital technology
    • Fashion
    • Film and television
    • Science, engineering, humanities and medicine

    The full list of eligible awards in each field can be found on the Global Talent eligible prize lists page on the UK government’s website.

    To be eligible for the Skilled Worker visa, you must prove you can read, write, speak and understand English to at least level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale.

    You can prove your knowledge of English by:

    • Passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider
    • Having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English, gained through study at a UK school that you began when you were under 18
    • Having a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English. If you studied abroad, you’ll need to apply through Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC) for confirmation that your qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD

    You will not need to prove your knowledge of English if you’re from one of the verified majority English-speaking countries.

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