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UK Points-Based Immigration System Explained

After its exit from the European Union in 2020, the United Kingdom adopted the new points-based Immigration System. This system helps UK Visas and Immigration to assess skilled foreign workers wishing to come to the UK to live and work.

If you have any questions about the points-based system of immigration or require assistance with any of the visa routes, we can help.

Our London immigration lawyers can provide advice and work with you to ensure you have the highest chance of receiving a positive outcome on your UK visa application. Call us today on 0333 305 9375 or speak with us on live chat.

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    What is the Points-based System?

    This system is the main UK immigration route that lets UK employers employ skilled workers from abroad through several immigration routes, further simplifying and controlling the immigration process.

    The applicable rules in this new immigration system treat EU citizens the same way as other global citizens when hiring for a skilled job.

    To be eligible, applicants must pass a points-based assessment. Except for Irish citizens, anyone coming to the UK for work must meet a specific set of requirements for which they will score points. Visas are then awarded to those who gain enough points.

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    Types of UK Visas under the Points-based Immigration System

    There are different routes available to potential migrant workers who desire to live and work in the UK under the points-based system.

    They include the following:

    • Skilled Worker route.
    • Health and Care workers’ route.
    • Global talent route.
    • Graduate route.
    • Senior or Specialist Worker route.
    • Graduate Trainee Visa route.
    • Youth Mobility Scheme route.
    • EU Citizens and application to the EU Settlement Scheme.

    Skilled Worker Route

    The Skilled Worker route encompasses a process that permits approved UK employers to fill UK jobs eligible for overseas recruitment by accessing and recruiting from the global talent pool of skilled workers.

    Skilled workers who immigrate through this route are permitted to work in the UK for up to five years and are eligible to apply for an ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ if they meet other eligibility requirements.

    They are also allowed to include their spouses or partners and children in their application if their dependents are eligible. They must make their application online early as it currently takes an average of four weeks to get a decision on Skilled Worker Visas. The Skilled Worker Visa can last up to five years and can be renewed many times as long as skilled migrant workers meet the eligibility requirements.

    What Are the Eligibility Requirements for the Skilled Workers Route?

    To apply for a Skilled Worker Visa, applicants must meet the following requirements:

    • They must have received a job offer from a Home Office licenced sponsor.
    • The job must have been offered at the required skill level (minimum of RQF 3 or above which is equivalent to a minimum of A level or above) and be found in the list of eligible occupations.
    • They must speak English to the required level which is level B1 according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
    • The job offer they have must meet the applicable minimum salary threshold which is higher of the general salary threshold of £25,600 or the specific salary requirement for their occupation, known as the ‘going rate’.
    • They must possess a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from their employer with information about the role offered to them in the UK.

    How Much Does it Cost to Apply for a Skilled Worker Visa?

    Applicants are required to have enough money to pay for the application and to support themselves and any other family member coming to the UK with them.

    The funds required are as follows:

    • Health Surcharge – This is usually £624 per year.
    • Application fee – the standard application fee is £625 per person for up to three years and £1,235 per person for more than three years while applying from outside the UK.
    • To extend, switch or update your visa, the standard application fee is £719 per person for up to three years and £1,423 per person for more than three years.
    • Maintenance funds – the fund which must have been in the applicant’s account for a minimum of 31 days within the period of applying for the visa is equivalent to at least £1,270.
    • Those whose employers have indicated that they will bear maintenance costs in the Certificate of Sponsorship are exempted from maintenance funds as well as those who have been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months.
    • Dependent maintenance funds – applicants are required to have an equivalent of £285 for their partner, £315 for the first child, and £200 for each additional child in their bank account.

    What is the Minimum Number of Points Required to Apply Under the Skilled Worker Route?

    A total number of 70 points is required to apply to work in the UK via this route. These points are scored by considering some characteristics, some of which are mandatory.

    The following are the mandatory characteristics and points allocated:

    • 20 points for an offer of a job from an approved sponsor.
    • 20 points for the job offered at the appropriate skill level.
    • 10 points for English proficiency to the required level.

    The following are the tradeable characteristics and points allocated:

    • 20 points for a salary of £25,600 or above or at least the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher).
    • 10 points for a salary of £23,040 to £25,599 or at least 90% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher).
    • Zero point for a Salary of £20,480 to £23,039 or at least 80% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher).
    • 20 points for a job offer found in the shortage occupation list as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee.
    • 20 points for an education qualification which is a PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job.
    • 10 points for an education qualification which is a PhD in a subject relevant to the job.

    Choosing an occupation on the Shortage Occupations List results in lower application fees and reduced salary requirements, for skilled workers filling jobs which are in shortage.

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      Health and Care Visa Route

      This route applies to skilled workers to come to the UK to work with the NHS or as adult social care workers, or for organisations that provide services to the NHS. Applicants must have a confirmed job offer before applying for a Visa. Health and Care Visas can last for up to five years before the need arises for a renewal.

      Individuals who come to the UK through this route can apply to settle permanently in the UK after five years with the Health and Care Visa upon meeting other eligibility requirements. As part of their application process, applicants and family members who intend to move to the UK with them will have to prove their identity by visiting a visa application centre to have their photos and fingerprints taken.

      What Are the Eligibility Requirements for a Health and Care Visa?

      To apply for a Health and Care Visa, applicants must meet the following requirements:

      • They must be a qualified doctor, nurse, health professional or adult social care.
      • They must work in an eligible health or social care job.
      • They must work for a UK employer that has been approved by the UK Home Office.
      • They must have a Certificate of Sponsorship from their employer showing their job details and must be paid the minimum salary thresholds depending on their jobs.

      How Much Does it Cost to Apply for a Health and Care Visa?

      Applicants must have enough money to pay the application fee and to support themselves and any dependent coming with them. They are, however, exempted from paying the immigration health surcharge.

      The funds required are as follows:

      • Application fee – the standard application fee is £247 per person for up to three years and £479 per person for more than three years.
      • Maintenance funds – the minimum amount which must have been in the applicant’s account for a minimum of 31 days within the period of applying for the visa is equivalent to £1,270.
      • Those exempted from the maintenance funds are those whose employers have indicated that they will bear maintenance costs in the Certificate of Sponsorship and those who have been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months.
      • Dependent maintenance funds – applicants are required to have an equivalent of £285 for their partner, £315 for the first child, and £200 for each additional child in their bank account.

      Once applicants have applied, submitted their documents and proven their identity, they will usually get a decision on their visa application in three weeks if outside the UK and eight weeks if inside the UK.

      Global Talent Route

      Highly skilled individuals who meet the required number of points upon assessment are permitted to enter the UK without a job offer through this route.

      However, they must be endorsed by a recognised UK body as approved by the UK Home Office.
      An alternative to an endorsement is that such individuals must have won an eligible award for demonstrating exceptional talent as identified by Global Talent endorsing bodies approved by the UK government.

      These awards must be in areas such as sciences, humanities, engineering, fashion design, the arts and digital technology.

      A UK employer does not need to possess a sponsor licence to employ migrants who came to the UK through the global talent route. Top scientists and researchers have the opportunity to speed up their endorsement process through a STEM fast-track scheme.

      As of January 2021, the approved endorsing bodies were:

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

      The Global Talent Visa can have a validity of up to five years before renewal. Individuals who come to the UK through this route can apply to settle permanently in the UK after three to five years, depending on how they apply, which field they work in, and if they meet other eligibility requirements.

      As part of their application process, applicants and family members who intend to move to the UK with them will have to prove their identity by visiting a visa application centre to have their photos and fingerprints taken.

      What are the Eligibility Requirements for a Global Talent Visa?

      To apply to come and work in the UK via the Global Talent route, applicants must meet the following requirements:

      • They must be 18 years old or over.
      • They must have been endorsed by a recognised UK body or won an eligible award.

      How Much Does it Cost to Apply for a Global Talent Visa?

      The following fees are required when filling out a Global Talent application:

      • Health Surcharge – This is usually £624 per year per person.
      • Application fee – The standard application fee is £623. Individuals who are applying based on an endorsement will pay £456 when they apply for the endorsement and £167 when they apply for the visa itself.
      • If they’re applying based on an eligible award, they will pay £623 at once when applying for the visa. Also, they will have to pay £623 for each child and partner they include in their application.

      Graduate Visa Route

      The Graduate Visa allows international students who have completed a UK course of study to work in the UK for a minimum of two years. Doctoral students are allowed three years.

      Graduate visa holders can switch jobs and work flexibly because anyone can hire them, including those without a sponsor licence. They cannot extend their visa but may change to another if they meet the requirements.

      What are the Eligibility Requirements for a Graduate Visa?

      Applicants may apply for a Graduate Visa if the following conditions are met:

      • They currently hold a student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa.
      • They are in the UK.
      • They studied a UK bachelor’s degree, postgraduate degree or another eligible course for a minimum period with their Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa.
      • The Home Office has been informed by their education provider that they have successfully completed their course.

      How Much Does it Cost to Apply for a Graduate Visa?

      The following fees must be paid to apply for a Graduate Visa:

      • Health Surcharge – This is usually £624 per year per person.
      • Application fee – The standard application fee is £715.

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        Senior or Specialist Worker Visa Route

        This Senior or Specialist Worker Visa has replaced the Intra-company transfer visa (also known as the Tier 2 Long-term staff visa). It allows multinational organisations to move key business personnel to their UK branches, having met sponsorship requirements.

        What are the Eligibility Requirements for a Senior or Specialist Worker Visa?

        To apply for a Senior or Specialist Worker visa:

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

        How Much Does it Cost to Apply for a Senior or Specialist Worker Visa?

        The funds required are as follows:

        • Health Surcharge – This is usually £624 per year per person.
        • Application fee – the standard application fee is £625 per person for up to three years and £1,235 per person for more than three years if applying from outside the UK.

        If applying from inside the UK to switch, extend or update your visa, the fee is £719 per person for up to three years and £1,423 per person for more than three years.

        • Maintenance funds – the amount which must have been in the applicant’s account for a minimum of 31 days within the period of applying for the visa is equivalent to at least £1,270.
        • Those whose employers have indicated that they will bear maintenance costs in the Certificate of Sponsorship are exempted from maintenance funds as well as those who have been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months.
        • Applicants are required to have an equivalent of £285 for their partner, £315 for the first child, and £200 for each additional child in their bank account.

        Graduate Trainee Visa Route

        The Graduate Trainee Visa allows workers to be transferred to the UK branch of an international company they work for. They are enrolled in a graduate training program with a clearly defined plan to advance to a managerial or specialist position within the organisation after completing their training.

        What are the Eligibility Requirements for a Graduate Trainee Visa?

        Applicants must meet the following requirements to apply for a Graduate Trainee Visa:

        • They must have worked for their sponsor for at least three months outside the UK.
        • They must have a job that is found in the list of eligible occupations.
        • They must be an existing employee of an organisation that has been approved as a sponsor by the UK government.
        • They must possess a Certificate of Sponsorship from their employer detailing their UK job duties.
        • They must be paid at least £23,100 per year.

        How Much Does it Cost to Apply for a Graduate Trainee Visa?

        The following financial obligations apply to applicants and their spouse or child who comes with them to the UK:

        • £259 application fee.
        • £624 healthcare surcharge per person for each year of stay.
        • £1,270 personal savings which must have been in the applicant’s account for a minimum of 31 days within the period of applying for the visa.

        Those whose employers have indicated that they will bear maintenance costs in the Certificate of Sponsorship are exempted from maintenance funds as well as those who have been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months.

        • Applicants are required to have an equivalent of £285 for their partner, £315 for the first child, and £200 for each additional child in their bank account.

        Applicants will usually get a decision on their visa application within three weeks or more of applying for their Visa after they have submitted their application, proved their identity, and had each required fee paid.

        Holders of the Graduate Trainee Visa are allowed to stay for 12 months or the time given on their certificate of sponsorship plus 14 days, whichever is shorter.

        Youth Mobility Scheme Visa

        The Youth Mobility Scheme allows young individuals from some countries with which the UK has arrangements to come to the UK to work or visit each year.
        The countries included are as follows:

        • Australia
        • Canada
        • Monaco
        • New Zealand
        • San Marino
        • Iceland

        Nationals of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea are included but must be selected in the Youth Mobility Scheme ballot before they can apply for UK visas.

        British overseas citizens, British Overseas Territories citizens, and British nationals (overseas) aged between 18 to 30 years are eligible to apply.

        Those who have been in the UK under the scheme cannot apply, as well as those who have children, they are responsible for or dependents under the age of 18.

        What Are the Eligibility Requirements for a Youth Mobility Scheme Visa?

        To be eligible for this visa type:

        • Applicants must be aged between 18 and 30 years.
        • They must be citizens of the above participating countries and abide by the country-specific provisions.
        • They must decide they want to live and work in the UK for up to two years.
        • They must have an equivalent of £2,530 in savings.

        How Much Does it Cost to Apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme Visa?

        Applicants must be able to satisfy the following financial requirements:

        • Health Surcharge – This is £470 per year.
        • Application fee – the standard application fee is £259.
        • Maintenance funds: They must have at least an equivalent of £2,530 in their bank account to show they can support themselves in the UK.

        They will need to show they have had the money available for at least 28 days in a row. Day 28 must be within 31 days of applying for this visa.

        EU Citizens and Application to the EU Settlement Scheme

        The EU Settlement Scheme was established so that individuals who are from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein might be able to get the immigration status they need to continue to live, work, and study indefinitely in the UK.

        As part of the immigration rules, if they or their family member were living in the UK by 31 December 2020 and are from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein but missed the deadline, which was 30 June 2021, they can still apply under the following conditions:

        • They meet one of the criteria for a later deadline to apply.
        • They have reasonable grounds for not applying by 30 June 2021.

        If they already have pre-settled status and are applying for settled status, then they can apply to the scheme. They can also apply if they have an Indefinite Leave to Enter or Remain, or if they are Irish citizens.

        Application to the scheme is free. However, they should check to see if they can still apply.

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          How Can the London Immigration Lawyers Help Me?

          If you intend to come to the UK through the points-based immigration system, our specialist advisers are here to help you and your family with our tailored immigration advice services.

          As part of our bespoke packages, you will be assigned an immigration lawyer who perfectly matches your individual and professional needs. Your lawyer will guide you through your application journey, supporting you every step of the way.

          Call 0333 305 9375 today to speak with one of our immigration lawyers. We will provide an assessment of your eligibility and advise on the best visa program or immigration route.

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                    Related pages for your continued reading.

                    Frequently Asked Questions

                    Before applying, ensure the people you want to hire meet the requirements to come to work in the UK. Also, you do not need a sponsor licence to hire Irish citizens or anyone from the resident labour market with an existing right to work in the UK.

                    The following are the steps to getting a sponsor licence:

                    • Check that your business is eligible to sponsor workers.
                    • Check to confirm that your job is suitable for sponsorship.
                    • Choose the type of Skilled Worker license you want to apply for.
                    • Decide who will manage sponsorship within your business. These include the authorising officer, key contact and level 1 user.
                    • Apply online and pay a fee depending on the type of license (such as temporary worker and worker sponsor license) and the size of your organisation (small, medium or large).

                    A sponsor license is valid for four years during which you must continue to fulfil your responsibilities as a sponsor.

                    The Resident Labour market test was a measure that required UK employers to try to fill their job vacancies with the resident labour market before proceeding to hire overseas workers if the position fails to be filled after a certain time.

                    This test was removed on 1 January 2021, resulting in the freedom of UK employers to recruit from anywhere in the world.

                    The immigration skills charge is a fee that UK employers pay for each skilled migrant worker they employ through the Skilled Worker and Intra-company Transfer routes.

                    It is intended to motivate employers to recruit and train resident workers in the UK labour market rather than migrant workers. Employers need to pay this charge when sponsoring both EU and non-EU migrant workers.

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