Tier 1 – Points Based System

Introduction to Tier 1 of the Points Based System of Immigration

The United Kingdom’s Tier 1 visa immigration scheme is part of the new points based system for employment-based immigration. Tier 1 visas are for highly skilled migrants, entrepreneurs, investors, and foreign graduates of UK educational institutions. Tier 1 came into force in early 2008 and replaced all the previous employment based immigration schemes. The purpose of the Tier 1 scheme is to attract the most talented applicants from outside the European Union who can contribute the most to the UK economy.

Tier 1 of the Points Based System has now replaced the following immigration categories: 

      • The Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP)
      • Investors
      • Self-employed lawyers
      • Businesspersons
      • Writers, Composers and Artists
      • The International Graduates Scheme
      • Innovators
      • Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland Scheme

Migrants coming to the UK under Tier 1 visas do not need a job offer or a sponsor and are free to take employment anywhere in the UK. The Tier 1 system requires that the applicant scores 75 points under a points based system to qualify for the Tier 1 visa. Successful applicants will initially be granted a 3 year visa which will be renewable for a further 2 years and under current immigration rules will entitle the Migrant to Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK after the expiry of 5 years. Tier 1 therefore presents an opportunity for emigrating to the UK from outside the European Union. Tier 1 is the name given to a variety of different visas, each with it’s own particular requirements and qualifications. The Tier 1 sub-categories can be summarised as follows:

Different Types of Tier 1 Visas

Tier 1 is meant for a variety of highly skilled individuals and is broken up into a number of sub-categories:

General Highly Skilled Migrants

The General Highly Skilled Migrants sub-category — also known as Tier 1 (General) — is for highly educated and highly skilled migrants who can score enough points on their qualifications, previous earnings, age, and UK experience.


Individuals who plan to invest in the UK by setting up or taking over a business, and being actively involved in running the business can come to the UK under the Entrepreneur sub-category of Tier 1. The applicant must have a minimum of £200,000 of disposable capital held in a regulated financial institution at their disposal and, must demonstrate a knowledge of the English language. The Entrepreneur visa provides an opportunity for setting up a business in the UK or investing in an existing business and emigrating to the UK for business purposes.


Wealthy individuals who plan to make a substantial financial investment in the UK can come under the Investor sub-category of Tier 1. A minimum of £1,000,000 of disposable funds is required. Investors are exempt from the requirement to establish that they speak English and they are not required to prove the ability to support themeselves and any dependants. This sub-category is designed for wealthy individuals who want to live in the UK and provides an excellent route to a new life.

Post-Study Work – PSW

The Post-Study Work sub-category provides a route for the brightest foreign students who have studied in the UK under the Tier 4 system to work in the UK and develop their careers. The Post Study Work visa allows the applicant to take work after their graduation without the need for a sponsor. This visa is also called the PSW visa for short. PSW visas are meant to be used as a bridge to skilled or highly skilled work. Prior to the introduction of the Tier 1 Points Based System this type of visa was covered by the old International Graduates Scheme which has now been replaced by the PSW visa. Those with student visas in the UK under Post-Study Work are expected to switch into another part of the points system whether Tier 1 or another Tier as soon possible. PSW visas are usually valid for a maximum of 2 years and are not renewable. That means that it is a one-off opportunity. Time spent in the UK under Post-Study Work will not count towards permanent residence. Students wishing to switch to the PSW visa must apply for the Post-Study Work sub-category within 12 months of receiving their degree qualification.

Tier 1 Summarised

In each category of Tier 1, points are earned according to three sets of criteria:

  • Specific requirements for each category – a score of at least 75 points is required to pass
  • English language ability – a score of 10 points is required, although not for the investor category
  • The Maintenaance requirement, being the ability for migrants to support themselves and any dependants

Migrants must reach the pass mark for each of the above to gain entry to the UK under Tier 1 or to remain in the UK when renewing their Tier 1 visa after three years. Each of the criteria must be supported by documentary evidence and all supporting evidence must be originals. It is vital that applications are made correctly and that all the required documentation is provided from the outset because migrants applying from abroad will have no right of appeal if refused entry. Expert legal advice and assistance is crucial to such applications.

Renewal of Leave Under Tier 1

Migrants holdinga Tier 1 visa can apply a month before their visa expires for a renewal. Renewals of leave under the Highly Skilled General, Investor or Entrepreneur sub-categories will normally be granted for two years. No extension of stay under the Post-Study Work sub-category is available. Migrants in the UK under the Post-Study Work sub-category must switch to another sub-category or a different tier at the end of their visa.

Once a migrant has completed five years in one of these categories of visa, the migrant can apply for settlement. This does not apply to the Post-Study Work category though and any time spent in the UK with a PSW visa does not count towards the five-year requirement. Each time a migrant renews their Tier 1 visa they must apply for the same sub-category under which they originally applied and they must provide evidence that they score the required points again too.

Entrepreneurs must show that an investment in business has been made and registration of the business was undertaken within three months of entry or grant of their visa if they applied from inside the UK and, Entrepreneurs must be actively involved in the business and have created at least 2 full time job positions lasting at least 12 months.

Investors must show that at least £750,000 of their money was invested within three months of entry and that the investment has been maintained throughout the period of leave.

Dependants of Tier 1 Migrants

Tier 1 migrants are permitted to bring with them to the UK their dependants provided they can support and maintain them during their stay. Dependants include unmarried children under the age of 18, spouses, civil partners, same sex partners, and unmarried partners. Dependants of Highly Skilled Tier 1 migrants are allowed to work whilst they are in the UK.


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