Sunday, November 6, 2011


The five UK Visa Tiers are outlined below.

  • Tier 1 Visas: For highly skilled migrants, entrepreneurs, investors, and graduate students. This has replaced the previous Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP), the Entrepreneur and Investor schemes, and the International Graduates Scheme. This is a points-based Visa specifically designed to attract the most gifted individuals to the United Kingdom.
  • Tier 2 Visas: This is for skilled workers, professional sports people, and clergy members who have a job offer or arrangement with a UK organization that requires their services for an extended period of time. This tier has replaced the previous UK Work Permit rules. Under a Tier 2 Work Permit, a British company sponsors an overseas worker to come to Britain and contribute to the British economy.
  • Tier 3 Visas: This tier is for a limited numbers of lower skilled workers to fill temporary shortages in the labour market. The UK has indefinitely suspended plans to implement this tier.
  • Tier 4 Visas: This type of visa is for students wishing to study in the UK. Visa applicants must be sponsored by an educational institution. Length of the visa is determined by the duration of the course.
  • Tier 5 Visas: For youth mobility and temporary workers, such as those who come under Working Holiday agreements with other countries. It also covers temporary volunteer workers, sports people taking part in events, and visiting clergy.

Tiers 3 and 5 are temporary migration schemes and if you apply for a visa under one of these tiers, you 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 labor market demands.

If an applicant applies under Tiers 1, 2, or 4, he will be eligible to switch to another tier at any time after entering the UK if he can meet the requirements of that tier.

Tiers 1 and 2 can potentially lead to settlement if permanent residence requirements are met at the time of application.


Each tier will require you to score a sufficient number of points to gain entry clearance or leave to remain in the United Kingdom. Points are awarded for various criteria specific to each tier. The ability to fund your initial stay in the UK and your ability to speak English will play an important role in most cases. See each tier linked above for more details.

In Tiers 1 and 2, points are awarded for criteria such as age, previous salary or prospective salary, and qualifications. This system is very similar to the previous Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) which has proven very successful.


If you are applying under one of Tiers 2 through 5, you will be required to have sponsorship from a licensed sponsor (an employer, government, or educational institution). The certificate of sponsorship assures the UK that you are able to perform the particular job or course of study, or otherwise fulfills the requirements to enter the UK under the specific tier.

Under Tier 1, you would not require a job offer and thus would not require sponsorship.


Dependants are allowed to come to the UK with you in most cases. However, they will not be allowed to work if they accompany a student under Tier 4 if the individual has been given less than 12 months leave to remain in the UK.

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