There are different immigration categories available to those individuals who wish to live and work in the UK. At White Rose Visas we specialise in Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 4 applications. We also regularly deal with ILR applications (Indefinite Leave to Remain, also known as Settlement or Permanent Residence), and Citizenship applications.
The Points Based System (PBS) was introduced by the Labour UK government in 2008, with the aim of covering the bulk of immigration to the UK. (Some types of migrants, most notably visitors, remain outside the PBS.) Applicants must select the appropriate category within the PBS, organised around Tiers 1 to 5.
Tier 1 covers highly skilled migrants with no specific job offer. It replaces the pre-2008 Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP). The much loved Tier 1 General stream was closed to new applicants, as one of the major immigration changes brought in by the Conservative-Liberal UK coalition government in April 2011. A Tier 1 General visa enables a migrant to work for any employer, to seek employment, or set up self employment. In its place we now have Tier 1 Entrepreneur, Graduate Entrepreneur, Investor, and Exceptional Talent. Of these, Tier 1 Entrepreneur will be most attractive and achievable to the vast majority of prospective migrants. See our Tier 1 page for more information on the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route.
Tier 2 covers highly skilled migrants who already possess a job offer. It replaces the previous Work Permit scheme. To apply for Tier 2, you need a sponsor - in this case, your prospective employer - who is able to issue you with a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). Applicants must also score further points for appropriate salary, English Language skills and maintenance. The Tier 2 visa is tied to a particular employer and if you change employers, or even jobs with the same employer, you will need to make a new application.
In order for companies to employ non EU migrants, and for Universities to enroll non EU students, the organisation must issue an official Certificate of Sponsorship. In a high profile political move, the UK government introduced in 2011 an 'immigration cap', which limits the number of Certificates of Sponsorship that UK employers are able to issue. The annual limit is 20 700, but it is important to realise that various cases are not subject to this limit, including Intra-Company Transfers (ICT), posts with a salary higher than £150k, and most cases where the new employee is applying in country. Indeed, at the time of writing, the cap seems to be having rather less of an effect than previously expected/ feared. For more on Certificates of Sponsorship and Sponsor Licensing, see our dedicated page for Employers and Sponsors.
Tier 4 covers international students. The effect of recent changes to this route has been to make conditions on studying in the UK more demanding, for example by raising the standard of English language ability required. The options for students following their period of study have also diminished somewhat, following the closure in April 2012 of the Tier 1 Post Study Work route. Instead, students who wish to remain in the UK may wish to consider the replacement Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur route, or - if a suitable Sponsor can be found - Tier 2.
Sometimes applicants have the option of applying in more than one category and it can be difficult to weigh up the benefits and costs. Applicants need to consider not only the requirements and permissions of the category for which they are applying, but also how this might affect any long term plans to remain or settle in the UK. This difficulty is typically magnified by extensive and ongoing changes to the UK immigration system. At White Rose Visas we are pleased to provide you with a free initial consultation to determine the best long term options for you and your family.
A Tier 1 visa enables you to work for any employer, to seek employment, or set up self employment
The 'immigration cap' limits the number of Certificates of Sponsorship that employers can issue