Highly skilled visas — Tier 1

**The new UK immigration cap means that only 1000 visas will be granted from April 2011 to April 2012 under the Tier 1 Points Based System and these will be to people of ‘exceptional talent’ (scientists, entrepreneurs, sports stars), without a job offer.**

The United Kingdom Tier 1 (general) visa replaces the old Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP). Until recently, you had to accrue 95 points in order to qualify for a Tier 1 visa. In July this year, the minimum points total required was changed to 100 points.

Points are based on:

  • Education (including extra for qualifications gained in the UK)
  • Previous earnings
  • Previous employment experience
  • English language skills
  • Funds

Tier 1 visa news

Although the number of points required to qualify for a Tier 1 visa has been increased to 100, it has now become possible to earn education points for a Bachelor’s Degree again, after the BA was disallowed for two years and the age limit for scoring points raised.

That’s just about all the good news we’ve had related to visas this year though.

There was an increase in the salary band levels across the range of point scores.

The new coalition government have announced plans to make changes regarding UK visas and the number of people allowed into the country. These changes are expected to be announced in April of 2011.

In the meantime, an interim cap has been placed on Tier 1 visas for those outside the EU. This cap has been placed at 24,100 non-EU visas from now until 31 March 2011, when further changes will be announced along with the permanent cap figures.

Until then, here’s everything you need to know about the Tier 1 visa.

How to accrue your 100 points

Basically, if you are well educated, fluent in English, are already a fairly high earner with money in the bank and many years away from retirement, your chances are pretty good.

Of course, with the cap, you would now be trying to secure one of only 24,100 places, so you would be competing with thousands of others with more or less the same “qualifications” as you.

In order to qualify, you must score at least 80 points for your attributes – previous earnings, age and education, along with 10 compulsory points for your English Language Skills and a further 10 compulsory points for your maintenance funds.

Education {30 – 80 Points}

Academic qualifications now amount to a total of between 30 and 45 points, with the minimum level of education reverting back to the Bachelor’s Degree (30 Points).

A Master’s Degree scores 35 points, while a PhD will be awarded 45 points. An MBA could earn you 80 Points, if you enrolled in an eligible MBA course before 30 June 2008 and graduated within 12 months of submitting your application. 

To score the relevant points, your qualification must meet or exceed the UK’s recognised standard of a Master’s or PhD, according to the National Academic Recognition Information Centre for the UK (UK NARIC).

You may qualify for 5 extra bonus points if your qualifications were gained in the UK within the last 5 years.

Previous earnings {5 – 80 Points}

The UKBA uses a series of calculations or multipliers to calculate your earnings anywhere other than the UK and convert this salary to Pound Sterling.

The multiplier amount depends on the average income of the country in which you were working. For example, if you earned ZAR (South African Rand), the rand amount would use the multiplier of 3.2 which will uplift the earnings to a relative Pound Sterling rate.

You can claim up to a maximum or 80 points for previous earnings in a single, consecutive 12-month period during the 15 months before the date you apply for your Tier 1 (General) visa.

If you want to claim for a 12 month period that falls outside of the 15-month period, you can do so, if you can prove that you didn’t work during the immediate period because of full-time study or maternity.

You don’t have to have worked the entire 12-month period, as long as the earnings are sufficient. You also don’t have to have worked for the same employer for the 12-month period, as long as the earnings are sufficient.

Earnings are classified as any source of legal employment, earnings from self-employment, bonuses, maternity pay and dividends paid to you from a company where you are active in the day to day running of the company.

Property rental does not count, unless the rental of property forms part of your business.

Points are allocated as follows:

£150,000 or above      80 Points
£75,000 – £149,999    45 Points
£65,000 – £74,999      40 Points
£55,000 – £64,999      35 Points
£50,000 – £54,999      30 Points
£40,000 – £49,999      25 Points
£35,000 – £39,999      20 Points
£30,000 – £34,999      15 Points
£25,000 – £29,999       5 Points
Under £25,000             0 Points

NOTE: You can earn an extra 5 points if you worked in the UK and earned £25,000 or more during the 15 months prior to your application.

English language skills {10 Points}

NOTE: These 10 points are mandatory to your application being successful. If you do not meet the language skill requirements, your application will be refused, no matter how many points you scored in other areas.

Here’s how to ensure you receive these crucial points:

  • If you are a national of a country where the majority of inhabitants speak English, you will automatically qualify for 10 points.  These are: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Christopher and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States of America.
  • If you hold a Bachelor’s Degree (or higher) that was taught in English, you will also qualify automatically.
  • If you are in the UK as an HSMP visa holder when applying and your visa was issued on or later than 5 December 2006, you will automatically receive 10 Points.
  • If none of these conditions above are present, you will have to pass an English Language Test to prove that your English is up to scratch.

Age {5 – 20 Points}

You can score up to 20 points for your age. Scoring is as follows:

29 years or under      20 points
30-34 years              10 points
35 – 39 years             5 points
40 or over                  0 points

Maintenance Funds {10 Points}

NOTE: Like the English Language Skills points, these 10 points are mandatory to your application being successful. If you do not meet the maintenance fund requirements, your application will be refused, no matter how many points you scored in other areas.

It is vital that you can prove that you have the means to support yourself and your dependants until such a time that you are settled and have a job.

If you are applying from within the UK, you will need at least £800 in the bank for a continuous three-month period prior to applying, as well as £533 per dependant.

Outside the UK
If you are applying from outside the UK, you will need to prove that you have at least £2800 and £1600 per dependant.

More about the Tier 1 (general) visa

If you would like to find out more, please visit 1stcontactvisas.com. Alternatively you could call 0800 856 2473 (UK), 0800 003 163 (SA) or 1800 039 300 (Australia) to speak to a friendly and qualified 1st Contact visa consultant.