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A very short introduction to the new Points Based Immigration System


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The new Points Based Immigration System — replacing the old Points Based System that was introduced in 2008 — went live yesterday. The government is hailing it as a “simple, effective and flexible system”, although there are early reports of teething troubles and the feeling of most immigration practitioners is that the new system is not going to be simple to use at all.

With the end of free movement for EEA nationals on 31 December 2020, the Points Based Immigration System will very soon be the only option for foreign nationals wanting to move to the UK for work. But Brexit is not the only reason for the changes. The Home Office is simultaneously making a push for “simplification” of the Immigration Rules following recommendations from the Law Commission. 

The new structure of the Immigration Rules

Where a route has been simplified, it has been added to the Rules as an Appendix. This is a transitional measure: when the Immigration Rules are fully consolidated and simplified, each will be in the main body of the Rules rather than as an Appendix.

Each Appendix follows (pretty much) the same pattern. It starts with validity, suitability and eligibility requirements. This is typically followed by a points requirement, financial and English language requirements (where applicable) and then decision, period and conditions.

Below is a register tracking the locations of the old and new visa routes, with links to the relevant guidance for Home Office caseworkers.

Old Tier 1

These visa routes are for migrants the Home Office considers to be “high-value”. This means they are not sponsored by any employer, but are authorised to live in the UK by virtue of their own skills, experience, talent, wealth or entrepreneurship. They used to be grouped under the umbrella of “Tier 1”, then some were transferred into “Appendix W”, and now mostly have an Appendix each.

Route Old Rules New Rules Guidance
Investor Part 6A Part 6A Here
Innovator Appendix W Appendix Innovator Here
Start-up Appendix W Appendix Start-up Here
Global Talent Appendix W Appendix Global Talent Here

Old Tier 2

Tier 2 covered sponsored workers, or “work permit” style employment. The main route under this heading was Tier 2 (General), now called Skilled Worker.

Route Old Rules New Rules Guidance
General Part 6A Appendix Skilled Worker Here
Intra-company transfer Part 6A Appendix Intra-Company Routes Here
Sportsperson Part 6A Appendix T2 Sportsperson Here
Minister of Religion Part 6A Appendix T2 Minister of Religion Here

Old Tier 4

There never was a Tier 3. Tier 4 covered the long term study routes for students sponsored by a higher educational institution (university or similar).

Route Old Rules New Rules Guidance
General student Part 6A Appendix Student Here
Child student Part 6A Child Student Here

Old Tier 5

Tier 5 covered temporary workers, grouping together various schemes for migrants coming to the UK to work for up to two years. Those schemes continue under the new system.

Route Old Rules New Rules Guidance
Youth Mobility Part 6A Appendix T5 (Temporary Worker) Youth Mobility Scheme Here
Charity Part 6A Appendix T5 (Temporary Worker) Charity Worker Here
Creative or Sporting Part 6A Appendix T5 (Temporary Worker) Creative or Sporting Worker Here
Government Authorised Exchange Part 6A Appendix T5 (Temporary Worker) Government Authorised Exchange Worker route Here
International Agreement  Part 6A Appendix T5 (Temporary Worker) International Agreement Worker Here
Religious Part 6A Appendix T5 (Temporary Worker) Religious Worker Here
Seasonal Part 6A Appendix T5 (Temporary Worker) Seasonal Worker Here

Had no tier

Finally there are some work and study routes that were not placed in any tier under the old system.

Route Old Rules New Rules Guidance
UK Ancestry Part 5 Appendix UK Ancestry Here
Representative of an overseas business Part 5 Appendix Representative of an Overseas Business Here
Short-term student Part 3 Appendix Short-term Student (English Language) Here
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Pip Hague

Pip Hague

Pip Hague is a Senior Practice Development Lawyer at Lewis Silkin.