UK Immigration Points Based Tier System


In 2008, the United Kingdom overhauled its immigration law and implemented a points based system for non-European Union migrants wishing to come to the United Kingdom to work, study and train.

The problem addressed by the campaign: 

The UK’s old immigration system was convoluted and consisted of 80 different routes. The new method is divided into only five tiers, making it comparatively much simpler.

  • The new immigration system is broken into a five tiers that replaced the previous 80 or so routes that existed. Each tier has different conditions, entitlements, and entry requirements for migrants wishing to work in the UK:
    • Tier 1: highly skilled migrants, entrepreneurs, investors and graduate students
    • Tier 2: skilled workers with job offers
    • Tier 3: limited numbers of lower skilled workers to fill temporary labour shortages
    • Tier 4: students, excluding graduate students
    • Tier 5: youth mobility and temporary workers, such as those coming under Working Holiday agreements with other countries
  • Each tier must score a certain number of points to extend stay in the United Kingdom. Each tier is based on a different points system but all involve compliance with immigration requirements.
  • In Tiers 1 and 2, points are awarded for criteria such as age, previous salary or prospective salary and qualifications.
  • All migrants applying under Tiers 2 to 5 are required to have sponsorship from a licensed sponsor (an employer or educational institution). The certificate of sponsorship assures that the migrant is able to perform the particular job or course of study. Highly skilled Tier 1 migrants do not require a job offer and thus do not require sponsorship.

The United Kingdom now has a far more straightforward immigration system. Prospective immigrants can easily determine which tier to apply for and what is expected of them under their tier’s points system. In the long run this new system should attract and facilitate the immigration of highly skilled immigrants, which should in turn improve the UK’s economic future.

Why has it worked?: 

The system is simple and well documented on its government website and clearly designed to address the country’s talent needs. The process should be much more encouraging and accessible for future immigrants as well as their employers.

Conclusions and Recommendations: 

Create a simplified immigration system that both government employees and immigrants understand.

Foundational Issues: 
Public and private constraints on mobility
Level of Collaboration: 
Level 1: Collaboration within the organization
Economic and political context: 

United Kingdom:

  • Population: UK: 61,838,154 (2009)
  • Unemployment rates: UK: 7.7% (2009)
  • GDP: UK – US$ 2,174,529,808,278 (2009)
About the Author(s): 
  • The UK Border Agency is a global organization with 23,500 staff – including more than 9,000 warranted officers – operating in local communities, at our borders and in about 130 countries worldwide.
  • Foreign nationals can apply for visas at more than 250 visa application centres worldwide.