The Tier system is points based, the applicants can therefore determine exactly if they qualify before starting the process of application.
Tier 1 – High-value migrants
Tier 1 is designed to attract the high-value migrants and there is no requirement for a sponsor employer or specific job offer that is linked to the application/visa.
Tier 1 General
This visa route was closed December 2010 and only current HSMP and Tier 1 General holders already in the UK can make further application for extension applications in this category.
Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
This visa is for people who want to set up or take over, and be actively involved in, the running of a business in the UK. The visa requirement is that you have access to not less than £200,000
- You can apply if you have access to £50,000 in investment funds from one or more of the following:
- a UK entrepreneurial seed funding competition endorsed by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI)
- a UK government department making funds available for the purpose of setting up or expanding a UK business
- a venture capital firm registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
Tier 1 (Investor)
Visa option for people who want to make a substantial financial investment in the UK. You can apply for a Tier 1 (Investor) visa if:
- you want to invest £2,000,000 or more in the UK
- be 18 or over to apply for this visa
- be able to prove that the money belongs to either you or your husband, wife, unmarried or same-sex partner
- have opened a UK bank account
Your funds must be:
- held in one or more regulated financial institutions
- free to spend (‘disposable’) in the UK
Your money can be in the UK or overseas when you apply.
Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)
To get a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa, you need to be endorsed as a leader (exceptional talent) or emerging leader (exceptional promise) in one of the following:
- digital technology
- the arts
Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa
You can apply for a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa if you:
- are a graduate who has been officially endorsed as having a genuine and credible business idea
You must be endorsed by either:
- UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) as part of the elite global graduate entrepreneur programme (Sirius)
- a UK higher education institution (HEI) if it’s an authorised endorsing body
You need all of the following to be eligible:
- a UK-recognised bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD awarded before your date of endorsement
- endorsement from an authorised UK higher education institution issued in the past 3 months
- £945 in savings if applying from inside the UK, or £1,890 if applying from outside the UK – this is to prove you can support yourself and you must have had this in your bank account for 90 days before you apply
- to meet the English language requirement.
- permission to remain in the UK from your financial sponsor if they’re a government or an international scholarship agency and have paid your course fees and living costs in the past 12 months
Tier 2 is aimed at the skilled worker group. It is different from Tier 1 in that the application/visa is linked to a specific job offer and employer. The UK employer is the licensed sponsor and is able to issue a Certificates of Sponsorship (Work Permits).
The employee qualifies for the visa on a points base system, mandatory maintenance and English language requirement. Family members, Spouse, Unmarried Partner, Civil Partner and children can accompany the main applicant provided the appropriate dependency visas/entry clearance is issued.
Tier 2 General
Any registered company in the UK is able to apply to become a licenses sponsor. The position on offer needs to be NQF level 6 or above, in other words Hons degree level work or above, and the labour residency test is required to show that there is not a UK or EU national that can and want to do the job. For each sector of the industry there are specific Codes of Standards explaining the minimum requirements for sponsorship for a specific job type.
- In order to qualify for this visa option you need the NQF level 6 or above job offer from the Tier 2 licensed sponsor employer before can you begin to apply.
Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa
You can apply for a Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa if:
- your overseas employer has offered you a role in a UK branch of the organisation
There are 4 types of Intra-company Transfer visa.
- Long-term Staff This visa is for transfers of more than 12 months into a role that can’t be filled by a new UK recruit. You need to have worked for your employer overseas for at least 12 months.
- Short-term Staff This visa is for transfers up to and including 12 months into a role that can’t be filled by a new UK recruit. You need to have worked for your employer overseas for at least 12 months.
- Graduate Trainee This visa is for transfers into graduate trainee programmes for specialist roles. You need to be a recent graduate with at least 3 months’ experience with your employer overseas.
- Skills Transfer This visa is for transfers that allow people to gain skills and knowledge needed to perform their role overseas, or to pass on their skills to UK colleagues. You don’t need to have been with your employer overseas for a set period of time.
You must have all of the following to be eligible for a Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa:
- certificate of sponsorship reference number
- an ‘appropriate’ salary
- £945 in savings – this is to prove you can support yourself and you must have had this in your bank account for 90 days before you apply
Tier 2 Minister of Religion
This sub category of Tier 2 allows a registered religious organization in the UK to sponsor a qualified Minister to work in the UK for this organization. As per the Tier 2 rules the position and the individual needs to meet certain minimum requirements. The visa / entry clearance is linked therefore to a specific job and sponsor/employer in the UK.
Tier 2 Sport and Entertainer
This sub category of Tier 2 allows a registered Sports Club or Entertainment Company to sponsor an individual sports person or entertainer to work in the UK for the sponsor. As per the Tier 2 rules the position and the individual needs to meet certain minimum requirements. The visa / entry clearance is linked therefore to a specific job and sponsor/employer in the UK.
This tier will replace the low skilled group of visas like the agricultural seasonal worker visa but because there is sufficient labour entering the UK from the EU itself this tier is not being developed at present. For this reason Non EU Nationals like South Africans do not qualify to apply for low skilled visas at present.
Under Tier 4 the Educational Institution acts as the sponsor and takes on the sponsor responsibilities of reporting and issuing the Certificate of Acceptance of Study (COA). The Education Institution therefore needs to be a Tier 4 Licensed Sponsor in order for them to issue the COA. The individual student again qualifies for the entry clearance application (Student Visa) on a Points base system. Tier 4 is divided in 2 categories:
- A child who wishes to undergo schooling in the UK at an Independent Fee Paying School can do so with a Child Student Visa.
- Adults who wish to further their studies in the UK are able to do so under this category. It is possible for a school leaver to study in the UK and obtain a UK degree level qualification. If you already have a degree qualification and wants to further your studies in the UK i.e. MBA degree, you are able to pursue this on the Tier 4 student visa route.Part time work is permitted for Adult Students depending on the level of course and whether you are enrolled at a Higher Education Institution or a Private Education Institution. Adult Students sponsored by a higher education institution on a course at NQF level 7 or above which lasts 12 months or more; are able to bring with spouse and child dependents.
- Short-term study visa You can apply for a Short-term study visa if you’re doing a short course of study in the UKYou must prove that you:
- have been offered a place on a course in the UK at an accepted place of study
- have enough money to support yourself without working or help from public funds, or that relatives and friends can support and house you
- can pay for your return or onward journey
If you’re under 18 you must also:
- have made arrangements for your travel and stay in the UK
- have permission from your parent or guardian to study in the UK
- Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS)
- The YMS is a subcategory of Tier 5 and have replaced the old Two Year Working Holiday Scheme from November 2008. Currently 7 countries are participating in this scheme, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Monaco, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The participating country is the sponsor. You can also apply under the scheme if you are a British overseas citizen, a British overseas territories citizen or a British national (overseas). Currently South Africa is not part of the scheme and South African nationals are unable to go to the UK under this scheme. The YMS allow the individual to work in the UK for 2 years.
The creative and sporting worker category is for people coming to the UK to work or perform as sportspeople, entertainers or creative artists for up to 12 months. Before you apply under the creative and sporting worker category, you must have:
- a sponsor; and
- a valid certificate of sponsorship.
Before assigning your certificate of sponsorship in the sporting sub-category, your sponsor must have an endorsement for you from the governing body for your sport, which confirms you meet the governing body’s requirements to give their endorsement. The governing body must be recognised by the UKBA.
This sub-category is for people coming to the UK to do voluntary (unpaid) work for a charity. The work must be directly related to the work of your sponsor’s organisation. Before you apply under Tier 5 (Temporary workers – charity workers), you must have:
- a sponsor; and a valid certificate of sponsorship.
This visa is for:
- Commonwealth nationals
- older than 18 years of age and
- whose grandparent was born in the UK,
- can apply to go to the UK to settle there under the Ancestral Visa rules provided
- that they intend to work and settle in the UK.
- This visa is issued for an initial 5 year period and allows for the holders to work unrestrictedly in the UK. Provided you meet the requirements it can lead to Permanent Residence status and in the end becoming a UK Citizen via naturalization. You are able to have visa dependents including partner/spouse and children who will follow the settlement process with you.
Offshore Worker Visa
- Employment on oil, gas and any other, installations fixed to the sea bed that are wholly at sea on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).
- This visa is issued for a period of 1 year and allow for the holders to work unrestrictedly provided the work is wholly and only offshore in the UKCS.
- This should not be confused with the 12 mile zone which is defined as ‘UK territorial waters’ (where immigration control applies).
Domestic Workers in a Private Household visa
You can apply for a visa to visit the UK with your employer if you:
- are a domestic worker in a private household
- have worked for your employer for at least one year
Domestic workers include:
- those providing personal care for the employer and their family
You must prove that you:
- are between 18 and 65 years old
- have worked for your employer for at least 1 year
- work in the same household as your employer or one they use regularly
- plan to travel to the UK with your employer, their partner or children
- intend to work as a full-time domestic worker in a UK household your employer will live in
- plan to leave the UK at the end of 6 months or at the same time as your employer, whichever is sooner
- are able to support yourself in the UK without the need for public funds
Your employer must be either a:
- British or European Economical Area (EEA) national who usually lives outside the UK and who doesn’t intend to remain in the UK for more than six months
- foreign national who is coming to the UK on a visit and who doesn’t intend to remain for more than 6 months
Your employer must also pay you at least the national minimum wage.
You could lose your visa if your employer breaks any immigration laws while in the UK.
Representative of an Overseas Business visa
You can apply to come to the UK as a representative of an overseas business if you’re from outside the European Economical Area (EEA) and Switzerland and you’re either:
- the sole representative of an overseas company planning to set up a UK branch or a wholly owned subsidiary for an overseas parent company
- an employee of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation posted on a long-term assignment to the UK
If you are coming to the UK as a sole representative you must:
- be recruited and employed outside the UK by a company whose headquarters and principal place of business are outside the UK
- have extensive related industry experience and knowledge
- hold a senior position within the company (but not be a major shareholder) and have full authority to make decisions on its behalf
- intend to establish the company’s first commercial presence in the UK, eg a registered branch or a wholly owned subsidiary
You may also be eligible if the company has a legal entity in the UK that doesn’t employ staff or transact business.
If your company has been working to establish a UK branch or subsidiary, but it is not yet set up, you can replace a previous sole representative.
Newspaper, news agency or broadcast employees
As an employee of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation, you can come to the UK if you’re being posted here on a long-term assignment.
Permitted Paid Engagement visa
You may be able to get a Permitted Paid Engagement visa if you’ve been invited to the UK as an expert in your profession.
You can apply for a Permitted Paid Engagement visa if you:
- are invited by a UK-based organisation or client
- want to come to the UK to do specific paid work without having to be sponsored under the points-based visa system
You can stay in the UK for up to 1 month.
You can be invited by a UK-based organisation or client to:
- be a student examiner or assessor
- take part in selection panels as a highly qualified academic if you’re invited by an education, arts or research organisation
- give lectures at a higher education institution, as long as it’s not a part-time or full-time role
- examine UK-based pilots so they meet the standards of the country you come from if you’re invited by an approved UK training organisation regulated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority
- provide advocacy in a particular area of law
- take part in arts, entertainment or sporting activities including broadcasting
- take part in fashion modelling assignments
You can also do minor activities related to your work or business overseas, eg attend meetings.
- do specific paid work unrelated to your main job or area of expertise at home or sell merchandise, other than what’s allowed by your visa
- extend this visa or switch to another visa
- live in the UK for extended periods
- get public funds.
- study for more than 30 days – studying can’t be the main reason for your visit
- marry or register a civil partnership, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership
- bring family members (‘dependants’) with you on your application – they must apply separately