Tier 12345

In Spring 2008, immigration to the UK underwent a complete process of reform, replacing most of the current system of UK visas and UK work permits with a five tier points-based immigration service.

The new system has replaced specialist routes to living and working in the UK such as the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, or HSMP, and superseded the UK work permit visa system, streamlining and rationalizing the wide variety of immigration visa services available at present.

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How will the new system work?

The tier system has simplified the process of applying for a UK visa, restructuring more than 80 types of visa for UK immigration into a more straightforward, transparent system.

The new system consists of the following five categories:

  • Tier 1 visa- Migrants with desirable professional skills
  • Tier 2 visa - Skilled workers with an offer of employment
  • Tier 3 visa - Temporary, low skilled workers
  • Tier 4 visa - Students
  • Tier 5 visa - Youth mobility schemes/ temporary workers

Tiers 1 and 2 of the system offers potential routes to settlement in Britain and may lead to the opportunity to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK (ILR), often known as permanent residency.

In tiers 2-5 applicants will need to obtain a certificate of sponsorship from the relevant sponsoring body. For tier 2 visas this would be a sponsoring British company, for tier 3 visas the operator of a specific worker scheme, for tier 4 visas the educational institution and for tier 5 visas the home Government of the candidate.

Introducing the system:

Implementation of the tier visa system began in April 2008 followed by a stage by stage roll out. The new system focuses British immigration services towards attracting those candidates best equipped to contribute professional skills and experience to the British economy, to reduce the opportunities to abuse the system, and to delegate some responsibility for applicants to their sponsors.


The new system will not apply to temporary immigration solutions such as a UK visit visa, often known as a travel visa or tourist visa. UK visitor visas for tourists, due to their short term nature and the restrictions they place upon employment will continue to operate separately from the new tier immigration system and holders will not be able to switch into any of the five new tiers.

In addition, spouse immigration and dependent immigration will remain largely distinct from tier visas. The first two tiers of the system, along with the fourth tier in some circumstances, permit family immigration for an applicant´┐Żs husband, wife, civil partner, unmarried partner and/or dependent children, in a manner similar to the previous dependency visa. However, the existing categories of the marriage visa, unmarried partner visa or De Facto Visa and fiance visa will continue to be available outside the new framework.

The existing system:

As a UK immigration consultancy IP Visas can assist you with your relocation to the UK, whichever tier is right for you. We can guide you at every stage from immigration lawyer advice on your initial application through to on arrival services designed to help you adjust to living and working in Britain.