UK Visa Changes Made in 2008

The UK Government re-vamped the entire UK visa and immigration system with the first wave of changes for Tier 1 migrants coming into action on 29 February, 2008, with a second wave on 1 July, 2008.

By replacing the current immigration system with a points based system (similar to the model used by Australia), the government hopes to make the immigration system more streamlined. 

The points-based immigration system

The new points-based system implemented consists of five tiers:

  • Tier 1: Highly skilled individuals to contribute to growth and productivity
  • Tier 2: Skilled workers with a job offer to fill gaps in United Kingdom labour force
  • Tier 3: Limited numbers of low-skilled workers needed to fill temporary labour shortages
  • Tier 4: Students
  • Tier 5: Youth mobility and temporary workers: people allowed to work in the United Kingdom for a limited period of time.

Therefore, there will still be an appropriate visa class to fit accordingly to the current range viable candidates who wish to work or study in the UK.  However, we anticipate that rather than each visa class having a distinct set of requirements and criteria, there will now be a universal points test with a different points requirement for each visa type.

When was the points-based immigration system implemented?

 Tier 1 was fully implemented on 1 July, 2008 and the other tiers had staggered implementation thereafter.

UK migrant sponsorship

It was anticipated that once the new points-based system is implemented, a key principle will be that all migrants will require a sponsor (except for highly skilled applicants applying under Tier 1 and Tier 5 Youth Mobility applicants). 

Sponsorship licenses

Sponsors can be employers, colleges and others who might benefit from the applicant's migration and wish to act as sponsors of skilled, temporary and student migrants.  However, the organisation will need a licence to do so.  According to a Statement of Intent issued by the government, it will be possible to apply for sponsorship licences from early 2008.  The prospective guidelines for attaining a sponsorship license can be outlined accordingly:

  • Everyone wanting to come to the UK under the points-based system will need prior entry clearance, which they will not be allowed to apply for without a certificate of sponsorship.
  • In order to gain a licence, a prospective sponsor will need to apply to the Border and Immigration Agency, supplying specified evidence.
  • Once licensed, the sponsor will be able to apply for certificates of sponsorship, which it will allocate to migrants coming here to work for or study with it.
  • The issue of a certificate of sponsorship authorises the migrant to apply for entry clearance but does not mean that his or her application will succeed.
  • Sponsors will have to comply with certain duties, including a duty to inform the Border and Immigration Agency if migrants do not turn up for their job or course, or if they are absent without permission for a significant period.
  • The Border and Immigration Agency will monitor sponsors' behaviour and compliance with their duties once they are licensed.
  • The government aim to introduce the licensed sponsorship system in the first quarter of 2008.
  • Migrants under Tier 5, the youth mobility schemes, similar to the current working holiday visa will need to be sponsored by the government of their countries, who will need reciprocal arrangements for British citizens. Where an applicant’s country is assessed as posing a very low immigration risk, the applicant will be deemed to be sponsored by his/her government if he/she has a valid passport from that country.

Tier 1 - Highly Skilled Migrants

The Statement of Intent on Tier 1 for highly skilled migrants explains how the system will work, but please consider that the government have warned that it could change before the Tier begins or at any point afterwards. The following changes for Tier 1 migrants came into action on 29 February, 2008 for applicants in the UK and from India, and became universally applicable on 1 July, 2008.

Main points from the Statement of Intent on Tier 1 include;

  • Applicants in Tier 1 will not be asked to have sponsors, unlike applicants in other tiers.
  • When the highly skilled tier is introduced, eight existing immigration categories will be removed; Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, Investors, Self Employed Lawyers, Businesspersons, Writers, Composers & Artists, International Graduate Scheme, Innovators and the Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland Scheme. Persons who previously would have applied under the eight immigration categories that will be falling away, will have to apply under Tier 1 and its sub-categories, in order to gain entry to the UK.
  • The new Tier will embrace migrants who wish to find highly skilled work in the UK, and the following categories will be moved under the Tier 1 category; entrepreneurs, investors and post-study work.
  • Successful applicants for the Highly Skilled General, Investors or Entrepreneurs category will be granted three year's leave with a subsequent grant of leave for two years, taking applicants to the qualifying period for permanent residence. There is some possibility of some applicants being granted permanent residence after two years.
  • The post-study work category aims to retain the most able international graduates who have studied in the UK. This post-study work will be part of this tier as successful applicants will be free to seek employment without a sponsor. However this sub-category is there only to provide a bridge to highly skilled or skilled work and persons in this category will be expected to switch into another part of the points system as soon as possible. In order to encourage people to switch leave under this category will be fixed at a maximum of two years and time spent in this category will not count towards the qualifying period for settlement.

Further information

The UK Government is clear that the rules contained in the Statements of Intent published so far can change at any time prior to or after the implementation of the different tiers. There are also no definite time lines available as yet, although it is anticipated that all tiers other than Tier 3 will be introduced by the end of 2009.

If you are unsure of whether you qualify to emigrate to the UK under the current UK immigration system, complete a UK Visa Online Assessment or Request a Call from one of our migration consultants in order to determine your eligibility. The Online Assessments contain current UK Visa legislation and will help you determine which UK Visa best suits your needs.