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Tier 1 Visa Overview

Becoming a resident of any country is a complex business, and applying for a visa to that country can be a difficult task. Fulfilling the necessary requirements of an unfamiliar visa process requires a patient approach and a good understanding of exactly what is required, and the UK’s Tier 1 Visa system should be thoroughly understood by anyone wishing to apply. In this article we’ll take a look at exactly what the Tier 1 visa is, who it’s for, and what you’ll need to do to get one. For more detailed information, and for an in-depth explanation of the precise process involved, applicants should consult the UK Government’s website.

What is a Tier 1 Visa?

The tier 1 system of visas has been designed to permit access to skilled workers with experience that has the potential to benefit the UK. The system works by assigning “points” for various qualifications, capabilities and experience, and prioritises entry for workers with vital skills. The points system reflects the potential value that an entrant will have to UK society, and their ability to fit into the country’s culture - this allows the UK to control not only the total volume of immigration, but also the type of immigrants that are accepted.

Points System

The points system requires applicants to reach a score of at least 80, of which total 10 must come from English language skills and another 10 from fulfillment of the maintenance funds requirement. This guarantees that applicants will have at least some skills with the language and some way of supporting themselves; immigrants will need to be able to communicate in English and be able to support themselves initially upon entry.

Points are awarded in the following categories:

  • Education level

    Those with a degree or higher qualification are awarded points which reflect their ability to fulfil important roles. A Bachelor’s degree is worth 30 points, a Master’s is worth 35 and a PhD scores 50 points. Equivalent-level qualifications must be assessed by a Government body upon submission.

  • Previous earnings

    The more skilled a worker is, the more they’re likely to have been earning. Therefore, a higher level of income is reflected in higher points awarded in this section; an income above £16k scores 5 points, and the points awarded increase by 5 for every £2-3k in salary up to a maximum of 45 points for £40k+.

  • Experience in the UK

    If the applicant has already been working in the UK on a temporary visa, their experience as part of the culture makes them a better fit for the visa. Applicants who have earned more than £16,000 in the UK are awarded an extra 5 points.

  • Age

    Younger applicants are awarded higher points in this section, with those under 28 years old receiving 20 points, and those above 31 years receiving none. This helps to ensure that younger applicants are not unfairly discriminated against by the weighting of the earnings qualification; those under 30 have not had as much time to develop a career, and as such won’t score as highly for earnings. By awarding extra points to youthful applicants, the government ensures that immigrants who are younger and can contribute to the workforce are still granted entry.

English Language and Maintenance Points

The points based system is designed to reflect the different attributes which an applicant can have whilst still remaining a valuable and worthwhile member of society. For instance, someone who’s worked very hard to build a career and earns above £40k annually scores highly, as does a student who’s spent their 20s studying for a PhD - they might not earn as much, but their education and youth make them a viable candidate.

Two areas which cannot be substituted, though, are the requirements for English Language skills and a basic level of funding. These are required to ensure that the applicant has the basic language abilities to integrate with English society and can support themselves initially. The English language requirement stipulates that applicants must either pass a test to prove their abilities or be a national of an English-speaking country (such as Australia, Jamaica, the USA, New Zealand or Canada).

The maintenance funding requirement reflects the basic need to support yourself in the UK. Immigrants who arrive penniless and in dire need of assistance will find it difficult to contribute to society, so an important aspect of the Tier 1 visa application is holding at least £945 of cash. This is not a fee, and will not be retained by the Government; it’s simply to ensure that immigrants can find their feet initially, and won’t be stuck with no options upon entering the country.

Who is the Tier 1 Visa for?

As we’ve seen through the Tier 1 points system, the visa requirements are designed to reward applicants who are highly skilled workers. Those workers with a history of high earnings, good education and good experience will meet the criteria for the visa, while those who fall short will be rejected.

How can I apply for a Tier 1 Visa?

Tier 1 visa applications are submitted to the Government’s website, and processed remotely. In order to apply, you’ll need to provide substantial evidence and documentation that you fulfil the points requirements detailed above.

  • Education

    You’ll need to provide the certificate of qualification from the awarding body. If this is an equivalent-level qualification and not a Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD, it will be assessed by a Government body.

  • Earnings

    You must submit evidence of your earnings in a 12-month period, which must be from the previous 15 months (i.e. it must be earned in 12 consecutive months, but not necessarily the 12 months prior to your application).

  • Age

    You’ll need to show a copy of your birth certificate.

  • Experience in the UK

    Your earnings history should show whether money was earned in the UK or not, and payslips or statements should demonstrate whether or not you meet this requirement.

The Tier 1 Visa system is a detailed method for determining which applicants are best suited to life in the UK, and prioritises those with relevant experience, skills and capabilities. It isn’t the only method of gaining entry to the UK, and those in dire need can apply for alternative methods of entry, such as asylum or temporary shelter.

Tier 1 Visa guides

  • Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa

    Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa information for candidates who have the necessary funds and desire to open a business in the UK in order to secure UK immigration.

  • Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa

    Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa is aimed at citizens who are considered to have exceptional world class talent and are acknowledged as being world leaders.

  • Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa

    Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa is designed for recent graduates who have a viable business idea that they want to put into practice in the UK.

  • Tier 1 Investor Visa

    Tier 1 Investor Visa information for candidates hoping to immigrate or extended their UK Investor Visa with the view of obtaining a mortgage in the UK.


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