Quick guide to the points-based system
This section contains summaries of key tasks for employers under the points-based system for immigration. It explains how the system works and what it means for sponsors.
Who does the system apply to?
The points-based system covers migrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland who require leave under the Immigration Rules to work in the UK. With the exception of Bulgarians and Romanians (until the end of 2013) and Croatians, If you want to employ any other EEA or Swiss national, you should be able to do this without needing our permission. There are some restrictions on the access of Croatian nationals who wish to work in the UK. There are also some limitations until the end of 2013 on employing Bulgarian and Romanian nationals. The section for European citizens provides more information on the rights of all EEA and Swiss nationals.
How the system works
Under the points-based system, most migrants must pass a points assessment before they can get permission to work in the UK.
Each of the system's four current tiers has different requirements - the number of points the migrant needs and the way the points are awarded will depend on the tier they are applying under.
The role of the sponsor
Migrants in any tier except Tier 1 must be sponsored before they can apply to us. If a UK organisation wants to sponsor a migrant under Tier 2, Tier 4 or Tier 5 (Temporary workers), they must apply to us for a sponsor licence.
Under Tier 2 and Tier 5 (Temporary workers), the sponsor must be an employer based in the UK. Under Tier 4, the sponsor must be an education provider.
Migrants who want to come to the UK under Tier 5 (Youth mobility scheme) do not need to be sponsored by a UK employer.
You can find out more about sponsorship duties and how to become a licensed sponsor on the sponsoring workers pages.
What are the tiers?
The points-based system consists of five tiers. These are:
- Tier 1 - for highly skilled workers, such as scientists and entrepreneurs
- Tier 2 - for skilled workers with a job offer, such as teachers and nurses
- Tier 4 - for students
- Tier 5 - for temporary workers, such as musicians coming to play in a concert, and participants in the youth mobility scheme.
Tier 3 is currently suspended.
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The European Economic Area (EEA) consists of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Although Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are not members of the European Union (EU), their citizens have the same rights as EU citizens to enter, live in and work in the UK.