Highly Skilled Workers, Entrepreneurs, Investors and Graduates 

Immigration Solicitors

Extensive changes to Tier 1 were included in the Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules HC 863, which was laid before Parliament on 16 March 2011. These changes took effect on 6 April 2011. All applications made up to and including 5 April 2011 will be considered by UKBA under the Immigration Rules as they existed until these changes came into force.

As a result of the changes Tier 1 now comprises five categories (Exceptional Talent, General, Entrepreneur, Investor and Post-Study Work). None of these routes requires the applicant for leave to enter or remain to already have a job offer in the UK.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

This route was introduced on 6 April 2011, and is for those who are internationally recognised as world leaders or potential world-leading talent in the fields of science and the arts and who wish to work in the UK.

Applicants seeking entry under this route must have a valid entry clearance, but they do not need to be sponsored by an employer and have full access to the UK job market upon entry - but cannot take up posts as a Doctor or Dentist in Training, or as a professional sportsperson or sports coach (all of which are catered for under other provisions of the rules).

Applicants must of course demonstrate a minimum of 75 points under paragraphs 1 to 6 of Appendix A to the Immigration Rules, but as is familiar - a separate Designated Competent Body will be entrusted by UKBA to endorse applicants, which will get applicants the necessary point.

The introduction of the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category is designed to encourage migration to the United Kingdom by the world's most affluent and entrepreneurial people, at the same time discouraging those who are only inadequately contributing to the UK economy.

One note of caution, those who have previously been sponsored by their government or an international scholarship, within the last 12 months and who have or were last granted leave as a student or a Postgraduate Doctor or Dentist, a Student Nurse, a Student Writing-Up a Thesis, a Student Re-Sitting an Examination or as a Tier 4 Migrant, must provide written consent of the sponsoring Government or agency and must provide the specified documents to show that this requirement has been met.

Successful applicants under this category of Tier 1 will be granted entry clearance for a period of 3 years and 4 months and will be unable to have recourse to public funds.

Tier 1 (General)

From 2008 highly skilled migrants have had to apply under this category, and those seeking leave to enter must first acquire prior entry clearance. However, no applications for Tier 1 (General) have been accepted by ECOs since 23 December 2010, however, applications in that capacity continue to be accepted in country for leave to remain, but since 5 April 2011 even those applications will no longer be accepted for leave to remain. Applications for entry clearance made before that date will continue to be decided in line with the Immigrations Rules in force up to that date.

The Tier 1 subcategories, (Entrepreneurs), (Investors) and (Post-Study Work) are unaffected by these changes and therefore anyone who meets the entry clearance requirements for those categories can continue to enter the UK via those routes.

Applicants must score 80 points from a combination of attributes to qualify for leave to remain - these are qualifications, age and previous earnings. Details of scoring are set out in Appendix A to the Immigration Rules. Those who were previously granted leave to remain under the HSMP category only have to acquire a total of 75.

Under the age criterion, more points are awarded to younger applicants as opposed to older ones.

There is an additional requirement for applicants to have 10 points for English Language skills. These points are awarded by reference to the criteria listed in Appendix B of the Immigration Rules which are (alternatives):

  • production of an English Language test certificate from a provider approved by the Secretary of State,
  • production of an academic certificate deemed by the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC) to meet or exceed the recognised standard of a UK Bachelors' or Masters' Degree or a PhD, or
  • being a national of one of a list of countries whose first language is English, or by having obtained an academic qualification to the necessary level from one of those countries.

Lastly, under Appendix C applicants require 10 points in respect of maintenance of themselves.

When Theresa May took office in July 2010, she immediately set about imposing a "cap" on grants of entry clearance in the Tier 1 (General) category. The introduction of this cap was challenged by judicial review, which was lost by the Home Secretary, because it formed part of guidance and not the Immigration Rules. However the interim cap was reintroduced by new Immigration Rules with effect from 23 December 2010, as mentioned above.

Successful applicants under the Tier 1 (General) are granted leave to enter for two years. They have free access to the UK labour market, but cannot take employment as a doctor in training. They can apply for an extension of stay at the end of their leave, either in the same category or in another category. Successful applicants will be granted three years' leave to remain.

After five years' of leave to remain, applicants can apply to settlement in the UK by making an application for indefinite leave to remain. At this stage they must meet the additional criteria of satisfying the sufficient knowledge of the English language and of life in the UK requirements. After 12 months of ILR they will be eligible to apply to be naturalised as British citizens.

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)

The Entrepreneurial sub category of Tier 1 is for investors seeking to establish, take over or be actively involved in the running of a business. Applicants must have a minimum of £200,000 to invest, which will automatically acquire for them the 75 points required under Appendix A. The initial grant is for three years leave to enter.

The Appendix B and C requirements (English Language and Maintenance) are the same as those for Tier 1 (General) Migrants.

Applicants in this category must show that their activities has created at least two full time jobs for UK employees, to gain them the necessary points to apply for further leave to remain, which will again be for two years.

Those gaining entry in this category cannot work outside the business or businesses they have set up, taken over or joined and are not allowed to claim public funds.

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Migrants can apply for indefinite leave to remain after 3 years leave in this category. They must have sufficient knowledge of the English language and of life in the UK. They will be eligible to apply for naturalization after 5 years residence, at least 12 months of which must have been indefinite leave to remain.

Furthermore, as of 6 April 2011 Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Migrants may also enter the UK as a Prospective Entrepreneur (a new form of Special Visit visa), which will enable the holder to apply for leave to remain as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) during the currency of the leave as a Prospective Entrepreneur.

Yet another relaxation of the rules applicable to both the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and (Investor) categories, is that they are now permitted to be absent from the UK for up to 180 days in any 12 month period, without interference of the requirement of continuous lawful residence in the UK for settlement purposes.

Tier 1 (Investor)

Tier 1 (Investor) Migrants are those who are high net worth individuals and are capable of making a substantial financial investment in the UK. The requirements are very similar to those which were stipulated under the previous Investor route.

To gain entry clearance applicants must have net assets of at least £1 million, which will grant them the necessary points under Appendix A, but are exempt from the requirements of Appendixes B and C (English Language and Maintenance).

Within 3 months of entry they must invest at least £750,000 in the UK, in UK Government bonds, shares or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies - but not in those principally engaged in property investment. Appendix A of the Immigration Rules provides details of how an applicant's assets can be taken into account to prove entitlement for entry clearance and how the necessary investment is to be made and maintained.

Failure to make the investment within three months of entry, will jeopardise subsequent applications for further leave to remain, and could also lead to curtailment of their leave. Tier 1 (Investor) Migrants are entitled to work if they wish but not as a doctor in training.

The initial grant of leave is for three years, but with changes introduced on 5 April 2011, settlement can now be applied for after only two or three years (depending on the extent of the investment, and the English Language and Life in the UK requirements of the Rules must be satisfied at this stage). After a further two or three years in the UK (depending upon when ILR was granted) you will be able to apply for Naturalisation.

Tier 1 (Post-Study Work)

This category is for international graduates who studies in the UK. They can apply for leave to enter or remain. They need 75 points for attributes in Appendix A - which are scored against the qualification they have gained and the institution at which they studied. The necessary qualifications are a degree, post-graduate diploma, a certificate from a UK institution or a Higher National Diploma from a Scottish institution.

They must have knowledge of the English language (Appendix B) at the same level as that for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Migrants - although this will be met automatically in most cases by their UK qualification. They must also meet the maintenance requirements of Appendix C, i.e. £2,800 when applying for entry clearance, and £800 when applying for leave to remain, which must have been held in their bank account for the preceding 90 days.

It should be noted that this sub category does not provide a route to settlement. Grants are for a maximum of two years, but Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) Migrants can apply for further leave to remain any other Tier 1 sub categories or as under Tier 2.

Family members of Tier 1 Migrants

Family members of Tier 1 Migrants can apply to join their spouse, civil partner, unmarried or same sex partner or parent (if the applicant is a child under the age of 18) in the UK. They can also apply for settlement in the UK at the same time as the Tier 1 Migrant to whom they are related - but if they are related otherwise than as his or her children they must have lived with the Tier 1 Migrant in the UK for at least two years. If they do not meet this requirement they can apply for a further period of limited leave to remain of up to two years, after which they can then apply for settlement.