The Points-Based System

In 2008, the introduction of the points-based system for immigration (PBS) – re-structured the UK Immigration system removing over 80 existing immigration routes to the UK and establishing a new Tier system.

The current system is made up by 5 categories (tiers) or employment routes under which a foreigner can apply for work in the UK.

  1. Tier 1: Highly skilled individuals to contribute to UK growth and productivity;
  2. Tier 2: Skilled workers with a job offer to fill gaps in United Kingdom labour force;
  3. Tier 3: Limited numbers of low skilled workers needed to fill temporary labour shortages. The UK has so far never allocated any visas under this scheme, thus this means that you cannot apply for the Tier 3 visa scheme.
  4. Tier 4: Students (this category will be described under ‘Studying in the UK’);
  5. Tier 5: Youth mobility and temporary workers: people allowed to work in the United Kingdom for a limited period of time to satisfy primarily non-economic objectives.

The approval of your application will depend on your scoring at least the required points for each category.

You can apply for a visa up to 3 months before the day you’re due to start work in the UK.

The average time for a decision on an employment application made in the UK is 3 weeks.

Tiers 3 and 5 are temporary routes and migrants in them will not be able to switch out of them once they are in the UK.

Those in Tiers 1, 2 and 4 are eligible to switch between these tiers subject to meeting the requirements of the tier they want to switch to.

Tiers 1 and 2 will potentially lead to settlement if settlement requirements are met at the time of that application.

Dependants are allowed under tiers 1, 2, 4 and 5. However, dependants are not allowed to work where accompanying a student (Tier 4) or a temporary worker (Tier 5) who has been given less than 12 months leave in the United Kingdom.


You can apply for a work visa under PBS online if:

  • you are outside the UK and applying for permission to enter the UK under a tier; or
  • you are already in the UK with permission to stay (known as ‘leave to remain’) in an immigration category that allows you to switch into your chosen tier; or
  • you are already in the UK with leave to remain under your chosen tier and you want to extend your permission to stay under this category.

Tiers and sub-tiers may have additional categories of eligibility.

Points scoring

ATTRIBUTES: To qualify for a work visa under PBS, you need to successfully score the minimum points required for the main requirements (or ‘Attributes’) under the specific tier and sub-tier you are applying under.

You will be only awarded points for the sections where you have indicated that you wish to claim them and for which you have supplied the required supporting evidence.

ENGLISH PROFICIENCY AND MAINTENANCE: In addition to reaching the pass mark for the Attributes, you must score the 10 points provided for each of these mandatory requirements.

If you do not meet both mandatory requirements, your application will be refused regardless of any points you may have scored in the Attributes section.

Some sub-tiers (such as Tier 1- Investors, Tier 1-Exceptional Talent and Tier 2- Intracompany Transfer) provide exemptions to the English proficiency and maintenance funds requirements.

English language requirement

The ability to meet the required English standard is a mandatory requirement.  If you cannot meet this level, your application will be refused.

English proficiency is required for all tiers and sub-tiers of the Points Based System, but the level of English required differs. The level is measured according to the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

10 points will be awarded to you if you meet the English proficiency standard; and 0 if you do not.

There are three ways you can meet the requirement.  You can:

  1. pass an English language test listed provided by a UK Visa and Immigration approved English test provider which meets the standards of the Tier you are applying under; or

  1. hold a degree that was taught in English as confirmed by the UK NARIC database as equivalent to a UK Bachelors degree, masters or PhD; or
  1. be a national of a majority English-speaking country (no African countries qualify), that is: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Christopher (Kitts) and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States of America.

Some sub-tiers have further ways to meet the English proficiency requirement.

Maintenance funds

The ability to support yourself for the entire duration of your stay in the UK without needing any help from public funds is a mandatory requirement. Even if you have attained the pass mark in the Attributes section and have the required standard of English, your application will be refused if you do not meet the Maintenance funds requirement.

The maintenance threshold is not the same for all tiers and sub-tiers of the Points Based System.

10 points will be awarded to you if you meet the required standard; and 0 if you do not.

Duration of work visa

The duration of a work visa depends on the sub-category. See under each Sub-Tier for details.

Right of appeal

Outside the UK, a refusal of entry clearance under PBS does not attract a full right of appeal.

You can appeal only on one or more of the following grounds referred to in Section 84(1)(b) and (c) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002:

  • that the decision is unlawful by virtue of Section 19B of the Race Relations Act 1976 (c.74) (discrimination by public authorities), and/or
  • that the decision is unlawful under Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (c.42) (public authority not to act contrary to Human Rights Convention) as being incompatible with the appellant’s Convention rights.

However, all applicants can apply for an Administrative Review, which is a mechanism for reviewing refusal decisions.

On the contrary, a refusal of a dependant’s application for entry clearance as the family member of a PBS migrant attracts a limited or full right of appeal as applications made by dependants are not assessed on ‘points’.

If you made an initial application from inside the UK, you can appeal against a refusal decision only if you have the statutory right of appeal.

If your application to extend your stay was refused, you may have the right to appeal. You will be given details of why your application has been refused and what action is available to you, including any right to appeal.

Administrative Review

If your application for entry clearance under the points-based system is refused and you think that an error has been made, you can ask for your application to be reviewed (‘Administrative Review’).

Administrative review is a process used to assess whether your claimed points have been correctly awarded.

The Administrative Review is free of charge. You must ask for an Administrative Review within 28 days from the date you receive the refusal notice.

You can download the Administrative Review Form from the UK Visa and Immigration website: