points-based system – Maintenance funds

The maintenance funds thresholds for Points-Based System Migrants and their dependants are being updated in line with changes to the cost of living since they were last updated in 2012. The updates for work routes (Tiers 1, 2 and 5) are based on Consumer Price Index inflation since 2012, and the updates for the student route (Tier 4) are based on the rise in the maximum package of grants and loans available to home students since 2012.


The UK’s points-based system

In February 2008, the Labour government introduced the UK’s first points-based immigration system heralded by ministers as being based on the Australian system. It replaced a labyrinthine scheme which saw 80 different types of visa granted.

The new system contains a lengthy list of sub-tiers of migrant, but broadly they are classed as one of four ‘tiers’. Tier 3 was intended to be a pathway for unskilled immigrants, but after the system began operating the British government decided there was no need for further unskilled immigration from outside the EU. Under the coalition, it has been removed and others tweaked so now the tiers are:

  • Tier 1: high-value (possessed of exceptional talent, highly skilled, high-net-worth investor, graduate entrepreneur)
  • Tier 2: skilled workers (jobs that cannot be fulfilled by a UK or EEA worker, intra-company transfers, ministers of religion or sportspersons) – capped at 20,700 a year unless the immigrant earns more than £150,000
  • Tier 4: student (in primary, secondary, or tertiary education)
  • Tier 5: temporary migrants

Each tier offers its own allocation of points for specific ‘attributes’. For each of the groups in tier 1, a person earns points according to different criteria:

  • English language ability
  • Capacity to support oneself financially
  • Age and previous experience

The admission of migrants who possess “exceptional talent”- that is, who are acknowledged to be world leaders in their fields – is capped at 1000 per year.

You must have a specific job offer in order to apply for entry under tier 2, and reach a total of 70 points.

By far the easiest means of meeting that target is by having a job on the ‘Shortage Occupation List’, such as chief executive officer of a major company, biochemist, engineer or medical practitioner. Such an occupation earns a person 50 points, to be topped up by other factors including age and experience.

Beyond the points

Because the UK is a member of the European Union the points-based system only applies to people who are moving to the UK from outside the European Union. There is freedom of movement across the EU and, barring temporary restrictions for some new member states, freedom to work as well.

Migrant health

Image captionThose with high skilled jobs, like surgeons, are unlikely to encounter much difficulty getting a UK visa

Paragraph 36 of the immigration rules provides that anyone planning to stay in the UK longer than six months should be referred for a medical examination, the cost of which is borne by the applicant. This is designed to ensure that no-one is admitted to the UK who might:

  • endanger the health of other persons in the UK
  • be unable for medical reasons to support themselves or their dependants in the UK
  • require major medical treatment (unless explicitly granted)

UK Visas and Immigration currently runs a tuberculosis-testing programme for aspiring immigrants in “high-incident countries” and their applications are paused, pending treatment, if they test positive.