The UK Points-Based Immigration System [2024 Guide]

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Emilene LucasLegal Assessment Team Supervisor
Updated on 5th July 2024
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The UK points-based immigration system was introduced to streamline and control the process of immigration following the end of free movement within the European Union. The system is based on earning points for various attributes, and applicants must meet a minimum points threshold to qualify for a visa.

It is designed to attract highly skilled workers, students, and those who can contribute positively to the economy and society. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at the details of the UK points-based immigration system, exploring its key components, how it works, and what it means for different categories of applicants.

We will also provide practical insights to help you, whether you are an individual planning to move to the UK or an employer seeking to understand how to sponsor non-UK workers. 

What is the UK points-based immigration system?

The UK points-based immigration system is a framework used to manage the entry and stay of non-UK nationals in the United Kingdom. 

This system was implemented following the end of free movement in the European Union and aims to streamline the process of assessing and granting visas based on specific criteria. 

The system evaluates visa applicants on various attributes, awarding points for criteria such as skills, qualifications, job offers, and English language proficiency.

Applicants must reach a minimum points threshold to be eligible for a visa. 

How are points allocated?

Some visa categories have a specific point requirement applicants must meet or exceed to be considered for a visa. 

Points are allocated based on specific criteria relevant to each visa and can be awarded for: 

  • Having a degree or equivalent qualifications that meet UK standards; 

  • Relevant work experience and skills; 

  • Having a job offer from a UK employer that holds a valid sponsorship license; 

  • Salary; 

  • English language proficiency; 

  • Age; 

  • Proof of sufficient funds. 

How many points do you need to immigrate to the UK?

The number of points required to immigrate to the UK depends on the specific visa you’re applying for under the points-based immigration system. 

Skilled Worker Visa

The Skilled Worker Visa allows employers to bring in skilled workers to fill roles where there is a shortage of domestic talent. 

Eligibility criteria

  • You must have a confirmed job offer from an approved UK employer with a sponsorship license

  • The job must meet the skill level requirements; 

  • You must meet the minimum salary threshold, usually at least £25,600 per year, or the ‘going rate’ for the job, whichever is higher; 

  • You must demonstrate proficiency in English. 

To qualify for a Skilled Worker Visa, applicants must score at least 70 points. Here’s the breakdown: 

Mandatory Criteria (50 points minimum)

Criteria

Points

Job Offer from an Approved Sponsor

20 points

Job at an Appropriate Skill Level

20 points

English Language Proficiency at B1 Level

10 points

Additional Points (Choose to make up 20 points)

Criteria

Points

Salary of £25,600+

20 points

Salary of £23,040 to £25,599

10 points

Salary of £20,480 to £23,039

0 points

Job in a Shortage Occupation

20 points

PhD in a Subject Relevant to the Job

10 points 

PhD in a STEM Subject Relevant to the Job

20 points

Global Talent Visa

The Global Talent visa is designed for highly skilled people who are recognised as leaders or potential leaders in academia, research, arts, culture, and digital technology.

Eligibility criteria

  • You must be endorsed by an approved body; 

  • You must be a recognised leader (exceptional talent) or an emerging leader (exceptional promise) in your field. 

The Global Talent Visa does not operate on points-based criteria. Instead, eligibility is based on receiving an endorsement from a designated competent body relevant to the applicant’s field of expertise. 

Student Visa 

The Student Visa is for international students who have been accepted by a licensed educational institution in the UK. 

Eligibility criteria

  • You must have an unconditional offer of a place on a course with a licensed student sponsor;

  • You need a confirmation of acceptance for studies from your educational institution;

  • You must prove you have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course; 

  • You must meet the English language requirements. 

Applicants for a Student Visa must score 70 points.

Criteria

Points

Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies 

50 points

Financial Requirements

10 points

English Language Requirement

10 points

Graduate Visa

The Graduate Visa allows recent graduates to stay in the UK for at least two years after completing a degree in the UK.

Eligibility criteria

  • You must have completed an eligible course at a UK higher education provider.

Senior or Specialist Worker Visa

A Senior or Specialist Worker visa allows individuals to come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job at their employer’s UK branch. 

To qualify for a Senior or Specialist Worker Visa, you must score at least 60 points based on sponsorship, job skill level, and salary criteria. 

Eligibility criteria

  • You must have a valid certificate of sponsorship from your employer;

  • You need to have worked for your employer outside the UK; 

  • You do a job that’s on the list of eligible occupations; 

  • You are paid the minimum eligible salary required for your job. 

Family Visa 

A Family Visa allows family members of UK residents or citizens to join them in the UK. This category includes visas for spouses, partners, children, and other dependents.

​​The UK Family Visa does not operate on a points-based system. Instead, eligibility is determined by meeting specific criteria related to the relationship, financial requirements, accommodation, and English language proficiency.

Eligibility criteria

  • You must prove your relationship with the UK resident or citizen;

  • The sponsor must meet the financial requirements to support you;

  • You must have suitable accommodation arranged in the UK; 

  • You may need to prove your English language proficiency. 

How does the points-based system affect employers looking to hire non-UK workers?

Employers who want to hire non-UK workers must get a sponsorship license. There are different types of licenses depending on the type of workers being hired. 

They must also keep detailed records of sponsored workers and report to UKVI if a sponsored worker fails to turn up for work, if their employment is terminated, or if there are significant changes in their circumstances. 

Employers must pay for the sponsorship license and may also cover the visa application fees for their workers. Sponsors are required to pay the Immigration Skills Charge for each sponsored worker, which is used to fund skills training for UK residents. 

How do you know whether a job meets the required skill level under the points-based system?

The UK Home Office uses the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system to categorise jobs. Under this system, each job is assigned a specific code that reflects its skill level and typical responsibilities.

To find out whether a job meets the required skill level, you should: 

  1. Identify the appropriate SOC code for the job by matching the job description and duties to those listed; 

  2. Verify the skill level associated with the SOC code. 

What is the Shortage Occupation List?

The Shortage Occupation List was a list of jobs under the Skilled Worker immigration route that benefited from lower application fees and a reduced salary requirement. It has since been replaced by the Immigration Salary List

For roles listed, the salary threshold can be lower, typically 80% of the usual going rate for the occupation. 

Conclusion

In this article, we’ve explored the key components of the UK points-based immigration system, how points are allocated, and the specific requirements for different visa categories. We also provided insights on how employers can hire non-UK workers.

If you need further support, our experienced network of immigration solicitors can help you understand the points-based system, comply with all requirements, and successfully manage your visa application. 

We offer high-quality legal services at a fraction of the cost of traditional high-street firms and our network is made up of only the best, fully regulated, and vetted solicitors in the UK.  

For advice and expert assistance with your immigration needs, contact us today. 

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