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Points Based Migration (PBS)- General Information

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Some aspects of the points-based system may change over time. Please check the UK Border Agency website for updated information. 

Home Office UK Border Agency:


Points-based system for immigration control


Overview of the New System


The UK has undergone significant changes to its immigration system. The UK Border Agency has introduced a new immigration system called the points-based system (PBS) for managing applications from people who wish to come to the UK to work, train or study. On 27 November 2008 the PBS replaced work permits, and in early 2009 it will replace student visas.


The UK Border Agency (UKBA) is a shadow agency of the Home Office, which was formed in April 2008 to improve the UK ’s security through stronger border protection whilst welcoming legitimate travellers and trade. The UKBA brings together the work previously carried out by the Border and Immigration Agency, Revenue and Customs and UK Visa Services.


Under the new system anyone wanting to come to or remain in the UK will need to show that they meet immigration requirements and that they have enough points to qualify. Points are earned in different ways, such as qualifications and earnings, and in the majority of cases migrants will need a sponsoring employer or educational establishment.


Sponsorship in the PBS is based on two fundamental principles: firstly, that those who benefit most directly from migration (that is, employers and educational establishments) should play their part in ensuring that the system is not abused; and secondly, UKBA needs to be sure that those applying to come to the UK to work or study are eligible to do so and that a reputable employer or educational establishment genuinely wishes to take them on.


This means that the University of Birmingham has had to become licensed by UKBA in order that we can sponsor migrant workers and students. As a licensed sponsor, the University can issue ‘certificates of sponsorship’ to employees and ‘confirmation of acceptance of studies’ to students.


The University of Birmingham has become a licensed sponsor for tier 2 (skilled workers) and tier 4 (students) and will soon be applying to be a licensed sponsor for tier 5 (sponsored researchers).


How the PBS works


Anyone wanting to come to or remain in the UK needs to show that he/she meets the requirements of the immigration rules – and in particular that he/ she has enough points to qualify. Points can be earned in different ways, e.g. for qualification and earnings. In the majority of cases the migrant will require a sponsor.


The requirement to have sponsor does not apply to nationals of the European Economic Area or to migrants in tier 1 (highly skilled /post-study workers) of the points-based system.


Sponsors are businesses or academic institutions in the UK that wish to employ the migrant or accepted him/her onto a course. In order to become a sponsor, the business or academic institution needs to become licensed by the UKBA. Once licensed, the sponsor indicates the migrants they wish to admit by issuing them with a certificate of sponsorship (for students this is called a confirmation of acceptance of studies). UKBA sets a limit to the number of certificates each sponsor may issue.


Everyone wanting to come to the UK under the new system will need prior ‘entry clearance’. All migrants (except those in tier 1) will need to be sponsored before they will qualify for ‘entry clearance’.


The Five Tiers of the Points-Based System



Applications open for sponsors   Applications opened for migrants
Tier 1: highly skilled workers No sponsor needed 29 February 2008
Tier 1: investors, entrepreneurs and post-study workers No sponsor needed 30 June 2008
Tier 2: skilled workers with a job offer to fill gaps in United Kingdom labour force 28 February 2008
Tier 3: limited numbers of low-skilled workers needed to fill temporary labour shortages This tier is currently suspended
Tier 4: students 28 July 2008 Spring 2009
Tier 5: temporary workers and youth mobility scheme: people allowed to work in the for a limited period of time to satisfy primarily non-economic objectives, including Sponsored Researchers 28 July 2008 27 November 2008
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