SOAS University of London

Points Based System for Immigration

DISCLAIMER: These FAQs are for information only and cannot be relied upon to determine the outcome of an individual application, which will be considered on its own facts. SOAS and its staff cannot give advice to individuals on how to complete their applications, or what type of visa they should apply for. If individuals need help with their application or advice about the UK's immigration rules and requirements, they should seek advice from a qualified immigration adviser as regulated in the UK by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner or from a legally qualified professional regulated by designated professional bodies (Law Society of England and Wales, Law Society of Scotland, Law Society of Northern Ireland, Institute of Legal Executives).
Please note: The Law Societies of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and the Institute of Legal Executives cannot provide direct help or advice on visa applications. They can only provide a list of law firms who can advise on immigration matters.

  • Who has an automatic right to live and work in the UK?

    European Economic Area (EEA) nationals and Swiss nationals have the right to live and work in the United Kingdom.

    Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom are EEA member states.

  • What about nationals of states that have recently joined the European Union?
    Nationals of Bulgaria or Romania must not work until they have been given permission by the UKBA.
  • What is the UKBA?
    The UK Border Agency is responsible for securing the United Kingdom borders and controlling migration in the United Kingdom. The UKBA manages border control for the UK, enforcing immigration and customs regulations and considering applications for permission to enter or stay in the United Kingdom, citizenship and asylum.
  • What should employers do to comply with immigration law?
    Employers must carry out specific checks on the original documents of prospective employees provided as evidence of their eligibility to work in the UK. All appointments at SOAS are subject to proof of eligibility to work in the UK. All employees are required to produce evidence of their entitlement to work in the UK on or before the first day of employment and must not start work until satisfactory evidence is provided.
  • What documents are accepted a proof of eligibility to work in the UK?

    The documents that should be checked are listed in the guidance published by the UKBA in February 2008. The following are accepted as evidence of entitlement to work in the UK:-

    • A UK passport; or
    • A passport or national identity card of an EEA state and, if relevant, any worker registration or other supporting documentation; or
    • A passport from a non-EEA state, the relevant endorsement showing that the holder is permitted to live and take employment in the UK and, if relevant, any additional required documentation (e.g. documentation from the UKBA, evidence of student status).
  • What are the legal sanctions for employing illegal workers?
    Sections 15 to 26 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality 2006 came into force on 29 February 2008, introducing new penalties for employing illegal workers. Employers could be liable for a civil penalty of up to £10,000 per illegal worker, and where employers knowingly employ an illegal migrant worker from 29 February 2008 they could face prosecution and receive an unlimited fine and/or a maximum two year prison sentence.
  • How can you acquire eligibility to work in the UK?

    The UK Government introduced a points-based system (PBS) for immigration in November 2008 for migrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland.

    Under the PBS, migrants need to pass a points-based assessment before they are given permission to enter or remain in the United Kingdom. The system consists of five tiers. Each tier has different points requirements.

  • What are the PBS tiers?
    • The points-based system consists of five tiers. These are:
    • Highly Skilled Migrant Workers, Investors and Entrepreneurs;
    • Tier 2 - Skilled migrant workers with a job offer;
    • Tier 3 - Low skilled workers (this tier is currently suspended);
    • Tier 4 - Students;
    • Tier 5 - Youth Mobility and Temporary Workers (includes creative and sporting, and government authorised exchange).


    Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)
    Launched on 6 April 2011, this route is for those who are internationally recognised as world-leading talents in the fields of science and the arts. Applicants need to score a minimum of 75 points for attributes (an endorsement by a Designated Competent Body that they are a world-leader or potential world-leading talent in their field), 10 points for English language and 10 points for available maintenance (funds).

    Tier 1 (Post Study Work)
    Graduates who can demonstrate that have recently completed a course at a UK institution may be eligible to apply to the UKBA for a Tier 1 (Post study work) visa.

    Tier 2
    Tier 2 is for medium and highly skilled workers immigrating to the UK and allows individuals who have a confirmed offer of employment from a UK employer to work in the UK under their sponsorship. This is also the correct route for Named Researchers who will become salaried employees of the sponsoring institution and are connected to specific research funding.
    NB: Tier 2 visa holders are only permitted to work in the job for which they are sponsored. Tier 2 visas are not transferable between institutions or roles within the same institution.

    Tier 5
    Under the Government Authorised Exchange Scheme, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has agreed that Higher Education Institutions licensed under this category may recruit Sponsored Researchers directly, without having to go through an overarching body. Sponsored Researchers are typically not salaried employees but may receive some allowances/stipends, etc.

    If a UK based employer wishes to recruit a migrant under Tiers 2 or 5, they have to hold a sponsor licence from the UKBA.

  • Has SOAS got a sponsor licence?
    The Human Resources Directorate successfully applied for SOAS to become a Sponsoring Organisation in November 2008. Following a compliance visit by the UKBA, the School was granted an A-rated Sponsor Licence under Tier 2 (Skilled migrant workers with a job offer). This allows SOAS access to the UKBA’s web-based Sponsorship Management System, through which we can apply for Certificates of Sponsorship for prospective employees from outside the EEA who meet the minimum points score for Tier 2.
    SOAS was granted an A-rated Sponsor Licence under Tier 5 (Creative and Government Authorised Exchange) in October 2009.
    (The Registry also holds an A-rated Sponsor Licence under Tier 4 for students).
  • What are the Sponsor’s duties?

    In order to retain the sponsor licence and remain a Sponsoring Organisation, employers must comply with a number of duties, reporting to the UKBA within 10 working days if:

    • the migrant does not turn up for the first day of work;
    • the migrant is absent for more than 10 working days without reasonable permission;
    • we stop sponsoring the migrant;
    • there is any significant change in the migrant’s circumstances;
    • there are any suspicious breach of conditions; and
    • reporting to the police any information suggesting that the migrant may be engaging in terrorism or other criminal activity.
  • How does the Tier 2 PBS system operate?
    Following selection interviews, HR will check the successful candidate’s original documents to verify whether they are eligible to work in the UK. If the successful candidate requires permission to work in the UK, the HR Directorate will ask them to provide further supporting documentation in order to assess whether they will score sufficient points to be eligible to apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship under Tier 2 of the PBS. If the candidate scores at least 32 points, the HR Directorate will enter the relevant data onto the Sponsorship Management System, in order to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship.
  • What is the Certificate of Sponsorship?
    A Certificate of Sponsorship is not an actual certificate or paper document.  It is a unique reference number, generated by the UKBA’s Sponsorship Management System, which the HR Directorate will apply for if the migrant meets the minimum points score. The UKBA will only issue 1500 Certificates of Sponsorship per month to Sponsoring Organisations across the UK and priority will be given to those migrants scoring the highest number of points each month. The Certificate of Sponsorship must be issued within six months of the start of the recruitment process, or within 12 months in the case of Research Fellows from 1 January 2010.
  • How many points do you need to score for Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship?
    In order to be eligible to apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship, Tier 2 applicants need to score a minimum of 32 points for salary, qualification level, and whether the job meets the resident labour market test (i.e. has been advertised) or is listed as a shortage occupation by the UKBA, plus 10 points for English language and 10 points for available maintenance (funds). The maximum number of points available is 105. Any non-compliance with the rules on applying for or allocating certificates of sponsorship may result in the UKBA withdrawing the sponsor licence or downgrading it to a B-rating.
  • How do you satisfy the resident labour market test?
    The resident labour market test does not have to be met if the post is on the UKBA’s shortage occupation list, or if the migrant is a Named Researcher. In all other Tier 2 cases, the job must be advertised in accordance with the UKBA’s code of practice for the sector. The advertisement must include full details of the role, and be placed in Jobcentre Plus, plus another medium permitted by the relevant code of practice. The Certificate of Sponsorship must be issued by the employer within six months of the start of the recruitment process, or within 12 months in the case of Research Fellows from 1 January 2010.
  • How do you satisfy the English Language requirement?

    The migrant must either:-

    • be a national of a majority English-speaking country; or
    • provide evidence that they have passed an English language test; or
    • have a degree that was taught in English
  • How do you satisfy the maintenance requirement?

    The migrant must provide evidence that they have had a balance of at least £800 (or the foreign currency equivalent) in their account at all times during the three-month period preceding their application. The documents must be original, on the official letter-headed paper or stationery of the organisation and have the official stamp of that organisation. They must have been issued by an authorised official of that organisation.

    Evidence must be in the form of cash funds. Other accounts or financial instruments for example, shares, bonds and pension funds, regardless of notice are not acceptable. If the migrant wishes to rely on a joint account as evidence of available funds, they must be named on the account along with one or more other named individuals.

    The following evidence is acceptable:

    • personal bank or building society statements, showing account holder’s name, account number, the financial institution's name and logo and transactions covering the three-month period preceding the application with the most recent statement dated within one month
    • electronic bank statements from an online account, submitted with a supporting letter from the bank, on company headed paper, confirming the authenticity of the statements sent;
    • building society pass-book, showing account holder’s name, account number, the financial institution's name and logo and transactions covering the three-month period preceding the application;
    • letter from bank confirming funds and that they have been in the account for at least three months
    • letter from financial institution regulated by either the Financial Services Authority or the home regulator (the official regulatory body for the country in which the institution operates and the funds are located) confirming funds.
  • How many points do you need to score for Tier 5 Certificate of Sponsorship – Government Authorised Exchange?
    Tier 5 applicants need to score a minimum of 30 points for sponsorship and 10 points for available maintenance (funds).
  • Can the successful candidate start work as soon as they receive the Certificate of Sponsorship?
    No. After the sponsor gives the Certificate of Sponsorship number to the migrant, the migrant must apply for permission to enter if outside the United Kingdom (known as 'entry clearance'), or permission to stay if inside the United Kingdom (known as 'leave to remain') and quote the certificate of sponsorship number on their application form. Please note that a migrant cannot apply for initial permission to enter the United Kingdom more than three months in advance of the date they are due to start work.
    The fact that a Certificate of Sponsorship has been issued by the employer does not guarantee that the migrant will succeed in getting permission to enter or stay. The migrant must meet certain requirements for the relevant tier and category, and apply for permission to enter or stay. Only when this has been confirmed by the Home Office, can the candidate start work.
  • How long is the Certificate of Sponsorship valid for?
    A Certificate of Sponsorship under tier 2 and tier 5 is valid for three months from the date of issue. The Certificate of Sponsorship will automatically become invalid if the migrant does not use it within this time to apply to enter or remain in the United Kingdom. During this time the migrant cannot be assigned another Certificate of Sponsorship by any other sponsor. If a migrant decides not to take up the post, they should contact their sponsor to cancel or withdraw the Certificate of Sponsorship before applying for another job or course.
  • Will SOAS pay for the migrant’s application to enter or remain in the UK?
    Although the migrant is required to pay for their own application and that of any dependants, SOAS will reimburse the cost of the prospective employee’s first Tier 2 visa application to enter or remain in the UK in order to take up their post at the School, on submission of a receipt. SOAS will not reimburse the cost of applications for any dependants or for any subsequent applications should the first application be declined.

    For visa extensions, SOAS will reimburse the cost of postal or online applications for the employee, but not for any dependants. Should the employee wish to make an in person, premium service application, SOAS will not reimburse the additional cost.
  • What happens if there are any future changes to the employee’s role?

    Minor changes can be reported to the UKBA by completing a ‘notification of technical change of employment’ form together with a fee of £20 for each affected employee. Any significant changes will be regarded as a change of employment, which will require a new Certificate of Sponsorship. Examples of significant changes are:

    • changes to a job role or responsibility due to a promotion, demotion or restructuring.
    • changes in terms and conditions such as the employee’s place of work
    • increase of salary over and above a standard annual increment
    • decrease in salary below the minimum wage or market rate
    • change of hours in excess of 10 per cent
  • What about Academic Visitors?
    Academic Visitors are not employees and, therefore, do not come under the Points Based System for Immigration. In November 2008 the Immigration Rules were amended to create a distinct category for
    short-term business visitors who come to the UK. The maximum time allowed in the UK at any one time as a business visitor is six months, except for academic visitors who may enter or stay in the UK for up to 12 months. Visa nationals (i.e. those who need a visa for every entry to the UK, as listed at the attached link need permission ('entry clearance' or 'a visa') to come to the United Kingdom for a business visit of up to six months. Non-visa nationals do not need permission to come for up to six months as a business visitor.
    Academic visitors from outside the EEA who want to come to the UK for more than six months will need permission whatever nationality they are and are responsible for obtaining their own visas.
    Academic Visitors should be able to produce evidence that they have been working as an academic in an institution of higher education overseas, or in the field of their academic expertise immediately prior to seeking entry or entry clearance for entry in this category.
  • Who is classified an Academic Visitor?
    • A person on sabbatical leave from an overseas academic institution who wishes to make use of their leave to carry out research in the UK (to do research for a book for example); or
    • Academics (including doctors) taking part in formal exchange arrangements with United Kingdom counterparts; or
    • Visiting professors accompanying students undertaking study abroad programmes.

    Academic visitors must:

    • Not receive funding for their work from any United Kingdom source, other than payments of expenses or honoraria to cover their needs whilst in the UK;
    • Not intend to take employment or engage in any work other than the academic activity for which they are being admitted;
    • Not be filling a normal post or a genuine vacancy;
    • Not stay in the UK for more than 12 months;
    • Intend to leave the UK at the end of their visit;
    • Be able to maintain themselves and any dependants without having recourse to public funds (or be adequately maintained and accommodated by relatives or friends);
    • Be able to meet the cost of the return or onward journey from the UK.