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Why and when was the Points Based System introduced to the UK?

The Points Based System (PBS) consists of 5 main categories and within 4 of the categories you have sub-categories.


The Points Based System currently has 4 active categories and only 3 of them apply to UK businesses, where sponsorship is required, they are:



Tier 1

The first tier of the PBS was rolled out to the UK on the 29 February 2008 to replace the then existing Highly Skilled Migration Programme (HSMP).  Tier 1 General (one of 5 sub-categories) was introduced to replace the HSMP.  The PBS new module was based on a system used in Australia, which was a more effective way of dealing with migrants than the system the UK had been using.


Tier 2

On the 28 November 2008, the second tier of the PBS was introduced, Tier 2.  Tier 2 has 4 sub-categories and the main sub-category was for skilled workers (Tier 2 General) and this was used where skilled labour at or above NFQ Level 3 could not be employed from within the EU labour market.  With the introduction of Tier 2, was the birth of a new type of work permit; historically a UK employer would have to complete a Business & Entertainment (WP1/WP1X) or Sports & Entertainment (WP3/WP3X) application form, once approved, the migrant could then apply for an entry visa, or, if already in the UK apply for a Letter of Permission to remain in the UK.


UK organisations were advised from May 2008 to start applying for a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence if they wished to employ a skilled worker from outside of the EU from the 28 November 2008. In 2008 the Home Office realised that the newly introduced PBS would be very confusing for UK businesses and decided to appoint a number of immigration specialist companies to assist the Home Office by providing help and advice on getting the employers businesses HR practices in order, help apply for a sponsor licence and achieve the A-Rating which is the requirement set by the Home Office to obtain a sponsor licence.


Home Office PBS Support Companies

Global 4 Immigration (G4I) applied to the Home Office in 2008 to be one of the organisations assessed as advisers to prospective Sponsors under the Points-Based System.  G4I demonstrated to the Home Office that we knew how the newly introduced PBS worked and the Home Office duly added G4I to the approved Home Office list.


Prior to the PBS being introduced, there were many visa applications being approved and refused in error as the Home Office policy guidelines were not always clear and precise hence why the PBS was introduced.  The 5 tier routes of the PBS replaced the need for 80 visa routes into the UK and making it easier to understand what route the migrant should take.  The PBS simplified the immigration policies making it much clearer for all parties so applications submitted would be correctly assessed.


Tier 3

Tier 3 was created to replace both the Sector Based Scheme (SBS) and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) for non EEA nationals (except for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals). Like with tier 2, the UK organisation would need to obtain a sponsor licence but Tier 3 was shelved before it went live.  With the expansion of the EU from 15 to 27 countries it is very unlikely Tier 3 will ever be activated as a route to allow low skilled migrants into the UK.


Tier 4

On the 31 March 2009, the Home Office officially launched Tier 4 for students.  Before the introduction of the PBS system, UK student visas were filled with many loopholes. These loopholes exposed the system to abuse as many students used the route not to study but to work full time.  The introduction of the PBS made each training institute liable if any student failed to do their course of studies.  Just like Tiers 2 and 5, the training institute would need to apply for a sponsor licence and issue every student a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) before they can apply for a student visa.  This placed more responsibility in the hands of educational institutes.


Would your business like to employ migrants or accept students under the points based system?

If you are considering employing migrants then we recommend you should read the information on the following pages by clicking the below 3 links:


  1. HR Compliance
  1. Illegal Employment
  2. Sponsor Licence


If you need help and support in applying for a sponsor licence we can help you throughout the process.


Tier 5

Tier 5 was also introduced on the 28 November 2008.  Like with Tier 2, if the UK organisation wanted to employ a migrant through one of the 5 temporary worker route then a sponsor licence would need to be required.  If any business was to take on temporary workers, when they applied for a sponsor licence they would applied for Tier 2 and Tier 5.


Tier 5 had 6 visa routes, only 1-5 required a CoS to be issued.  Point 6 the Youth Mobility Scheme, replaced the Working Holiday Visa and this visa the migrants from certain countries can apply for this visa without the need of a CoS.

  1. Tier 5 Temporary Worker (Creative & Sporting)
  1. Tier 5 Temporary Worker (Charity worker)
  2. Tier 5 Temporary Worker (Religious Worker)
  3. Tier 5 Temporary Worker (Government Authorised Exchange)
  4. Tier 5 Temporary Worker (International Agreement)
  5. Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme (No sponsor required)


Tier 5 - Youth Mobility Scheme

Did you know that one of the six sub-categories under tier 5, you can employ workers from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Taiwan and South Korea aged from 18 to 30 who want to come to the UK to gain work experience?  You do not need to apply for a sponsor licence to hire these nationals.  


Note: The permit is for a maximum of two years and it cannot be extended.

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