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Changes to the Tier 1 General Scheme: meritocratic or plutocratic?

19 March 2010

On 18 March 2010, the UK Border Agency announced very significant changes to the Tier 1 and Tier 2 Schemes which will come into effect on 6 April 2010.  These changes are in line with the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendations published on 4 December 2010.  However, even as seasoned immigration practitioners, there is no denying that the time frame in which the new Rules are about to come into place is rather surprising.

Prospective applicants will have effectively less than 3 weeks to decide whether they should apply under the “old” scheme or wait for the new guidance to be implemented.  Bearing in mind the lesson learned from the HSMP Forum Judicial Review, the UKBA has also published  “transitional arrangements” for those applicants who are already in the UK as Tier 1 General Holder, HSMP, writers, composers and artists.

This article focuses in particular on the changes to the Tier 1 General Scheme by comparing the current points scoring categories with the new ones. A separate article will follow to discuss the changes to the Tier 2 Scheme. These changes are far reaching especially in connection to the intra - company transfer route to be replaced by three new categories.

Significantly, the lowering of the academic threshold back to bachelor’s degree level is accompanied by an increase in the salary brackets.  It is clear that the new policy is aimed at attracting high net individuals who through their financial earnings will be able to contribute to the UK economy tilting the balance in favour of older candidates. This has been achieved in two ways (1) by uplifting the points to be claimed for age and (2)by  increasing the  required salary. As a result, while under the current criteria, candidates are able to claim a maximum 5 points if they are below the age of  33, the maximum scoring age will be raised to 39 years of age.  Further, migrants who can evidence gross earnings above £ 150,000 in the 12 months preceding their application will de facto qualify without any academic qualification.

A table of the new changes has been reproduced below:


Previous Earnings


UK     Experience













40 & over


UK qualification








UK earnings














29 & under






























£75,000 -£149,000









+ 75





To be noted that there are no changes to the English language requirement and the maintenance requirement respectively under Appendix B and C of the Immigration Rules. Similarly, there are no changes to be the type of evidence to be provided.

Our advice is for migrants on lower income who are currently in the UK as Tier 1 Post Study Worker or Tier 2 holder to apply under the current scheme subject to having been awarded a master’s qualification. On the other hand, applicants who have as their highest qualification a  bachelor’s degree should wait until the  implementation of the new Rules.

Two other issues which we wish to bring to a prospective applicant’s attention are the new restriction on his/her employment in the UK as  professional “sport person” under the Tier 1 General Scheme as well as a  doctor in training and a dentist. However, the above mentioned restriction will not  apply to foreign students who have gained a medicine or dentistry qualification while studying in the UK. Finally, the initial grant of status as a Tier 1 General holder will be two years rather than the current three years followed by an extension of three years.

We strongly urge any migrant who is concerned or  in doubt about their particular circumstances to discuss their case with one of our consultants who are highly experienced in assisting those who wish to enter or remain in the UK under the Tier 1 General Scheme.


Migra & Co is a private immigration company, regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC), reference number F200900038. This website is not a government website and as such, we are not linked or affiliated with the UK Visas and Immigration. We offer expert legal advice and flexible tailored solutions to both private and corporate clients to ensure that their immigration needs are met. If you wish to download or prepare a UK visa application form, you can do so free of charge by visiting the Official UKVI website.