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Tier 1 — Highly Skilled Visa


The Tier 1 (general) Highly Skilled Visa is designed for skilled professionals who wish to work for an extended period in the UK without limitation (as an employee, self-employed individual or in other business opportunities), and who potentially wish to settle in the UK long term. You do not need a job offer to apply, and your eligibility for the visa relies on factors such as your qualifications (must be at least degree level), previous earnings, United Kingdom experience, age, English language skills, and available maintenance (funds).

Quick Links and FAQs

Tier 1 (general) Highly Skilled Visa replaced the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme in 2008

If you have questions not covered here or our FAQs page

Is Tier 1 for me?

The Highly Skilled Visa is great for people who wish to further their career in the UK and work without restriction. You will initially be granted three years to work, and then you can apply for an extension for a further two years. After five years of continuous work, you can qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

The Tier 1 (general) visa is also a good option for those who don't qualify for the Youth Mobility Visa or who have already used up their Tier 5 (or working holiday visa as it was known prior to 2008).

Tier 1 (general) VS Youth Mobility Visa

If you're a young person from Australia, New Zealand, Canada or Japan you could find yourself in the lucky position of being eligible for both the Tier 1 (general) highly skilled and the Youth Mobility Visa. Of course, you only need one visa so it's important to choose the best one for you.

On the whole, the Tier 1 is more expensive and more time consuming to apply for, but it gives you a potential 5-year period of unrestricted work and a route to migration. The Youth Mobility option is much cheaper and generally much easier and quicker to obtain, and gives you a two year period to work (after which you must leave the UK). It is easy to get contract/temporary work on a Youth Mobility Visa, but can be a little harder to get full-time permanent work (due to the fact it's a ‘traveller's visa’ and limited to two years), however you can still secure long-term contracts or secure permanent work by applying directly to employers.

  Tier 1 - Highly Skilled Tier 5 - Youth Mobility Visa
Cost £600/$1350 AUD £190/$315
Application time/effort From 4-10 weeks, depending on processing times and particulars with your application; allow extra time to collect and organise all required documentation 2-6 weeks, depending on processing times at your embassy; relatively simple application process
Work permissions Unrestricted. This visa is highly regarded and speaks well of your commitment to staying in the UK. 2 years, after which you must leave the UK. It is easy to obtain short-term contracts, temp work and long-term contracts, but recruiters will not put you forward for permanent positions.
Route to migration? Your time on this visa can count towards your 5-year qualifying period for settlement Your two years on a youth mobility visa cannot count towards your 5 year qualifying period for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Qualifying for the Tier 1 visa

To find out if you are potentially eligible for the Tier 1 visa use the calculator provided on the UK border agency website.

Ultimately you need to obtain 75 points, based on your qualifications, previous earnings, United Kingdom experience and age, a further 10 points for your English language skills, and another 10 points for available maintenance (you must have at least £2,800 saved if you are applying from outside the UK).

If you do not score the full 10 points for English skills and maintenance, you will not qualify.

Gain points for your qualification

To gain points for your qualification it must be equal to, or exceed, the recognised standard of a United Kingdom bachelor's, master's or PhD, as verified by the National Academic Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

If you are ensure of the level of your qualification you can check the online database within the UK Border Agency Points Based Calculator.

If your qualification is not listed there, then you will need to contact NARIC to obtain a ‘Letter of Comparability’ to verify the level of your qualifications and the points you can claim. These letters are available to apply for online from £39.95

You must be able to show your original degree certificate — copies are not acceptable.

Gain points for your previous earnings

Points for previous earnings are based on your earnings before tax in the 12 months preceding your application. Use the points-based calculator or read the guidance on the UK Border Agency website to find out if you can claim points in this category.

You will need to show 12 months' worth of proof of your earnings, from at least two different sources. For example, original payslips from your employer and original bank statements from your bank.

Earnings in foreign currencies will be converted into British pounds. To allow for different income levels across the world, different countries have different bands of earnings for which points can be claimed for. See Appendix A — Table 2A to find out multipliers for conversion for the foreign currency you are claiming for.


There is more information about the eligibility requirements on the UK Border Agency website.

To find out more about applying for the Tier 1 visa, you can also check out our Tier 1 Scoop Sheet. To download, you must be a registered member of WORKgateways. Just register with agencies or apply to jobs, then head to ‘My Content’

Some of your questions may be answered in our Visa FAQs.

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