Category Archives: Tier 1

Tier 1 Post Study Work (PSW) Visa

Tier 1 (Post Study Work) Visas – Closed to new applicants on 5th April 2012

The Tier 1 (Post Study Work) Visa scheme, which was closed to new applicants with effect from 5th April 2012, allows holders to work freely for a period of up to 2 years following graduation from a UK academic institution. The visa is intended to provide a bridge to highly skilled or skilled work under Tier 2 General. (more…)

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IT, Engineering & Medical Consulting on Tier 1 General

Are you a highly skilled IT, Engineering, Financial or Medical Professional? Do you hold a Tier 1 General Visa? If so Commonwealth Contractors can help you make the most of Consulting in the UK & throughout the EEC.

If you’re an Engineering, Medical, Financial or IT Consultant on a Tier 1 General visa you will no doubt be thinking about a number of key issues including;

  • How do I ensure that I gain a Tier 1 General Visa Extension?
  • What is the best UK Contracting Vehicle for me?
  • How can I go about working on an assignment in Mainland Europe?
  • How can I stay in the UK if I fail to qualify for a Tier 1 Extension?

At Commonwealth Contractors we can answer all of these questions and more! We specialise in working with IT, Engineering, Finance & Medical Professionals on Contracts of at least £250 per day.

To discuss your situation with us call now on 0800 294 4388 or Submit your Details & we will get right back to you!

Tier 1 General Extensions

It is now more important than ever to ensure that you secure a Tier 1 Extension as the visa category has been closed to new applicants. Missing out on securing an extension after working in the UK for an extended period of time can be heartbreaking.

At Commonwealth Contractors we have developed an Integrated solution that allows you to make the most out of contracting while also ensuring that you gain the all important extension. To find out more call now on 0800 294 4388 or Submit your Details to find out more!

UK Contracting Vehicles

The choice of contracting vehicle you make (i.e. Contractor Limited Company, Umbrella Company, Offshore Contracting Solution) will have a major impact on any future Tier 1 Extension or ILR application.

At Commonwealth Contractors we have developed an alternative solution tailored specifically to those on Tier 1 General. To find out more call now on 0800 294 4388 or Submit your Details to find out more!

Working in Europe

Contracting in Mainland Europe is normally a pretty attractive option for many highly skilled IT & Engineering professionals, especially at times when the UK economy is doing poorly and countries such as Germany are seeing stronger growth.

Consultants who work with Commonwealth Contractors benefit from solutions that allow them to work on temporary assignments in mainland Europe (including Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, France etc). To find out more call now on 0800 294 4388 or Submit your Details to find out more!

Transferring to Tier 2 General

If your Tier 1 extension fails it may be possible to ‘switch’ in country from your Tier 1 General Visa to a Tier 2 General Visa (formerly UK Work Permit) however this is only possible where a suitable project is already in place.

To discuss your situation with an experienced advisor call Commonwealth Contractors now on 0800 294 4388 or Submit your Details to find out more!

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If you would like to discuss Tier 1 General, Tier 2 General or anything to do with UK or European Contracting please get in contact with us asap. We are very happy to discuss and advise upon all matters relating to highly skilled employment and Immigration To speak to an advisor call now on 0800 294 4388 or Submit your Details and we will get right back to you!

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Working & Contracting In Europe On A Tier 1 Visa

Would you like to work on IT or Engineering projects in mainland Europe? Do you hold a Tier 1 General Visa? If so you may be able to undertake temporary assignments without having to secure a country specific work visa. (more…)

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Tier 1 General to Tier 2 General

Are you unable to qualify for a Tier 1 General extension? Do you work as a highly skilled IT, Engineering, Medical or Financial Services Professional? If so Commonwealth Contractors may be able to help you ‘switch’ in country to Tier 2 General! (more…)

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Tier 1 General Extensions – Quick guide for initial applications on or before 5 April 2010

This section acts as a quick guide for those that come under the rules applicable on and before 5th April 2010. That is those who are currently in the UK on a Tier 1 general Highly Skilled Migrant visa which was applied for on or before 5th April 2010. From 6th April 2010 the scoring system changed, and on 19th July 2010 the pass mark went up from 95 to 100! (more…)

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Tier 1 General Extensions – Quick Guide For Initial Applications 6 April 2010 – 18 July 2010

This section acts as a quick guide for those that come under the rules which applied from 6th April 2010 to 18th July 2010. That is those who are currently in the UK on a Tier 1 general Highly Skilled Migrant visa which was applied for between from 6th April 2010 to 18th July 2010 (inclusive). (more…)

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Tier 1 General Extensions – Quick Guide For Initial Applications On Or After 19 July 2010

This section acts as a quick guide for those that come under the rules from 19th July 2010. That is those who are currently in the UK on a Tier 1 general Highly Skilled Migrant visa which was applied for on or after 19th July 2010. On this day the pass mark went up from 95 to 100! (more…)

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Tier 1 General Extension – Make Sure to Get Yours

When the time comes it is very important to apply for a Tier 1 General Extension if you are one of those fortunate enough to have been granted a Tier 1 general Visa. The Tier 1 Generall Highly Skilled Migrant scheme is now closed to new applicants and if you fall short on the extension application there’s no chance of a fresh application.

Proving your earnings over the assessable 12 months (ie, unless affected by maternity leave, your choice of 12 consecutive months chosen from the 15 months prior to applying), is the biggest issue faced by visa holders when qualifying for a Tier 1 General extension, or for Tier 1 holders seeking Permanent Residence / Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after their 5 years in the UK.

If you are in permanent employment with a salary above the required level, you will normally face no problems. However Contractors, especially those that have tax-optimised their pay structures, can find they are unable to prove enough income to get the points needed and therefore fall short at the last minute.

If you’re an IT Consultant, Engineer, Medical Professional, Actuary or Financial Services Professional on a Tier 1 General Visa find out now how we can help to ensure your visa extension application is successful!

Call Commonwealth Contractors now on 0800 294 4388 or Submit your Details and we will get right back to you!

If you are not interested in the theory, and just want to know if you qualify, then you may want to use one of our quick guides below. There are 3 guides as the passmark and scoring changed a few times in essence the pass mark went up and scoring points became more difficult. All steps making things more restrictive before the scheme was closed to new applicants.

The reasons and history are set out below:

Points Required to extend a Tier 1 General Extension Visa

On 19th July 2010 the ‘pass mark’ required to get a Tier 1 (General) visa increased from 95 points to 100 points. The number of points you need to extend your visa will be the same as the number initially required when you applied.

  • If you initially applied for your current Tier 1 (General) status before 19th July 2010, in order to extend you Tier 1 (General) visa, or Permanent Residence / Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) you will need 95 points
  •  If you initially applied for your current Tier 1 (General) status on or after 19th July 2010, in order to extend you Tier 1 (General) visa, or Permanent Residence / Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) you will need 100 points

For this, the relevant date is the date of your initial application, not your date of approval. If you applied for your Tier 1 general visa on 18th July 2010, but were not approved until September 2010, then the ‘before 19th July 2010’ criteria apply and you only need 95 points rather than 100 points to extend your Tier 1 General status.

The other significant date for Tier 1 general extensions is 6th April 2010. The pass mark did not change on this day, but the way that points were awarded for earnings and qualifications changed significantly. In essence, on 6th April 2010 there was a change in emphasis from qualifications to earnings. Immediately before 6th April 2010, however much you earned, it was not possible to gain Tier 1 (General) status without at least a Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent). The rule changes on 6th April 2010 allowed high levels of earnings to make up for lack of a degree, but they also increased the earnings required to gain points. Before 6th April 2010 you could get a maximum of 45 points for previous earnings, and qualified for the full 45 points by earning £40,000. On 6th April 2010, it became possible to earn 80 points for previous earnings, but gaining those 80 points required earnings of £150,000, and even to gain 45 points required earnings of at least £75,000. This was a hugely significant change. If Wikipedia’s entry on UK income distribution is to be believed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_in_the_United_Kingdom), the top 10% of households have an income of £40,000 or more, but only the top 1% of households have an income of £75,000 or more, so gaining 45 points for earnings became ten times as difficult!

Although the Tier 1 General scheme is theoretically points based and with a pass mark of 95 or 100, it is more reasonable to think of the scheme as having 3 areas:

General Attributes: This is a truly points based area of the scheme, as it is possible to make up for weaknesses in some areas by scoring highly in other areas. The pass mark for general attributes is 75 points for those whose initial status was applied for before 19th July 2010, and 80 points for those whose initial status was applied for on or after 19th July 2010

English Language: Although notionally 10 points can be earned in this area, if you don’t gain those 10 points, however many points you score for other areas, you can’t qualify for a Tier 1 (General) visa, so this is really a pass/fail ‘check box’ which happens to have an arbitrary 10 points attributed to it. The good news for those extending an existing Tier 1 (General) visa is that you will have had to prove you qualified in this area when you were granted your initial Tier 1 (General) visa approval, and so should get the points without further proof when applying to extend.

Maintenance funds: As with the English Language requirement, this is actually a pass/fail test with a notional 10 points attributed to it. Unlike the English Language requirement, you will need to ensure that you re-qualify.

Points for General Attributes (age, qualifications, earnings, UK experience)

Points for Age (Maximum 20 Points Available)

While in most other areas changes have been to make the Tier 1 (General) Highly Skilled Migrant visa scheme more restrictive, in the area of age, the scheme has become less focussed on youth. Before 6th April 2010, you needed to be under 28 to gain the maximum 20 points for age, and got no points at all if you were over 31. On 6th April 2010 the maximum 20 points became available for those under 30, and at least 5 points became available to those up to 39.

When applying for a Tier 1 extension, you should be able to gain the same number of points for age that you gained initially. As the initial application will have been 2 or 3 years ago, don’t worry about the fact you are now 2-3 years older.

For the summary table below, the relevant age is the age you were at the time of applying for the Tier 1 General visa initially.

Points

For initial applications made before 6th April 2010

Age when first applied

For initial applications made on or after 6th April 2010

Age when first applied

20

Under 28 years

Under 30 years

10

28 to 29 years

30 to 34 years

5

30 to 31 years

35 to 39 years

0

32 years or over

40 years or over

 

Points for Qualifications (Maximum 45 – 50 Points Available)

The Tier 1 General and earlier Highly Skilled Migrant programme visa schemes have seen several changes to the way that Qualifications were treated. Initially, Masters Degrees commanded a significant premium relative to Bachelor’s degrees, but the difference was soon reduced to a mere 5 points.

In more recent times, the only change was on 6th April 2010, when the points available for a PhD/DPhil or equivalent were cut from 50 to 45

If you have more than one qualification, you will gain points for only one of them (obviously the most senior if they are not at the same level).

Qualification

For initial applications made before 6th April 2010

For initial applications made on or after 6th April 2010

Bachelor’s Degree

30 points

30 points

Master’s Degree

35 points

35 points

PHD

50 points

45 points

Foreign qualifications must be equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD qualifications in order to qualify. Overseas Qualifications are validated by UK NARIC.

The original Certificates and any relevant NARIC validation should have been provided in support of the initial application, so they will not usually need to be re-submitted .

Points for Earnings (Maximum 45 – 80 Points Available)

The area of awarding points for earnings changed slightly on 31st March 2009 when the minimum threshold of earnings to score any points at all increased from £16,000 pa to £20,000pa, and for more significantly on 6th April 2010 when

  1. The total number of points that could be scored for earnings increased from 45 points to 80 points, thus allowing high-earning non-graduates to qualify, and
  2. The earnings required to gain a given number of points increased significantly. For example, before 6th April 2010 you could gain 45 points for earnings of £40,000pa (ie a single person’s earnings putting them in the top 10% of UK households), on and after 6th April 2010, gaining the same 45 points required earnings of at least £75,000pa; although in cash terms this was less than a doubling of the required earnings, only the top 1% of UK households earn over £75,000 pa, so in practical terms the move from ‘Top 10% to top 1%’ actually made the hurdle 10 times more restrictive.

Because the changes of 6th April 2010 were so significant, we have provided two separate tables showing the criteria applying before and after that date.

Initial Applications made before the 6th April 2010

Earnings

Points if your original leave was applied for before 31st March 2009

Points if your original leave was applied for from 31st March 2009 to 5th April 2010

£16,000 – £17,999

5

0

£18,000 – £19,999

10

0

£20,000 – £22,999

15

15

£23,000 – £25,999

20

20

£26,000 – £28,999

25

25

£29,000 – £31,999

30

30

£32,000 – £34,999

35

35

£35,000 – £39,999

40

40

£40,000 or more

45

45

Initial Applications made after the 6th April 2010

Previous Earnings

Points

£25,000 – £29,999

5

£30,000 – £34,999

15

£35,000 – £39,999

20

£40,000 – £49,999

25

£50,000 – £54,999

30

£55,000 – £64,999

35

£65,000 – £74,999

40

£75,000 – £149,999

45

£150,000 or more

80

If you earn enough to claim the needed points via PAYE salary earnings, you should not have too many complications. Gaining points for your earnings can be more complicated for contractors. With PAYE salary & bonus earnings, it is clear cut, but UKBA have more than once changed their treatment of other types of earnings such as dividends paid by a personal service company, and Allowances paid to employees.

Particularly for those whose initial applications were made on or after 6th April 2010, and who thus usually need to show much higher earnings than those who initially applied before 6th April 2010, the treatment of expenses can make the difference between success and failure, especially for those on expat packages which including significant accommodation, schooling, and car allowances. Such allowances may be included in your earnings in some circumstances but by default most tax-optimised allowance structures will not.

Pension contributions can be structured so that they are part of your qualifying earnings, but the default treatment eg where an employer makes pension contributions on your behalf to a company scheme, is that they will not be included.

By working with experts who understand both visas and contracting, you can ensure that your tax planning decisions are taken in the light of your needs to prove earnings for any visa extension applications, and so ensure the smoothest possible path along the usual steps of Tier 1 extension, then permanent Residence (ILR) and finally, if you so desire, eventual UK nationality and passport.

Particularly for contractors, it is best to contact us and put things in place long in advance of making an application, and ideally in advance of the 12 month qualifying period during which your earnings will be assessed. The ideal time to talk to us is two or more years in advance of making the application. This can allow for the restructuring of allowances / expenses in ways that do not result in permanent tax losses, and for insurance against gaps in your contracting.

If, we have not been able to put in place advance insurance, and for example due to a career disaster, you are going to fall short of the required earnings during your qualifying period, then all is not necessarily lost. You may well be able to ensure UK continuity by getting an employer-sponsored Tier 2 visa. This gives you far less freedom than Tier 1, but can be preferable to leaving the UK, particularly of after your career blip things are now looking positive.

Our partners offer solutions that work particularly well if you are a contractor, but even if you are not, contact us and we can look at the options. Our OISC registered partners can help you with visa extension applications, and can help an employer obtain a Tier 2 sponsorship licence and then sponsor you directly of that is needed.

To make the right plans in this area, call Commonwealth Contractors now on 0800 294 4388 or Submit your Details and we will get right back to you!

To validate the Previous Earnings requirement you need to show a consecutive 12 month period of earnings any time in the 15 months immediately prior to the application. The UK Border Agency assess earnings on the basis of gross salary before tax, therefore reimbursed expenses are not considered a qualifying form of income.

Applicants should show stamped and signed payslips together with an employment letter to confirm earnings and payments in the period.

UK Experience (Maximum 5 Points Available)

Unless you are a particularly young person with a PhD, the earnings you will need to qualify will, if gained in the UK, usually allow you to also claim an extra 5 points for UK experience.

As with most other general attributes categories, the rules in this area changed on 6th April 2010, but the change has had an adverse impact on very few people as the threshold is low enough that most qualify.

UK Experience

If your initial application was made before 6th April 2010

If your initial application was made on or after 6th April 2010

5 points

You are scoring points for previous earnings and at least £16,000 + of those earnings were generated in the UK

You are scoring points for previous earnings and at least £25,000 + of those earnings were generated in the UK

The only cases where people may fail to gain these points, but still be eligible for extension, are where they have ended up taking a job or contract abroad. Such overseas employment does not disqualify you from extending your Tier 1 general highly skilled migrant visa, BUT it can have a significant impact on eventual eligibility for UK permanent Residence / Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). If you are planning to spend time abroad, it can be very helpful to get advice in advance. The way that your employment is structured, and your pattern of trips back to the UK (if any) can have significant implications for your long term eligibility for UK permanent Residence / Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

To make the right plans in this area, call Commonwealth Contractors now on 0800 294 4388 or Submit your Details and we will get right back to you!

Mandatory English Language Requirement (10 Points Required)

Although notionally 10 points can be earned in this area, if you don’t gain those 10 points, however many points you score for other areas, you can’t qualify for a Tier 1 (General) visa, so this is really a pass/fail ‘check box’ which happens to have an arbitrary 10 points attributed to it. The good news for those extending an existing Tier 1 (General) visa is that you will have had to prove you qualified in this area when you were granted your initial Tier 1 (General) visa approval, and so should get the points without further proof when applying to extend, and for those few still on the old Highly Skilled Migrant Visa under the Immigration Rules that came into force on the 5th December 2006, the English Language Requirement is deemed to be met automatically.

Mandatory Maintenance Requirement (10 Points Required)

As with the English Language requirement, this is actually a pass/fail test with a notional 10 points attributed to it. Unlike the English Language requirement, you will need to ensure that you re-qualify.

The logic behind this area is sound – ie that if you are to be admitted or extended as a Highly Skilled migrant, you should have some cash reserves so that you can support yourself and your family and can ride out eg a brief period of unemployment without having to rely on public funds. However, the strict requirement that you must have had the required balance in your account for 90 days can trip up people whose underlying position is fundamentally sound, but whose standing orders / salary receipts have been mis-timed by a day or two. Such mis-timings can cause an application to fail. This is just another reason for calling Commonwealth Contractors now on 0800 294 4388 or Submitting your Details so that the best possible advance plans can be made. If you lay the foundations suitably in advance, you will not be tripped up!

The reason for the 90 day requirement is, particularly for those initially applying from abroad (which no longer applies) to avoid people without money just borrowing cash from a loan shark for a few days, putting it into their bank, getting a statement, and then claiming that they have enough money when in actual fact as soon as the visa is approved they will withdraw the cash to repay the loan shark.

The initial maintenance requirement for those coming to the UK was set at £2,800, plus £1,600 per dependant but for extension applications, as you should already be settled and in employment / business in the UK for 12= months, the requirement is much lower: £800 for the main applicant plus £533 per dependant. These funds MUST have been in your bank account for every single day of the 90 days immediately prior to the application. You can use funds held in non-UK bank accounts; funds not in sterling may be converted using OANDA.

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To find out more about our solutions and discuss applying for a Tier 1 General visa extension call Commonwealth Contractors now on 0800 294 4388 or Submit your Details and we will get right back to you!

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Tier 1 General Visas / HSMP – Closed to New Applicants

Tier 1 General (formerly the old Highly Skilled Migrant Programme) is now closed to new applicants. If you’re a highly skilled professional you may qualify however for an alternative visa which will allow you to work in the UK as a highly skilled professional! (more…)

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Tier 1 Overview – High Value Individuals

Are you a ‘high value individual’? Are you looking to work as a professional Consultant in the UK? Or maybe you’re interested in becoming an entrepreneur and setting up a new business? Whatever your area of interest Commonwealth Contractors can help!

Tier 1 has been designed for the so called ‘high value individuals’. Those that are interested in opening a business in the UK, investing sizeable funds in a UK company or those with an ‘exceptional talent’.

Formerly Tier 1 included the well known ‘General’ or HSMP subcategory however this has now been scrapped by the UK Border Agency.

If you’re a professional IT Consultant, Engineer, Actuary or Financial Services Specialist please Contact Us Now on 0800 294 4388 or Submit your Details to find out how we can help!

Tier 1 Subcategories

Tier 1 is currently made up of four subcategories:

  • Tier 1 Entrepreneur
  • Tier 1 Post Study Worker
  • Tier 1 Investor
  • Tier 1 Exceptional Talent

Throughout this section you will find detailed information on the four subcategories of Tier 1 and also detailed guidance relating to Tier 1 General (formerly the HSMP).

Tier 1 General / HSMP Guidance:

Tier 1 (Post Study Worker)

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)

Tier 1 (Investor)

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

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To find out more about our solutions call now on 0800 294 4388 or Submit your Details and we will get right back to you!

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