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The UK’s Points-Based Immigration System

This information introduces the UK’s Points-Based Immigration System, immigration routes, becoming a licensed sponsor, and provides advice for cross-border traders.



The UK points-based immigration system provides flexible arrangements for UK employers to recruit skilled workers from around the world through a number of different immigration routes. This does not apply to Irish citizens who can enter and live in the UK due to the EU Settlement Scheme. Under the points-based immigration system, anyone coming to the UK for work must meet a specific set of requirements and apply for permission in advance.

A sponsor licence is required to hire most eligible employees from outside the UK and grants permission to an organisation to sponsor workers in a business.

What are the different immigration routes available?

There are a number of immigration routes for businesses to consider when recruiting skilled workers outside the UK, based on the role and the individual.  

This introduction for employers on GOV.UK provides an overview of the points-based immigration system and sets out the steps employers should take to adapt their business.

There is separate information for high potential individuals, recent graduates of top global universities, who want to work, or look for work in the UK, following the successful completion of an eligible course of study equivalent to UK bachelor’s degree level or above. 

How do I become a licensed sponsor?

If you are not already a licensed sponsor and you think you will want to sponsor migrants through the Skilled Worker route, you should apply now.

  • Before applying you should check that the people you want to hire will meet the requirements for coming to the UK for work.
  • The standard processing time for an application is usually eight weeks and will start when your application is received.
  • As a licensed sponsor, you will be able to hire eligible employees from anywhere in the world.
  • Some immigration routes, such as Global Talent, are ‘unsponsored’.
  • You don’t need a licence to hire employees with an unsponsored visa.
  • You do not need to be a sponsor to recruit Irish citizens or anyone from the resident labour market with an existing right to work in the UK.
  • This includes EU citizens with settled or pre-settled status, and non-EU citizens with indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

Learn more on GOV.UK about becoming a licensed sponsor.

Read an Employers guide to becoming a licensed sponsor of skilled migrant workers.

Key takeaways for cross-border traders

The EU Withdrawal Bill clarifies the immigration status of Irish citizens and confirms there will be no change to their rights to freely enter, live and work in the UK without requiring permission. There will continue to be no routine immigration controls on journeys from within the Common Travel Area (CTA) to the UK, with no immigration controls whatsoever on the Northern Ireland - Ireland land border.
  • Check the people you want to hire are eligible to come to the UK under the new points-based immigration system.
  • Under the Skilled Worker route, anyone you want to hire from outside the UK will need to demonstrate that they speak English to the required standard.
  • The job you are offering must meet the applicable minimum salary threshold. This is the higher of either:

Further information

Cross Border Partnership Employment Services (CBPES) provides information on employment and training opportunities on both sides of the border, on taxation and social security systems. The Partnership also provides advice to employers on a range of cross-border recruitment issues.

This booklet of Ireland and Northern Ireland FAQs has lots of helpful information for cross-border workers, employers and jobseekers.


Article reviewed: May 2023