Who is a Migrant Worker?

A migrant worker is a person who migrates from one country to another for the primary purpose of work, whether permanently or temporarily. Migrant workers thus can include the following categories:

  • Nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) who have a right to travel, live and work in the UK.
  • Nationals of all other countries who require a work permit, which is obtained by an employer who cannot find a suitable national to fill a post.
  • Nationals of Switzerland and British Overseas Territories and people employed in a limited number of activities, who require clearance to enter the UK but do not require a work permit.
  • Commonwealth Working Holiday makers: individuals between the ages of 17-30 who can work in the UK for up to 2 years.

NB: Asylum seekers and refugees are not considered migrant workers as they enter the UK other than for work reasons.


New European States

One of the new trends in migration has been arrival of workers from the European Union's new member states. On 1 May 2004, ten countries - Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia (A10 countries) - joined the European Union. On 1 January 2007 Bulgaria and Romania (A2 countries) followed and, having acceded on 1 July 2013, Croatia is the newest EU member state.


The Points-based System

In 2008, a new immigration system was launched to ensure that only those with the right skills or the right contribution will be able to come to the United Kingdom to work and study. The points-based system enables the Home Office to control migration more effectively, tackle abuse and identify the most talented workers.


The Points-based System - five tiers

Underpinning the new immigration system is a five tier framework. This will help people understand how the system works and direct applicants to the category that is most appropriate for them. The tiers are:

  • Tier 1: Highly skilled individuals to contribute to growth and productivity;
  • Tier 2: Skilled workers with a job offer to fill gaps in United Kingdom labour force;
  • Tier 3: Limited numbers of low skilled workers needed to fill temporary labour shortages (currently closed);
  • Tier 4: Students;
  • Tier 5: Youth mobility and temporary workers: people allowed to work in the United Kingdom for a limited period of time to satisfy primarily non-economic objectives.

The five tiers have different conditions, entitlements and entry-clearance checks. This will make the system easier to understand and use and allow us to adapt our policy on points and sponsorship to the very different needs of those entering the United Kingdom to work or study.

Tiers 3 and 5 are temporary routes and migrants in them will not be able to switch out of them once they are in the United Kingdom. Those in tiers 1, 2 and 4 will be eligible to switch between these tiers subject to meeting the requirements of the tier they want to switch to. Tiers 1 and 2 will potentially lead to settlement if settlement requirements are met at the time of that application.
Dependants are allowed under tiers 1, 2, 4 and 5, except where the main applicant is in the United Kingdom under the Youth Mobility Scheme. However, dependants are not allowed to work where accompanying a student (Tier 4) or a temporary worker (Tier 5) who has been given less than 12 months leave in the United Kingdom.