How the system works

The UK Government has published Immigration Rules outlining the new Points Based immigration System (PBS), which went live from 1 December 2020 and applies to all new non-EEA and EEA nationals (except Irish nationals) coming to live and work in the UK.

Please view our New PBS Overview [Word] for a comprehensive summary of the details. 

Updated Workers & Temporary Workers sponsor guidance has been published and we will continue to update our webpages in light of further Home Office guidance and clarifications.

Should you have any questions regarding the new Immigration Rules/sponsor guidance please contact the Staff Compliance team using the New PBS Query email template. We will endeavour to respond to your questions as quickly as we can. However, we would very much appreciate your patience as we continue to clarify the updated rules and the implementation options available to us.

Imperial is the UK’s most international university and welcomes staff from all backgrounds and from all over the world.

New non-EEA and *EEA nationals (except Irish nationals) offered a job at the College and who entered the UK after 1 January 2021, will need to apply for and obtain an appropriate work visa under the new Points Based immigration System (PBS) in order to be able to live and work in the UK.

After a job offer has been made, the Staff Compliance team will contact new non-EEA and EEA nationals with information about appropriate work visa route(s) and will support them with this process.

Under the Points Based immigration System (PBS), individuals must meet the eligibility requirements of the specific visa category before they are given permission to enter or remain in the UK.

For those not currently in the UK, the visa application and assessment are undertaken in their country of residence/home country.

There are rules about ‘switching’ in-country within the UK, from one UK visa category to another. Although there is now increased flexibility with switching between routes, there are still some restrictions e.g. switching from / to ‘visitor’ routes and from one ‘temporary’ work route to another.

Dependents of individuals who have or are applying for permission to work in the UK may be able to apply for a dependent, spousal, or family member visa, or register for the EU Settlement Scheme. They may be able to attain a status that will allow them to work where this is permitted under the rules of that particular category.

Information on the visa types most commonly used by the College can be found below. Further information on the various UK immigration categories is available on the UKVI webpages and this UKVI tool may also be helpful.

Visa types most commonly used

Global Talent Visa (GTV)

Global Talent Visa (GTV)

For individuals Internationally recognised as world leaders or potential world leading talent in their field.

Applicants do not need to be sponsored by the College but do need to apply for (stage 1) endorsement from an approved endorsing body before applying for a visa (stage 2).

Please note that, given its significant benefits, the College encourages those eligible to apply for a GTV rather than a Tier 2/Skilled Worker Route (SWR) visa:

  • Enter the UK without a job offer, work for any employer or be self-employed
  • Apply for up to 5 years’ leave
  • Apply for settlement after 3 years (or 5 years if in Exceptional Promise peer review route endorsed by Arts Council England or Tech Nation)
  • Pay reduced application fees but must still pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)
  • No English language/maintenance requirements

There are four GTV routes, three with fast track/accelerated endorsement processes:

The three fast track routes are in addition to the standard Global Talent Peer Review route for exceptional promise and exceptional talent applications.

In addition to the UKVI guidance above, please review the Royal Society guidance and FAQs.

For further guidance on this route, hiring managers and staff should contact the Staff Compliance team.

Tier 2 / (Skilled Worker Route (SWRs)

Tier 2/Skilled Worker Route

For skilled workers with a job offer from a licensed sponsor, which meets specific skill and salary requirements, and who speak English to the required standard. The College is only permitted to sponsor workers and issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) when the specific requirements and points have been met and evidenced.

For further information about the new Skilled Worker Route, which replaces Tier 2 with effect from 1 December 2020, please view our New PBS Overview [Word] for a comprehensive summary of the details available to date.

For individuals who wish to check their potential eligibility for Skilled Worker Route, please review the new eligibility checker here

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

From 21 May 2021, dependent on the type and level of research activity and nationality of the researcher, an additional requirement may be the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS). Where ATAS is required for a researcher/academic it is essential that the individual’s ATAS certificate is checked, and a copy retained by the College before they can be provided with a certificate of sponsorship to make their Skilled Worker Route visa application.

Please see the ATAS information on Immigration & Compliance webpages here.

Updated Workers & Temporary Workers sponsor guidance has been published and we will continue to update our webpages in light of further Home Office guidance and updates.

Tier 4 / (Students)

Tier 4 / (Students)

Student visa holders are permitted to work for up to a maximum total of 20 hours per week during term time if they are studying at degree level or above at a Higher Education Institution (HEI) or up to a maximum total of 10 hours per week during term time if they are studying below degree level at a HEI. 

They may work full time during vacation times, including the time between the end of their course and the end of their student visa. 

NB: Those studying at a publicly-funded Further Education (FE) College or on part-time study programmes are not permitted to work at all. This will be reflected on their visa/Biometric Residence Permit.

Tier 4 (Doctorate Extension Scheme)

Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme visa holders will be permitted to work full time hours, as will have completed their doctorate as key eligibility criteria for this extension.

For general queries regarding Tier 4/student visas please contact the International Student Support team

Graduate route visa

The new Graduate Worker Visa route will be launching on 1 July 2021.

  • Undergraduate and Masters students that successfully apply for this visa will be able to stay in the UK and work - or look for work - at any skill level for two years.
  • Doctoral students will be able to stay for three years.

Imperial College students will be able to apply as follows: 

  • Students that have begun a one-year Masters programme in 2020 via distance learning and have not previously entered the UK to study that course, will need to make a successful Student Visa application and arrive in the UK on or before 21 June 2021 to complete their course. They can then apply for the Graduate Worker Visa. 
  • Students that have begun a one-year Masters programme in 2020 on a Student Visa and have already travelled to the UK on this visa will be able to apply for the Graduate Worker Visa if they are in the UK before the end date of their course.
  • Final-year undergraduate or PhD students with a Tier 4 / Student visa sponsored by the College will be able to apply for the Graduate Worker Visa once they have been awarded the degree, regardless of any distance learning that was undertaken either in the UK or overseas between the period of 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021. Please note applicants must be in the UK on a Tier 4 / Student Route visa in order to apply. 

More information can be found on the International Student Support webpages, and the UK Government has provided a Graduate Worker Route factsheet.

Salary Advance - UK immigration application fees

T5 Government Authorised Exchange

T5 Government Authorised Exchange (Sponsored Researcher Scheme for HEIs)

Please see our ‘Other Engagements’ guidance on Government Authorised Exchange which allows the College to host and sponsor researchers who meet the requirements of the scheme for a maximum of 24 months.

This route cannot be used for filling general job vacancies, as the route is only to be used for supernumerary researcher activities.

Youth Mobility scheme

The Youth Mobility scheme does not require the College to be a licensed sponsor since the national government of the participating countries will be the sponsor.

In order to employ workers in this category a reciprocal agreement must be in place between the UK and the country of which the migrant is a national.  Currently agreements have been reached with the following countries:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Hong Kong
  • Iceland
  • Japan
  • Monaco
  • New Zealand
  • Republic of Korea (South Korea)
  • San Marino
  • Taiwan

British overseas citizens, British overseas territories citizens and British nationals (overseas) can apply under the scheme and do not need a sponsor.

Successful applicants will be given permission to enter the UK for up to a maximum of 24 months and will be able to undertake most types of work during that time. Subject to eligibility criteria and having a suitable job/offer, it is now possible to ‘switch’ to a Work visa in-country (subject to usual eligibility requirements) before the Youth Mobility visa ends.

Youth Mobility Scheme workers are responsible for applying for their own visa and are awarded points based on their nationality, age, and available maintenance (funds).

Please visit the Government's website for further information on the Youth Mobility Scheme visa process.

High Potential Individual Visa

High Potential Individual Visa:

  • A High Potential Individual (HPI) visa gives permission to stay in the UK for at least 2 years.
  • This type of visa does not need an employment contract or job offer to apply, and will allow most work in the UK, including self-employment
  • To apply, an individual must have been awarded a qualification by an eligible (Non-UK) university in the last 5 years.
  • An HPI visa usually lasts for 2 years. However, if the applicant has a PhD or other doctoral qualification, it will last for 3 years.
  • You cannot extend your HPI visa. However, you may be able to switch to a different visa, for example a Skilled Worker or Global Talent visa.

UK visa application fees

To support our staff and prospective staff the College is able to provide assistance with payment of the following items:

  • UK visa fees
  • Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) costs*
  • Indefinite Leave to Remain application fees (available to current staff only)
  • Citizenship costs (available as a salary advance and to current staff only)

* IHS costs are payable by non-EEA and EEA nationals and their dependants who apply for leave to enter or remain in the UK.  The IHS grants them free access to the NHS.  With a few limited exceptions, everyone coming to the UK on a visa of 6 months or more must register for the IHS and most must pay a fee.


This assistance may be offered as follows:

Departmental reimbursement

Departments may consider reimbursing the above-mentioned costs for staff and their dependants at their discretion.  Applicants are not able to appeal against a department’s decision to exercise discretion.  Further information for departments wishing to reimburse costs is available from the Finance website.

Salary advance

The College is able to offer an interest free loan facility to support you and your dependants with payment of the above-mentioned costs.

The College’s preferred method of payment is by bank transfer once you have commenced employment, however, if a salary advance is needed at the point that the visa fees and/or IHS are paid, this can be arranged.

Conditions of advance                                                                           

  1. You must be a non-EEA or EEA national  applying for a UK visa and/or liable for payment of the IHS or a current member of staff who is a non-EEA or EEA national applying for UK Idefinite Leave to Remain(ILR) or Citizenship
  2. You must have received an offer of employment, conditional offer of employment or extension of employment from the College or in the case of UK ILR or Citizenship applications, be a current member of College staff
  3. The salary advance will be for no costs other than UK visa fees and/or IHS costs. 
  4. Please note: the IHS will be collected upfront and will correspond to the number of years of leave applied for.  Where leave applied for is not for a whole number of years, the IHS fee will increase to reflect the number of additional months.  The first additional month will not attract an extra fee, and any more than 6 additional months will attract a full year’s extra fee. Please use to the online IHS calculator to calculate your IHS costs.
  5. If applying for UK Citizenship, you may apply for initial costs and then make a second application for ceremony fees if your application is successful
  6. The salary advance will be recovered throughout the duration of your contract (or where your contract is open ended throughout the duration of your visa), or contract extension if you are already in post.  For UK ILR and Citizenship applications the advance will be recovered over a maximum of 24 months, unless agreed otherwise by the Staff Compliance team, except where your contract is less than 24 months, when recovery will be over the duration of your contract
  7. If you leave College employment before the loan is repaid the outstanding debt will be deducted from your final salary;
  8. The department, division, school or institute will be required to underwrite the loan.
  9. It should be noted that where the total of any College loans (including season ticket loans) exceeds £10,000, there will be tax implications for you as an individual.

Procedure for advance

  1. You should email your completed form together with any other relevant information to your line manager or Departmental Operations Manager who will forward it to the Head of Department/Division/School/Institute
  2. Once approved, the Head of Department/Division/School/Institute should email the form to the Staff Compliance team to confirm that the request meets the conditions for the UK visa fees and/or IHS costs salary advance.
  3. Once the Staff Compliance team has confirmed that the request meets these conditions, they should email the completed request to the Payroll Office, who will forward a copy to Accounts Payable where applicable, so that payment can be made into the your bank account. You will be notified by email as soon as a payment has been sent to your bank account.