Do you know your UK immigration lingo?

UK immigration law is a complex field of rules and regulations which can be difficult to interpret.

Equally as difficult to interpret are the acronyms and terminology used when dealing with UK immigration departments, representatives or application forms.

This handy glossary, prepared by Dearson Winyard International, will help you to decipher your entry clearance from your leave to remain, and your PBS from your ILR.

Biometric Residence Permit

The Biometric Residence Permit, or BRP, is credit card-sized card which holds details of a migrant’s name, date and place of birth plus a facial image and fingerprints. The BRP is proof of the holder’s right to stay, work or study in the UK, and shows their immigration status and entitlements whilst they are in the UK.

Certificate of Sponsorship

To be eligible to apply for a visa under Tier 2 of the points-based system, a migrant must have a Certificate of Sponsorship, or CoS. The CoS is not an actual certificate – it is a reference number which holds information about the job and the migrant’s personal details.

Entry Clearance

Entry clearance is the procedure of obtaining a visa to travel to the UK, used by Entry Clearance Officers (ECOs) at British missions overseas. All non-EEA nationals must obtain a visa before they travel to the UK if they want to stay for longer than 6 months. Sometimes, nationals of certain countries are permitted to visit the UK for 6 months or less without a visa; they are known as ‘non-visa nationals’.

European Economic Area (EEA)

The EEA was formed on 1st January 1994, amalgamating the 25 independent states of the European Union and the European Free Trade Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway).

Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)

All non-EEA migrants applying for visas to come to the UK for longer than 6 months are required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). The payment goes directly to the National Health Service (NHS), entitling applicants to receive the same NHS treatment as a permanent UK resident (with some exceptions).

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

ILR, or ‘permanent residency’ or ‘settlement’, is the immigration status granted to someone who is not bound by any time limits on the period they can stay in the UK and who is free to take up employment or study without restriction.

Leave to Remain

This is the name for permission to stay in the UK, granted from within the UK, to enable an overseas national to remain for a further period additional to their original permission.

Points-based System

The points-based system, or PBS, is the main immigration route for non-EEA migrants to come to the UK to work or train, study, or invest. The system is divided into five ‘tiers’, although Tier 3 is unused.

Tier 1

Aaimed at highly skilled individuals, this Tier caters for Entrepreneurs, Graduate Entrepreneurs and Investors. A fourth sub-category caters for those with Exceptional Talent

Tier 2

Taking in two sub-categories, General and Intra-Company Transfer, this tier covers skilled workers with a job offer from a UK-based employer

Tier 4


Tier 5

Caters for the Youth Mobility Scheme and five sub-categories of temporary worker, which are International Agreement, Charity Worker, Creative and Sporting, Religious Worker, and Government Authorised Exchange

Sponsor Licence

All UK businesses must apply for a sponsor licence to enable them to employ overseas workers under Tier 2 of the points-based system. Similarly, education providers that offer full-time study in the UK must have a Tier 4 sponsor licence in order to enrol students from outside the EEA.

UK Visas and Immigration

A department of the Home Office, UK Visas and Immigration, or UKVI, deals with immigration applications from migrants looking to visit or work in the UK. The department considers applications from businesses and educational institutions applying to sponsor overseas nationals, and deals with applications for UK citizenship.

If you need any support with a UK immigration matter, please contact us and we will be happy to help.