An Australian Points Based Immigration System in the UK

Under the government of Theresa May, reducing net migration to the UK was one of her big motives, where she had vowed to cut immigration figures by tens of thousands. However, since the election of the new UK Prime Minister last week, Boris Johnson, the UK’s immigration policies have already been subject to change and the words “Australian Points Based System” have once again resurfaced in the mainstream political rhetoric.

Boris first mentioned his desires to implement a future Australian Points Based system in the UK in the leadup to the 2016 Brexit referendum which in fact is not a mechanism to cut immigration figures like Theresa May had proposed, but is rather a mechanism to increase them, but selectively, with the aim of filling the labour gap with highly skilled workers, who can, with certain points based criteria, gain entry clearance to the UK and live and work in this country based on the skills that they have to offer.

What is the Australian Points Based System?

The Australian points-based system allows applicants to be scored on a selection of criteria that include checkmarks such as language skills, education, skills, age and work experience. If an applicant meets or beats the general minimum score of points required they are granted a visa and are allowed to work in Australia without obtaining sponsorship from a company for their visa. This system, on paper, looks great and does seem to serve its purpose for Australia, a country that has less of a cosmopolitan outlook than the UK on its societal construction. However, it can be argued that such a system is discriminatory as it does not give those from less privileged backgrounds or those with less developed linguistic skills a fair chance due to the fact that the system is based on gaining and proving overall points scores and is not based on sponsorship of an employer or directly related to specific contractual demands.

The current Points Based System in the UK

Many of you who are not experts in UK immigration law and policy may not be aware that the UK actually has had its own points-based system in place since 2007. The UK’s Points Based System (PBS) which is related to the Visa Tier system i.e for a migrant to obtain entry clearance into the country under one of the following visa categories, Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 4, and Tier 5 visas differs from the Australian system as it presents a mandatory set of criteria to which the applicant must meet. Where the Australien system allows applicants to make up points in other areas allowing compensation in areas where they have lower points scores, the current UK system requires applicants to meet a selection of mandatory criteria.

Possible scenarios that could play out

The UK and Australian points-based systems are based on different models and the new UK Prime Ministers’ proposals can be seen as pre-mature and open-ended with regards to what will actually happen in future weeks, months or years. A number of scenarios could in this sense pan out.

  1. The first scenario that could play out, is that the Johnson government could apply the UK points-based system for non-EU migrants to EU migrants. Under such a system, all migrants (non-EU and EU) will need to have an employer or organisation sponsor their application into the country as well as gaining the appropriate amount of points awarded for aspects such as age and qualifications.
  2. The second scenario could be that the government implements a secondary points-based system for EU migrants that sits beside the current one in place for non-EU migrants which would allow EU migrants who meet the correct points criteria, to come to the UK, without being sponsored by an employer. Business in the UK could generally welcome this because it would make it easier for them to hire migrants without going through the somewhat complicated and expensive sponsorship system. However, this could restrict the opportunities of non-EU migrants further down the line.
  3. A final scenario would be that Boris Johnson totally scraps the current UK points-based system and implements 1 system for all where all migrants enter the UK based on their pints scores without being tied to a particular employer. This would put every migrant entering the UK on a level playing field with regards to gaining entry clearance to the UK to live and work.

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