With Brexit looming, everyone is grappling to find solutions to the many unanswered questions about what the immigration system will look like. Home secretary Priti Patel and others within government have suggested the answer may be found in the Australian points-based system (PBS). Considering the Australian PBS was used to increase migration to Australia, it’s surprising that the government is suggesting a similar system in the UK when it has the opposite objective.

Requirement for UK Visa:

A foreign national wishing to work or study in the United Kingdom are subject to immigration control. The UK immigration authorities use a five tier points-based system with each tier divided into various categories for different types of work or study visa applications.

Each of the system’s tiers have different requirements: the number of points the migrant needs and the way the points are awarded will depend on the tier.

Points are awarded in a number of categories which are considered attractive qualities, including the following:

  • Age requirements
  • Competency in English
  • Skilled Employment
  • Educational Qualifications

Difference between Australian PBS and UK PBS:

A crucial difference between the Australian and UK systems is the requirement of a job offer. The Australian PBS does not apply to applicants with a job offer, but a job offer is essential under the UK system. The government has been clear that applicants would still require a job offer under any new PBS, meaning that it’s not really an Australian-style PBS they are considering.

Pros: 

  • Employers’ interests can be incorporated by giving major points for a job offer and attributes (like age and specific education, training, and experience) favoured by employers.
  • Workers can be protected by giving major points for shortage occupations, above-market wage offers, extraordinary qualifications, or for other requirements to ensure that migrants primarily complement and do not compete with or cost less than domestic workers.
  • The public interest can be served by providing points for factors shown to cause foreign workers to succeed and by strengthening value added (productivity and quality), especially from occupations in short supply, language competency, occupational skills, age, family characteristics, relationships with permanent residents or citizens, the ability to support dependents, and the willingness to locate in places with labor shortages.
  • By making the reasons for importing foreign workers more objective and transparent, a points system helps garner public acceptance of immigration, a very important advantage for this highly contentious activity.
  • A points system can help to significantly improve foreign worker programs. Points can be changed to reflect research and experience. And a points system facilitates automation of the selection process, provides much more data to support a research-based system, and facilitates self-evaluation by prospective immigrants.
  • International evidence likewise shows points systems to allow greater flexibility of foreign worker flows than an American-style legislatively determined cap system. Indeed, points can be configured to automatically reduce migrant flows during recessions and increase them during recoveries

Cons:

  • The major disadvantage of a points system is that it requires a highly professional staff and very good data systems, which should in any case be part of any EBI system.
  • The most common criticism of points systems is that if workers do not have employment lined up, it is difficult to know whether they are actually employable. The system relies on the government’s perception of what skills are valuable, rather than on the views of the employers who are to recruit them.
  • Some immigrant advocates oppose a points system because they believe it would reduce the number of family visas. It should be stressed, however, that the political decision to favor economic migration has nothing to do with a points system, which is merely a tool to quantify and assign politically determined weights to EBIs.

Will Australian point based system increase migration to the UK?

The effects of introducing an ‘Australian-style’ points system in the UK would depend on how it is designed – for example, what points are awarded to and whether the role of employers in the immigration system changes.

In summary, the impacts of introducing a new points system in the UK would depend crucially on how the system is designed, including questions such as what points are issued for, whether the route will be for temporary or permanent visas, and whether employer sponsorship would still be required.

Ethical Workforce are not immigration specialists, any legal advice should be obtained from an immigration specialist.