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Will a points-based immigration system work for the UK?

Posted on December 26, 2019
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points-based immigration system work for the UK

With the Conservative Party under Boris Johnson winning another term in the UK general elections, the UK government is mulling over introducing a points-based immigration system like Australia. The introduction of a points-based system is a step towards reducing the number of migrants. This was one of the election promises made by the Conservative government prior to the elections.

With the Brexit transition period ending in 2020, the British government wants to introduce a new immigration system that will be applicable to EU citizens (who will enjoy unrestricted movement to the UK till Brexit comes into effect) EEA citizens and citizens of other countries.

Reasons to introduce a new immigration system:

The introduction of a points-based system like Australia, the government hopes to admit migrants based on their skills and what they can contribute to society.

With a points-based system, the UK hopes to get the best and brightest migrants to come to the country and contribute to the development of the economy.

The new immigration system will also include measures that will tackle skill shortages in critical areas. To this effect, the government is proposing to introduce fast-track visa schemes to recruit overseas workers in healthcare and scientific research.

Advantages of a points-based immigration system:

As you are aware, the points-based immigration system in Australia has been designed to allow those migrants which the government believes will contribute to the economy and fill the skills shortage the country is facing.

Points are awarded to applicants on various criteria, such as age, English proficiency, qualifications and employment history. An applicant must score 60 points to be eligible for a visa.

The advantages of using a points-based system is it ensures only highly skilled migrants gain entry and gives a fair chance to every applicant. Those in favor of this system argue that the immigration policies so far in the UK were strongly in favor of those who belong to the EU. The new laws they hope will provide a level playing field to non-EU citizens as well.

Another argument in favor of the points-based system is transparency. Based on their scores, applicants will know exactly where they stand, and they can determine the areas they need to improve on to score more points.

Drawbacks of a points-based system:

Critics of a points-based immigration system for the UK argue that such a system requires a large-scale effort to collect data on the immigration process and interpreting the data to determine if the immigration system is achieving its objectives.

 There are also doubts if a points-based system will reduce the number of migrants to the country. In fact, the number of migrants to Australia has only increased.

Critics of the points-based system mention it is fairly similar to the UK Tier 1 General Visa category for non-EU citizens, which was terminated in 2018. Under this system, applicants were given points for criteria like age, education, and previous earnings in a 12-month period. A key difference is that the individual must belong to a profession that is in the skilled occupation list.

Industries in the UK fear that key professions might not be included in the occupations list which in turn will fail to give them access to key talent from outside the country.

 A uniform points-based system applicable to even EU citizens will cut the UK’s ties with a single market or the free movement of goods and people across Europe’s borders. This means the lack of access to goods and people across the EU. It will also restrict the movement of UK citizens across Europe.

Others fear that the introduction of a points-based system to filter migrants will force lower-skilled migrants to leave the UK once their visas expire. British industries are dependent on such workers. In fact, industries ranging from hospitality, construction, agriculture and healthcare depend on such workers. Industry owners feel a points-based system will cut off access to such workers.

Implementation of new immigration system:

Before introducing something like the Australian points-based system, the UK government has asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), a private body to conduct a review and submit a report in January 2020 with its recommendations.

The government will decide on the points-based system after this report. A new immigration system is expected to come into effect by January 2021. This new system will be applicable to all migrants to the UK whether from the EEA or other countries.

The introduction of a points-based system in the UK will come with its own pros and cons. Whether its implementation will enable the government to utilize a uniform immigration system based on skills is to be seen.

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