Could a UK points-based immigration system work?

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Conservative party leader frontrunner Boris Johnson wants the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), an independent body advising the government, to look at the Australian-style points-based system for immigration as an option for the UK.  

Controlling immigration was one of the main themes of the Leave campaign. Since 2010, governments have been trying to reduce net migration to below 100k a year – a repeatedly missed target.

The Australian system requires those wanting to move there to pursue an occupation in demand. Points are assigned based on various professional and personal characteristics, and higher points are awarded for more desirable traits such as length of time worked in a skilled sector, education level, age and English language proficiency.

The UK does not require those within the EU to have a work visa due to freedom of movement, although limits on claiming benefits apply. For those outside of the EU, there are similarities to the Australian system.

Points are awarded for English language proficiency, being sponsored by a company and meeting a certain salary threshold. 

Unlike the Australian system, the UK immigration system only allows access if you meet all criteria and does not assess individuals for different traits such as age and education. It trusts the employer to decide if the person is qualified for the job.

Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish government is keen to introduce the decentralised system of Australia, where different states may try to entice migrants with specific skills.

It is unclear which aspects of the Australian system Mr Boris wishes to adopt, as he says he would like the MAC to investigate it. His policies for people wanting to come to the UK for other reasons such as study or to join family also remain unclear.

Current government policy requires skilled workers with a minimum salary of £30,000 sponsored by an employer. They can bring an uncapped number of dependents. There would also be a scheme for lower-skilled workers, but their visas would be limited to a 12-month period.

Astons is a leading global immigration advisory firm with offices in London, Moscow, Dubai, Cyprus and China and offers residency & citizenship investment solutions in the UK EU & the Caribbean. Astons is a committed and regulated Member of the Investment Migration Council (IMC), for EU & Caribbean investment immigration.  

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