Priti Patel pushes new plan for migrants: What is Australian points-based immigration system?

Home secretary Priti Patel wants the UK to follow Australia's immigration system. (PA)

The government is pushing a new immigration system it wants in place by the end of this year.

Home secretary Priti Patel will tell her Cabinet colleagues that the UK should follow the lead of Australia’s points-based immigration system, the Daily Express reported.

It said she will argue Britain needs to speed up the introduction of the new migration system to coincide with the UK’s planned transition out of EU regulations on 31 December, two years earlier than previously planned.

A government source told the newspaper: “There is a clear drive for talented and skilled workers from around the world to come to the UK, but we also need to see a reduction in the number of unskilled workers entering the UK and that’s why this will be coming to an end.”

On Monday, prime minister Boris Johnson vowed that an immigration system overhaul after Brexit will “put people before passports”.

But what is the Australian system and how does it work?

A UK Border Force officer checks passports as the government reportedly eyes up plans for an an Australian-style points-based immigration system. (PA)

What is the Australian system?

Migrants who want to move to Australia to work will generally be looking to fill an occupation that is in demand.

Applicants are given points based on a number of factors.

These include the amount of time they have worked in their sector, their education, their age and their proficiency in the English language.


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The points system is typically used for migrants for economic purposes, according to Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at University of Oxford, rather than international students, family migrants or refugees.

How do the points work?

The threshold for eligibility for a “Skilled Independent” job in Australia is 65 points. Being aged between 25 and 32 will automatically grant an applicant 30 points.

An applicant with “superior English” will earn 20 points. If they have skilled work experience in Australia, up to eight years, they may earn up to 20 points.

The maximum for education, up to PhD level, is also 20 points.

A Home Office Immigration Enforcement van outside Heathrow Airport Terminal 3, London. (PA)

What could it mean for Britain?

During the general election campaign, Mr Johnson said a points-based scheme would ensure that lower-skilled workers came to Britain only when there was a “specific shortage” of staff in certain sectors.

Dr Alan Gamlen of Monash University in Melbourne told the PA news agency that Australia’s points-based system is a “general skilled migration programme, where immigrants applying for a visa are typically selected based on ‘economically relevant characteristics’ like education, language skills and work experience”.

He added: “The exact way points are allocated changes depending on policy and the labour market but typically an applicant picks a ‘skilled occupation’ from a list and needs to score a minimum number of points.”

But doesn’t the UK already have a points-based immigration system?

People from outside the EU who want to work in Britain are awarded points for English language, meeting a salary threshold and being sponsored by a company.

However, this system is largely driven by having an employer in place, and does not take age or qualifications into account.

It has been dubbed a points-based system “in name only”.

What is the reaction from opposition parties?

The plan to overhaul Britain’s immigration system hasn’t gone down well with Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: "This is an ill-informed and reactionary policy that will damage us all, damaging to everything from the NHS to other public services and some of our key private sector industries.

"Ministers talk about ending uncontrolled migration when they have been in office for 10 years. In reality, this is just a new twist in the long Tory campaign against migrants, scapegoating them for the terrible effects of Tory policies."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine said: "Decisions like this make it loud and clear that this Conservative government has no intention of ending the hostile environment. It's a national embarrassment.

"For business and our economy, such draconian changes to immigration rules is utterly unworkable. To think the Home Office could implement the changes in the time given is a joke."