by Manuela Travaglini.

With a 59 pages manifesto, Boris Johnson has promised to get Brexit done by the 31th of January. One of the goals will be to deliver on the promise to reduce the overall immigration numbers – although scrapping the previously set “tens of thousands” target.

More specifically, when it comes to immigration the conservative manifesto promises a “firmer and fairer” post-Brexit immigration policy inspired by the “Australian-style points-based system”, with the aim of introducing “fewer lower-skilled migrants” and attracting “the best and brightest from all over the world”.

The new system promises to treat EU and non-EU immigrants equally (which means no fast-track for European citizens), including the need to contribute to the NHS before they can receive benefits and not allowing unemployment or housing benefits for the first 5 years. It will also require most people to have a job offer before they can enter the country.

With the reduction of the overall number of migrants in mind, a review of the Australian system has been commissioned by the home secretary, Priti Patel, to the Migration Advisory Committee, which has been asked to review the feasibility of introducing such a system in the UK.

Ahead of the results of this report, due in January 2020, it might be worth analysing the key points of the Australian ”point-based immigration system” comparing it to the one designed for the future EU immigrants and partially already in place for non-EU citizens in the UK.

This is quite different from the Australian model in that:

  • The actual British system relies mostly on employers to decide which workers have the skills that they need, it is employer-led in a way that migrants looking to secure a work visa must be sponsored by an employer and meet a particular salary threshold. By contrast, in the Australian points system is the government that decides who should be admitted, on the basis of the country skills shortage (a list of in demand jobs that changes every year according to the country’s needs and that spans form scientists to plumbers to tennis coaches) and the migrants’ personal characteristics (such as age, education, English and foreign language knowledge and previous work experience in Australia);
  • The Australian point-based system, unlike the British, does not contemplate a minimum salary threshold;
  • The new Tory system also requires most people to have a clear job offer before they can relocate to the country, while Australia allows people to migrate without a job offer as long as they meet the requirements and score high on skills and personal circumstances;
  • Unlike the British intention to treat equally Eu and non-EU immigrants, Australia already has in place the equivalent of the European “free movement” and for the low-skilled labour force relies massively on New Zealanders, who are freely allowed to live and work in Australia without restrictions.

Most of all, the Australian system was never meant to cut migration; if anything, in a nation where those born overseas make almost 30% of the entire population, the aim of the immigration policy was to keep the number of migrants selected but deliberately large. So much so that even Theresa May, back in 2016, discharged the option of adopting an Australian style point-based system as something that has difficult “intricacies”, a model that “will not work and is not an option”.