Monday, September 05, 2016

STATEMENT: Theresa May & the UK points based immigration

The news today is that Theresa May has rejected calls for a points based system for Britain post-Brexit. But this is only partly true.

For nearly a decade, the UK has had a points based system - but it applies only to non-EU citizens. I know. I had to meet the right number of points to stay in the UK as a non-EU citizen from the United States.

Australia is credited with having a points based system that the UK should import - and this is what Tony Blair's government largely did. Australia brought in the system to attract more immigrants.

The way it works is that someone can get a visa to live and work in Australia if they satisfy a number of requirements: each gains an applicant a set number of points, these are added up and a visa is granted if the number meets or exceeds a target.

Points are awarded for holding higher qualifications (the 'higher' the qualifications, the more points earned), salary (the more earned, the more points awarded) and/or for working in certain industries. The system is designed to attract more immigrants (and not less) by sending out a signal to select types of immigrants (e.g., qualifications, working in key areas, etc.) that if they want to come to Australia, they can. Oh, and it worked - Australia did attract more migrants as well.

Britain brought in a similar system - based on the Australian model - but added caveats like a limit on the number of work visas that could be granted.

Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out using a points based system, but it is unclear what this means. She has not made any effort to stop its use for non-UK citizens - and her comments do not indicate any threat to their continued use for these citizens either. To say that she opposes a points based system overlooks the fact that a points based system already exists for many people today in Britain.

We're told she prefers work visas. If there are only x number of work visas to award, then these can be limited to x - but it is unclear why there cannot be a cap on work visas alongside using a points based system like at present for non-EU citizens.

And passing the points based system hasn't been a problem for her before. After I passed the system, I applied two years later for British citizenship - and then Home Secretary Theresa May sent me this letter:

For more on how a points based immigration system works, see my book Becoming British: UK Citizenship Examined (Biteback) published this summer.

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