Brexit & Immigration in 2020

Mourelle Josiah-Wong, January 28, 2020

Brexit and Immigration – what’s happening now?

The UK leaving the EU; a process ‘affectionately’ described as ‘Brexit’. - Has been a period of consistent controversy, contention, deliberation and polarisation. The situation has been extraordinarily lengthy and was a key feature of the Winter 2019 elections. However as it currently stands, with the elections out of the way we have finally have progress insofar as there is a majority government in power that can hopefully negotiate a viable deal with the EU and implement a fully functional and economically beneficial immigration system.

What are the potential changes?

One of the of the larger issues surrounding Brexit has been immigration. There has been repeated rhetoric enticing voters to move away from the UK’s current points-based immigration system, in favour of the Australian style points-based immigration system which is purportedly more attractive. This potential change would involve ending freedom of movement between the UK and the EU meaning EU citizens will need to apply for a visa alongside Non-EU citizens. Without getting too much into the politics of it all, this month I intend to straighten out what exactly the UK’s current points-based system is and compare it to the Australian points-based system.

United Kingdom – the current situation and the 5 Tiers

The UK immigration system is divided into 5 tiers of visa application intended to reliably quantify whether a person is eligible to live or work within the country. However, this is on a temporary basis before eventually meeting the criteria of applying for a permanent resident status. It’s worth noting that despite the system being called the 5 Tiers, the UK no longer uses Tier number 3 which I have excluded (leaving us with four live Tiers):

Tier 1

This tier is mostly focused on business owners. The UK is in constant need of genuine entrepreneurs, CEO’s and the upper echelons of management to coordinate businesses and drive overall GDP growth. This extends Tier 1 to investors who wish to devote significant capital towards the UK economy and people with exceptional talent that are highly qualified within sciences, humanities, medicine, engineering, digital technology or the arts.

Tier 2

Covers mostly the skilled workforce. For those that have applied and been accepted for a job within the UK, qualified enough to be considered a specialist within their field or job. This is in addition to if their job requires them to work along international lines e.g. airport staff and seafarers, religious ministers, overseas qualified medical staff and “intra-company transfers” – which is a term is used to describe staff, graduates and skilled transfer employees; sponsored by a business, on a temporary placement within the country.

Tier 4

This is a visa tier specifically for students, under these circumstances, like tier 2, they must have already qualified for a place within the institution which grants them a form of sponsorship for the length of their study.

Tier 5

Tier 5 is intended for people that are aiming to achieve some overseas work experience within the UK, usually limited to temporary work and will have a duration of around 12 – 24 months. This tier is often thought of as a ‘gap year visa’.

Australia’s current system

Not too dissimilarly the Australian visa application relies upon a points-based system that quantifies and categorises individual qualification points which may allow individual’s access to the country. The overall viewpoint is that incoming people should contribute towards the overall growth of the country and economy. This is distinct from the UK where the power rests with employers or educational institutions, instead in Australia that power lies with the government.

Skilled Independent Table

The part of the Australian migration system that I’m going to focus on here is with reference to the ‘Skilled Independent Table’. This is a list of qualifying factors that a person may possess and are each worth a certain amount of points, the idea is that; the more qualified a person is based on each individual category and the number of the points they have, the more likely they are to quickly and successful contribute to the Australian economy. Using this system, individuals are assessed to see if they are eligible to apply for a visa.

These categories are divided into separate fields with maximum points of 30, 20 and 10 respectively applicable for each attribute. This covers Age, English Language Proficiency, Overseas Work Experience, Educational Qualifications, Australia specific work experience and an ‘other’ section.

How do the UK/AUS systems compare?

So, there are two levels of qualification that a migrant may potentially need to meet depending on which country they are applying for. One from an employability standpoint or instead from a list of desirable characteristics they will need to possess.

Interestingly, the Australian points-based system could be argued to be more liberal and inclusive. An applicant may not meet the necessary threshold in one category but there is the potential to earn points in another. For example, they may have a low English language proficiency but high level of education and overseas work experience – via the Australian system it’s possible to qualify for a work visa without having a job offer in place.

Whereas the opposite is true within the current UK immigration system, which is considered more restrictive. Unless you’re a student or you have secured a job within the UK prior to your application and proven your financial stability or a clear method of supporting yourself, it is extremely unlikely that you will qualify for a visa.

Interesting Statistics

  • As of 2017 the Australian population sat at 24.6 million, whereas the UK population in 2018 sat at 66.4 million.
  • However, the size of the UK in land mass is 93,627 mi² vs the size of Australia which is 29.6 million mi².
  • In 2018, 627,000 people moved to the UK with an intention to stay longer than 12 months.
  • However, 345,000 emigrated from the UK.
  • In 2018, there was a higher number of Non-EU migrants than there are of EU migrants immigrating to the UK.
  • In 2018 the total amount of overseas migrants living in Australia was 7.3 million vs 2017 where it was 7.1 million.
  • The largest migrant group living in Australia are UK citizens at around 992,000 in 2018.

How will an AUS style immigration system impact the UK?

It seems complicated but it appears that what the UK government intends to do involves trading some of the benefits of being part of the EU to achieve one of their aims of curtailing immigration figures. Brexit drops the freedom of movement for EU citizens which may decrease the amount of people migrating to the country. To counteract any negative impacts of this this, the UK government may intend to create an immigration system that encourages a greater flow of migration however with greater powers to accept/reject applicants based on individual qualifications. Theoretically, maintaining a greater level of control as all applicants would be vetted by the same standard, as opposed to the EU’s current freedom of movement processes. Whether or not this plan is ultimately beneficial or not we’ll have to see!

Written by Mourelle Josiah-Wong - Team Assistant at Alchemy Recruitment Ltd.

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