The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has been asked by Home Secretary Priti Patel to look, as a matter of urgency, into how an Australian-style points-based (PBS) immigration system could be introduced in Britain.

Saying that it would strengthen the UK labour market, the Home Secretary has asked the Committee to consider how points could be awarded to prospective migrants for things including educational qualifications, language proficiency, work experience and willingness to work in areas or sectors with a labour shortage.

The MAC has also been commissioned to review the salary thresholds for the future immigration system and has been asked to report on both by January 2020.

In this regard, the Committee has been asked to consider whether the Government should: move to a single minimum salary threshold, potentially with some flexibilities to set a lower rate; or stick to the current arrangement of a combination of a minimum salary threshold and a “going rate”; or adopt an approach which focuses only on the “going rate” for a particular role.

Responding to Ms Patel’s latest instructions, Committee Chairman Professor Alan Manning said: “The MAC looks forward to engaging with colleagues in Government, business and all other interested parties to produce a report in response to this commission, alongside the existing Salary Threshold Commission. We shall start our call for evidence imminently”.

He reminded the Home Secretary of the UK’s previous experience with systems similar to a PBS — the Highly Skilled Migrants’ Programme (that ran from 2002 to 2008) and the Tier 1 (General) programme (that ran from 2008 to 2010).

Professor Manning said that, as an evidence-based body, the MAC would need to examine these systems and asked for the support of officials in the Home Office and elsewhere in obtaining access to the necessary data.

The Home Secretary’s letter can be found at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/829234/Home_Secretary_Professor_Manning_-_Points-based_system.pdf.

The MAC has moved quickly to launch its promised consultation and details are now available at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/salary-threshold-and-points-based-system-pbs-commission-call-for-evidence with a deadline for comments of 5 November 2019.

Comment by Croner Associate Director of Operations Paul Holcroft

It will be interesting to see how the UK decides to structure its immigration policy over the coming years.

With access to overseas workers already set to decline on account of Brexit, many employers will be conscious of the need to maintain a strong and competitive workforce.

Critics of the Government’s salary threshold approach have indicated that many firms could be left unable to recruit for key positions, especially in industries such as construction or agriculture where pay rates are considerably less.

Although it remains to be seen whether the move to a points-based system will improve employers’ chances of recruiting staff from overseas, the fact that labour shortages may be taken into account when issuing work visas suggests the Government is likely to be understanding of the pressures facing certain businesses.

Last reviewed 13 September 2019