24 Oct 2016, 38 mins ago

The subject of the EU referendum is a hard one to avoid, with both campaigns showing a high level of engagement. Despite the extraordinary complexity of the issue, it is necessary to objectively understand the differences between the immigration system and the proposed alternative in order to make an informed decision.

There has been a lot of talk from the leave campaign about a possible new points-based system for EU nationals. Despite comparisons made from both sides to the Australian system, this is likely to be more of general similarity in form rather than in the detail. Australia’s system is intended to actively encourage the immigration of skilled workers whereas the leave campaign looks set to take a harder line on the issue.

Perhaps a more obvious comparison might be to the UK’s current system for non-EU nationals. This was a system first introduced in 2008 by the Labour government and replaced an overly complicated system offering over 80 different types of visa. This simpler system offers 4 different types of visa: tiers 1, 2, 4, and 5 (see Gherson’s home page) with a fifth, tier 3, which has never been employed. To be successful within each tier there is a minimum number of points which the applicant must reach in order to qualify, with points being allocated according to categories specific to each type.

Each tier currently has a maximum annual cap on the number of visas allocated. However, should the referendum yield a leave vote this figure may be open to an increase to reflect the additional applications from EU citizens who would also now be applying under this system.

There have been some calls for an entirely restructured system altogether. However, it is not clear what such a system may look like, nor exactly why there is a need for such a large reshuffle.