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Immigration policy under Boris Johnson’s government

Boris Johnson repeatedly referred, while on the campaign trail, to an ‘Australian points-based immigration system’.  There has also been a change in terminology from the ‘hostile environment’ to the ‘compliant environment’. These reforms are to be nothing other than a change in name, right to rent checks and employer checks are most likely here to stay under Boris Johnson’s government.

In fact, we already have a points-based system, although it is largely in name alone now. It has significantly changed from its original incarnation.  

How does our current system work?

The current system consists of four ‘Tiers’ named Tier 1 to tier 5. But that’s five tiers I hear you cry! Yes, well the third tier was never implemented, it was due to cover unskilled workers, but ultimately it was felt that there was no need for it.

Tier 1 currently covers innovators, investors and Exceptional talent applicants.

Tier 2 covers worker who have a job offer in the UK, these are largely under the Tier 2 (General) visas, but there are separate categories for religious and sports workers.

Tier 4 covers students.

Tier 5 covers temporary workers such as ‘youth mobility workers’ and those intending to stay in the UK for shorter periods.

How does the UK point system work?

While you are required to obtain a certain number of points to be granted leave, these are mandatory points which require that you achieve points in certain categories. For example, there might be 10 points for maintenance or 10 points for the English language, but you either get these points, or you don’t. It is not possible to get say five points for lesser English level or 20 points for a higher English level. With the Australian-style system you would likely be awarded points for a degree, for example, then more points for a masters’ degree or a PhD.

A press release has now been issued by Boris Johnson’s team stating that the new immigration system would be grouped into three categories.

The first is ‘exceptional talent/contribution’ this takes the form of the current Tier 1 and includes the investor, innovator and start-up visas. 

The second is ‘Skilled workers’ which would require a job offer and therefore suggests no change from the current Tier 2 system, except that this would include EEA nationals when free movement from Europe ends.

The third category is ‘sector-specific rules-based’. This is a new category which has the intention of replacing the current labour that comes from Europe and will match the demand for workers by employers with issued visas.  This will presumably cover low-skilled work.

Fast-track entry features appear in both the exceptional talent category and for medical professionals using the new NHS visa, which is in the ‘skilled-worker’ category. It is not known whether this fast-tracking would be as standard, or if it would require the payment of an additional fee as the premium services do currently in the UK and outside.


Rather oddly, the much-touted Australian points-based system doesn’t seem to feature. The new systems mentioned seems to actually be re-hashing of previous policies, rather than a new radical system. The key to the Australian system is that a person can make up their points in different categories, such as age, previous earnings and so on; however, this concept doesn’t seem to feature in the Boris Johnson’s version of the Australian immigration system.

The big change in the policy is the inclusion of European nationals in a visa-based system. However, other changes seem to be things we had seen before, particularly when the UK points-based system was initially introduced. 

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