Points based immigration systems around the world

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With the United Kingdom beginning to implement its new immigration system which will encompass all work, study, and training related immigration into the country, the spotlight has centered on points based immigration schemes. Many leading destination countries use a points system to attract top skilled talent from around the world in a bid to make their countries more competitive in an increasingly global society.

Points based immigration schemes usually assess skilled individuals by having them score points based upon criteria such as age, qualifications, and past experience. Many of these schemes have proven highly successful and have influenced countries implementing their own schemes. Below are a list of countries who use points based systems to attract skilled migrants.


Australia's booming economy has produced a shortfall in skilled labor across a wide range of employment sectors. In response, Australia uses its General Skilled Migration program to attract migrants from around to world to help alleviate labor shortages, both in trade occupations and highly skilled professional occupations.

The system is broken up into "visa subclasses", which are further broken into Onshore and Offshore categories. Onshore visa subclasses are available for individuals already legally residing in Australia under various other visas such as a student visa. Offshore visas can be applied for from overseas or from within Australia; however, the applicant must be outside Australia when the decision on approval is made.

Individuals interested in immigrating to Australia can refer to the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) to see whether their occupation is listed. If the occupation is on the SOL, an application can be lodged if they possess the qualifications required by the relevant Australian assessing authority for that occupation.

Individuals can use our points calculator to get an initial idea about their chances for immigrating to Australia under the General Skilled Migration program. Alternatively, we provide a free Assessment Form that individuals can fill out online.

Australia's skilled migration program has worked so well, it has influenced a new system currently being implemented by Britain.

United Kingdom

The UK first introduced a points based system in 2002 called the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP). Migrants can come to the UK under this scheme without a sponsor or previous job offer if they can score enough points based on age, education, and past earnings. Points can also be scored for work experience or qualifications earned in the UK. Good English skills are also required. This is still available, but only to applicants outside of the UK, and is set to be replaced by a new "five-tier" points based system.

The United Kingdom's new tiered system will replace more than 80 previous routes into the country for employment, study, and training related immigration. A sub-category of Tier 1 called General Highly Skilled Migrants (GHSM) will fully replace the current HSMP by summer of 2008. The first phase has already come into force as of 29 February 2008 for those already inside the UK who need to extend their HSMP visa or would like to switch into Tier 1 from another category. For applicants based in India, the new rules will come into effect on 01 April 2008.

For those in the UK on Working Holiday Maker visas, they can no longer change their status to come under the points system. These individuals would have to make an out-of-country application. In this situation, the initial application goes to the Border and Immigration Agency in the UK, then following approval, a entry clearance application is submitted to a British High Commission or British embassy in their home country. In certain other cases where people have difficulty qualifying under Tier 1, they may also benefit by making an out-of-country application.

The new rules for highly skilled migrants do not change much from the HSMP, with the notable exception of more stringent English language requirements and a new "Maintenance" requirement. The Maintenance requirement states that a migrant applying for a Tier 1 GHSM visa or extending their current GHSM visa will be required to show that they have at least 800 GBP and have had that amount for three months leading up to their application. Because of this, it may benefit people outside of the UK to apply for the HSMP scheme before it expires. Interested individuals can use our free HSMP points based calculator to assess their chances of entry under this system.


Canada has long depended on immigration to fuel its economy and provide continuing labor market growth. Over 200,000 people immigrate to Canada each year. The North American country also uses a points based system for skilled immigration.

Potential migrants can score points based on previous education (both University and Trade school qualifications), bonus points for those who can speak both English and French, work experience, age, existing job offers, and spouse or partner qualifications, among others. Like the UK's new five tier system, funds are required to show that a migrant can support themselves upon arrival in Canada.

Again, we provide an easy to use and free points calculator to assess an individual's chances of immigrating to Canada as a skilled migrant, along with a free assessment form for a more detailed analysis from a professional migration agent.

New Zealand

New Zealand, not to be left out, also provides a points based system. The island nation depends heavily on immigration to keep its economy strong and actively encourages people to move to New Zealand. Those who score enough points are allowed to move to the country and look for work for nine months, after which they are eligible for permanent residence if they are successful.

New Zealand immigration authorities assess a migrant's chances of success based on their occupation and whether it conforms to what the country deems to be future growth areas and sectors experiencing labor shortages. Points are scored for other criteria such as qualifications (with bonus points if they have been earned in New Zealand) and relevant work experience. Age, like other points based systems, plays an important factor.

If an applicant scores a sufficient number of points, they are selected from a pool of applicants at regular intervals and invited to make an application for immigration. Our free New Zealand points calculator and assessment form are available for those who are interested in immigrating to this scenic country.


As the population of the world becomes more mobile, it will become more and more within a nation's interest to take advantage of top talent from around the world. Countries such as the United States which continue to stress family based immigration and will lose out in the long run on foreign-born talent that ends up in competitive economies.

Other countries, such as Germany and France, require a job offer and other stringent requirements for migrants from outside the European Union to work in their countries, even while labor shortages continue to rise. However, the choices available to migrants with the right skills and qualifications are better than ever.