Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: Important Immigration events during the year

2010 has been a rocky year for immigration around the world. Aftershocks from the global financial crisis of 2008 can still be felt as evidenced by many countries responding to the economic downturn by bringing in more restrictive immigration policies. However, there is evidence that as the economies of many countries improve and unemployment rates fall, skilled immigration will once again play a key role in filling labour gaps.

United Kingdom

One of the biggest stories this year is the UK Government's interim immigration cap that was put into force in June. The temporary cap, designed to prevent a surge in applications ahead of a planned permanent cap to be introduced in April 2011, was pushed through without any Parliamentary vote. Since this summer, a monthly cap of 600 applications for Tier 1 General has been in place, with the quota being reached very early in each month. There has been much criticism of the cap, mainly from the business sector, immigrant groups, and from within the Government itself.

A legal challenge was lodged with the UK High Court by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and the English Community Care Association. The UK High Court found that the interim immigration cap was unlawful because the Home Secretary did not put the measure to a vote before Parliament. However, the UK Government quickly put through a Statement of Changes that apparently means that the interim immigration limit is now lawful. It's possible that a future legal challenge will mean that the interim limit is again considered to be unlawful.

Stricter requirements for permanent residence, otherwise known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) were also announced in 2010. The Home Secretary said that she wishes to cut the ties between temporary immigration and permanent settlement. As a result, it is possible many people will no longer be eligible to apply for ILR in the future. One bit of good news is that the plan by the previous Government to create a category of "probationary citizenship" instead of indefinite leave to remain has been axed.


The United Kingdom is not the only country that is tightening the reigns on immigration. Canada has reduced the number of jobs in its in-demand occupation list; most skilled worker applicants will more than likely require a job offer. On the bright side, Canada has devoted resources to reducing a large backlog in applications which have historically resulted in multi-year waiting times for applicants.


Like Canada, Australia also announced a reduction in jobs on their Skilled Occupation List (SOL); As before applicants for permanent residence under the General Skilled Migration (GSM) programme must have relevant experience in the particular skilled occupation. This year Australia also announced changes to the GSM to take effect next summer which will make it more difficult for tradespeople and people in other occupations to score enough points under Australia's GSM points based system.

Australia has also been responding to criticism of changes to its immigration system from the business and education sectors. Australia will make student immigration and temporary business immigration easier. This will further help Australia's economy which is now experiencing an upturn.

The United States

There was a time when H-1B visas were snatched up on the first day that they became available for a particular fiscal year. This year is certainly in keeping with the times; Thousands of H-1B visas were still available many months after the gates were open, showing that employers are simply not hiring highly skilled workers in large numbers in the US.


The global financial crisis of 2008 took an enormous toll on economies world-wide which resulted in many Countries bringing in more restrictive immigration policies.

Governments around the world are concentrating more on employment-based immigration to deal with gaps in the labor market. It is increasingly the case that the employer or both the employer and employee need to apply for the visa.

Over the last few years economies around the world have been recovering. This is particularly true for countries such as Australia. As markets recover and demand for skilled workers increase, this will lead to increases in levels of immigration.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Austria announces new work visa for foreigners

Austria has announced a "red-white-red" work permit card that will allow non-EU citizens to work in Austria. Austria is currently experiencing skills shortages.

To gain entry to Austria under the new work permit, applicants must pass certain criteria related to age, education, experience, and language skills. The new Austrian work visa will be similar in some respects to other skilled immigration visas in countries such as the UK, Australia, Denmark, and Canada.

Social Affairs Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer said that Austria must import migrant labour to deal with skills shortages over the next 10 to 15 years.

The new "red-white-red" work visa represents a significant change in the Austrian immigration system. It is currently very difficult for non-EU nationals to work in Austria legally.

The European Union as a whole has recognized the need for skilled immigration as its labour force shrinks and its population ages. Over the last three years the European Commission has been pushing for the introduction of a EU wide blue card visa.

The blue card would give a non-EU citizen the right to work in any participating EU country as long as he has a job offer. A blue card holder would also be able to bring family and even move to another EU country after a certain time period if he was relocated or received another job offer.

EU Commissioners say Europe needs more immigration

Europe needs more immigration if it wishes to remain globally competitive, says two members of the European Commission.

In an article penned by European Commissioners Cecilia Malmström and László Andor, the authors state that there are skills shortages in many sectors of the European job market, including science, health, agriculture, engineering, and tourism -- This is desptie the fact that the EU continues to experience high unemployment rates.

"These deficits will increase and spread rapidly to other sectors because of the EU's severe demographic challenges," the authors state.

According to Malmström and Andor, as early as 2013, the working-age population will start to decline in the EU, with Eurostat projections suggesting that the EU workforce will shrink by as much as 50 million over the next 50 years.

Malmström and Andor are quick to point out that the EU will not need 50 million immigrants and that reducing existing unemployment should be a top priority. However, they feel that increased skilled immigration should play an important role in combating the problem.

For example, they say that recent reports suggest that the EU economy will need between 384,000 and 700,000 IT workers by 2015, and by 2020, between one and two million health-care workers.

"Even with the best policies, it is highly unlikely that all these resources could be found within the Union," the authors said.

"At the same time, global competition for manpower will grow", they added. "If Europe is to keep its position on the global market, we need to make our labour market more attractive to possible migrants."

The European Commission has been proactive in trying to encourage more skilled immigration into the EU. The EU intends to implement a "blue card" which would allow non-EU citizens to live and work in the 27-member bloc. The recent article by two prominent EU Commissioners will it is hoped speed up the introduction of an EU-wide immigration scheme.

Western Australia lures skilled migrants

The Western Australian government is trying its best to attract overseas skilled workers in an attempt to deal with labour shortages in its mining sector.

Western Australian Training and Workforce Development Minister Peter Collier announced a WA workforce development plan to address these issues. One of the problems is finding skilled labour for the expected $220 billion worth of natural resource-related projects.

According to Collier, the increasing population and aging workforce will cause a gap of about 150,000 workers in Western Australia in the next seven years. Bringing in skilled migrants into Australia will help Western Australia deal with skills shortages in the labour market.

"Training and preparing West Australians for the workforce is our number one priority," said Collier. "However, targeted migration will be an important strategy in filling those high value vacancies unable to be filled by the local workforce."

The government of WA has signed an agreement with the Australian federal government which will allow the state to sponsor 6000 visa applications under the regional sponsored category of the General Skilled Migration program.

The General Skilled Migration program is Australia's points based immigration system which allows skilled workers to gain permanent residence in Australia with or without a job offer from an Australian employer.
Some visa categories under this program allow state or regional governments in Australia to sponsor a visa applicant.

The General Skilled Migration Program has been very successful for Australia and has influenced immigration systems in other countries such as the UK.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

UK Government: more Tier 2 visas in 2011

The permanent cap affecting skilled immigration which the UK is implementing in April 2011 is causing a lot of controversy and consternation among immigrants and businesses alike. But while Tier 1 (General) is in effect being abolished and will in future only apply to 'exceptionally talented' people (with an annual cap of 1000), Tier 2 visas (for ONP nurses, for example) will actually see an increase in its quota to 20,700 visas; This is a significant increase over the current interim immigration cap.
Moreover, this limit will not apply to the following groups of people seeking Tier 2 visas:
  • in-country applications from people already in the UK
  • dependants of Tier 2 migrants
  • Tier 2 (General) applicants who are filling a vacancy with a salaryabove £150,000
  • Tier 2 (Sportsperson) applicants
  • Tier 2 (Minister of religion) applicants
  • Tier 2 (Intra-company transfer) applicants
People who fall under the above categories will not come under the immigration cap.
A limiting factor to the new Tier 2 visa rules is the requirement that Tier 2 (General) applicants be limited to graduate level job vacancies when the new rules are put in place next year.

In addition, the intra-company transfer route, while not subject to the cap, will have some new limitations put in place. Intra-company transfer applicants with salaries above £40,000 will be able to stay in the UK for up to five years, while applicants with salaries between £24,000 and £40,000 will only be able to stay in the UK for up to 12 months at a time.

It's clear that the UK is focusing its attention on migrants who already have a bonafide job offer from a UK employer. For people who wish to immigrate to the UK based upon their skills and experience alone, now is the time to apply under Tier 1 (General) before the UK closes the door on this popular immigration scheme.

Japan urged to increase skilled immigration

A leading international think tank is urging Japan to open up its traditionally restrictive immigration system to incoming skilled immigration.

The proposal by the Japan Forum on International Relations (JFIR) proposes that Japan adopt a skills-based immigration system, similar to immigration systems in leading immigration destination countries in the West.

In addition, JFIR proposes that Japan implement social integration policies alongside the skills-based immigration system to avoid tensions related to immigration that occurs in certain Countries in Europe.

Japan has historically shunned immigration, but voices are now saying that skilled immigration is the only way to head off skills shortages and re-energize the Japanese economy.

Kenicho Ito, chairman of the JFIR's policy council, said he considered Australia, Canada, and the US as models for a new Japanese immigration system.

"If Japan wants to survive in a globalised world economy and to advance its integration with the burgeoning East Asian economy, it essentially has no other choice but to accept foreign migrants, while making full use of domestic human resources," he said.

"A key question is not whether we should accept foreign migrants or not, but how we should accept them," he added.

Australia has a points-based system that grants permanent residence to skilled migrants who gain enough points under their points based system. The UK has a a tier based immigration system, which has some similarities to the Australian immigration system, which also allows skilled immigrants to enter the country without the need for a job offer. The United States has a complicated system that allows entry of skilled immigrants on a number of employment-based visas.

Whether Japan will implement similar policies remains to be seen. The number of foreigners moving to Japan has increased in the last decade, but only very slowly: from 1.5 million ten years ago to 2 million today.
"The annual intake is estimated to be 50,000 to 60,000 as far as the last 10 years is concerned. We think such a number is too small," Ito said.

Australian education needs more foreign students

Australian education groups are optimistic that the government will help fix Australia's ailing education industry.

Educators traveled to Canberra on 22 November to meet with Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, Trade Minister Craig Emerson, and the coalition government's universities spokesman, Brett Mason to lobby for changes that will support the education sector.

The education industry is Australia's most valuable export industry worth more than AUD $18.5 billion to the Australian economy. Unfortunately, the industry has seen a dramatic decline in foreign student enrolments.

Student visas granted to offshore applicants has declined 30 percent in the past year, causing universities to cut staff and budgets.

The education industry wants the Australian government to relax student visa rules and to implement faster and more transparent processing of applications. They also feel more can be done to promote Australia as a study abroad destination.

Claire Field of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training was encouraged by the Australian government's reaction to the current situation in the education sector.

"They understand that Australia is out of step with competitor countries and they understand the consequences of no further change. We are looking forward to and hopeful of both short-term and long-term changes," Field said.