Saturday, March 26, 2011

UK will scrap Tier 1 Post Study Work in April 2012

Intense lobbying by Britain's education sector and others has resulted in the Tier 1 Post Study Work immigration scheme continuing for another year. Tier 1 PSW allows non-EU students of UK educational institutions to live and work in the UK after graduation for up to two years. The Government is also expected to allow private further-education colleges which provide "pathway" courses to apply for student visa sponsorship accreditation.

The Government originally had hinted that it would not allow non-EU students to obtain a visa for "pathway" courses such as English language classes and that the Tier 1 Post Study Work scheme would end in April 2011 as part of a general plan to reduce net immigration into the UK. The Tier 1 PSW scheme will continue for at least another year.

The UK has already announced an annual permanent immigration cap on Tier 1 highly skilled immigration and Tier 2 skilled immigration that will take effect in 6 April of 2011. There is currently a temporary immigration cap.

The UK higher education sector has been aggressively lobbying against reducing student immigration into Britain. The UK's education sector is estimated to be a 40 billion pounds per year industry.
However, while the Post Study Work will stay for at least another year, other rules will be tightened from 6 April 2011. Stricter rules will govern the ability to work for foreign students. Only students at University and at Government funded Further Education colleges will have the right to work.

MPs warn Immigration Minister on student visa curbs

A committee of MPs has urged immigration minister Damian Green not to move forward with the introduction of stricter rules for student immigration into the UK. The committee has warned that more stringent student immigration rules would be "potentially calamitous" to an industry worth £40 billion annually.

The home affairs select committee stated that student immigration is "not only economically beneficial to this country but also vital to the UK's international relations". The committee complains that the UK's policy of reducing net immigration into the UK is based on "flawed" evidence.

The committee has also taken issue with contradictions in public comments made by the immigration minister:

In January, Green told Parliament that "taking action on students is particularly important as they make up roughly two thirds of non-European economic area immigrants, and the number of student visas issued has been rising in recent years". Then a few weeks later he told the Commons that his department wanted to "encourage all those genuine students coming here to study at our world-class academic institutions."

Britain reputation as one of the top Countries for international students could suffer if new rules are put in place to restrict student immigration.

"UK universities are facing aggressive competition in a market which is vital for their future and for the UK economy", the MPs said. They also stated that Australia may already be ramping up efforts to attract foreign students to its shores at the expense of the UK.

The MPs recommended that there should not be tougher English language qualifications for students applying to an educational institution with "highly trusted" status. They also urged that the Tier 1 Post Study Work (PSW) scheme not be scrapped. The PSW allows student immigrants who graduate from a UK course to live and work in the UK for up to two years.

UK lures rich immigrants

The UK has announced new visa rules which would allow wealthy foreign-born investors and entrepreneurs to gain permanent residence (properly known as indefinite leave to remain) in the UK much more quickly than normal.

The new rules, which take effect in April 2011, would allow people who invest at least 5 million to settle (indefinite leave to remain) in Britain after three years. Those who invest at least 10 million will be able to settle after two years. Normally, people must live in the UK lawfully for five years to attain settlement.

Immigration minister Damian Green also announced a new visa which will allow an investor or entrepreneur with 50,000 of funding from a reputable organisation in a "high potential" business to come to the UK. The usual entrepreneur visa requires that an applicant already has 200,000 available to invest in the UK.

There will also be a new visitor visa for prospective entrepreneurs. This will allow you to enter the UK to secure funding, and make arrangements to start your business; You will then be able to apply for a full entrepreneur visa that will allow you to live in the UK on a long term basis.

Entrepreneurs in the UK will also be able to gain permanent residence more quickly by creating 10 jobs or by turning over 5 million pounds over a three-year period.

It remains to be seen how successful these changes in the immigration rules will be in practice. Only one thousand of these new visas will be available. Very few people in the World have GBP5 Million to invest anyway. Probably a number of businessmen will employ at least ten people in their new business in the UK in the first three years; These people may turn out to be the main beneficiaries of the changes.

Other Countries are also taking steps to encourage entrepreneur immigration. The US has announced legislation which if enacted will create a new "E-6" or "StartUp" visa, to attract foreign-born entrepreneurs to the US.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Study: UK points based immigration system needs improvement

A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) finds that the UK's points based system is not delivering its full "value for money potential". The study also found that, while adaptable, the system needs to improve customer service and its management information processes.

"Implementing the radical changes planned for the System in 2011-12 will enable the Agency to reconsider its priorities and improve customer service and its assurance over control systems," said Amyas Morse, head of NAO.

The points based system is divided into a number of tiers that cover all economic immigration routes, including highly skilled immigration and employer sponsored immigration. The system is similar in some respects to Australia's successful points based immigration program.

"The Points Based System introduced by the UK Border Agency in 2008 was for the most part designed well and provides an adaptable means of meeting the UKs work-related immigration policy objectives," NAO said in a release.

"However, according to the National Audit Office, the System is not yet delivering its full potential for value for money. Its processes and systems are not efficient and customer service could be improved," they added.
NAO said that the points based system meets the needs of UK employers for the most part. However, they noted that one in three UK companies surveyed said that they wanted to recruit more skilled foreign workers than they were allowed to.

Employers and organization who sponsor immigrant workers felt that the UK Border Agency does not provide all the necessary information and assistance that they need; one-fifth of employers said they were willing to pay an additional fee to get better customer service.

NAO also said the the UK Border Agency needs to improve its management information systems to better track people with expired visas and make sure they leave the UK.

Bill introduced by US senators to create 'startup visa' for entrepreneurs

New legislation, if enacted, will make obtaining a work visa in the US much easier for immigrant entrepreneurs.

The StartUp Visa Act of 2011 would allow an immigrant entrepreneur to receive a two year visa as long as he or she can show that a qualified U.S. investor is willing to invest in the immigrant's venture or can show that the business has generated at least $100,000 in annual sales from the US.

"Every job-creating American business started as an idea in the mind of an entrepreneur. We need to keep and bring more of those ideas to our shores where they can put Americans to work. Global competition for talent and investment grows more intense daily and the United States must step up or be left behind," said Senator John Kerry, co-author of the bill.

"Creating a new magnet for innovations and innovators to come to the United States and create jobs here will offer our economy a double shot in the arm – robust job creation at home and reaffirmation that we're the world's best place to do business," he added.

The startup visa would grant three options to people looking to enter the United States or lengthen their stay. Below is the text directly from the Senator John Kerry's press release:

Option One: Immigrant entrepreneurs living outside the U.S. would be eligible to apply for a StartUp Visa if a qualified U.S. investor agrees to financially sponsor their entrepreneurial venture with a minimum investment of $100,000. After two years, their business must have created 5 new jobs and raised not less than $500,000 in additional capital investment or generate not less than $500,000 in revenue.

Option Two: Immigrant entrepreneurs currently in the U.S. on an unexpired H-1B visa; OR immigrant entrepreneurs currently in the U.S. who have completed a graduate level degree in science, technology, engineering, math, computer science, or other relevant academic discipline from an accredited United States college, university, or other institution of higher education would be eligible for a StartUp Visa if;

They demonstrate annual income of not less than roughly $30,000 or the possession of assets of not less than roughly $60,000; and

Have proven that a qualified U.S. investor agrees to financially back their entrepreneurial venture with a minimum investment of $20,000.

After two years, their business must have created 3 new jobs and raised not less than $100,000 in additional capital investment or generate not less than $100,000 in revenue.

Option Three: Immigrant entrepreneurs living outside the U.S. would be eligible to apply for a StartUp Visa if they have controlling interest of a company in a foreign country that has generated, during the most recent 12-month period, not less than $100,000 in revenue from sales in the U.S.

After two years, their business must have created 3 new jobs and raised not less than $100,000 in additional capital investment or generate not less than $100,000 in revenue.

UK removes 8 occupations from Tier 2 visa skilled occupation list

The UK government has announced that it will remove 8 occupations from Shortage Occupation List (SOL). If an occupation is on the shortage occupation list it is easier for an employer to employ a migrant under Tier 2 of the UK's points based immigration system.

If an occupation is on the shortage occupation list the UK feels there are not enough resident vacancies to fill the available vacancies.

"When the 8 occupations are removed from the list, the number of jobs available to migrants under the list will be reduced from 500,000 to around 230,000," the UK Border Agency said in a statement.

The UK Government is also removing another 71 professions from the list of 192 qualifying Tier 2 visa occupations. These occupations have been deemed to be below "graduate level".

According to the UKBA, new rules to be introduced in April will mean that anyone wishing to apply for a Tier 2 visa must be coming here to work in an occupation "at or above graduate level".

The announcement follows recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), a body setup by the Government to study immigration levels into the UK.

This announcement follows the government's decision to accept all of the Migration Advisory Committee's (MAC) recommendations following the publication of 2 reports looking at graduate-level jobs and the shortage occupation list for Tier 2.

"These changes to the shortage occupation list will ensure that only skilled workers are coming to the UK through Tier 2 of the points-based system," said Immigration Minister Damian Green.

"It will allow firms to bring in people with necessary skills without migrants becoming the first resort to fill a wide range of available jobs," he added.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Future Canadian immigration changes

Canada is expected to update its points based skilled immigration scheme; There will be new English language requirements and higher points thresholds. If you think you may be affected by the changes, it may be best to apply now for skilled immigration to Canada.

Currently, there is no minimum score required under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). This means that as long as you score at least 67 points overall, you will qualify. However, new rules that will go into effect shortly will create a minimum mandatory IELTS score.

The total points necessary to qualify under the federal skilled worker program are expected to increase as well, from anywhere between 16 and 20 points.

Older people will find it more difficult to gain points under the new Canadian immigration system. Up to age 35, applicants will score more points. Then the points score for age criteria will gradually be reduced up to age 50, after which no points will be awarded at all.

Canada also prioritizes applications based upon the skills needed by the Canadian labour market. When the new changes are enacted, it's expected that the occupations in demand list will also be updated.

If you would like to live and work in Canada, please contact us at one of our offices.

Study finds UK immigration cap will be harmful to business

A new study by a recruiting firm has come to the conclusion that the UK's immigration cap will harm businesses and create further labour shortages.

Specialist recruiting firm Poolia surveyed a number of businesses expected to be affected by the UK Government's permanent immigration cap that starts in April 2011. The findings would suggest that the cap will be bad for UK business, increasing costs and leading to more gaps in the labour market.

The immigration cap could have the exact opposite of what the government was hoping for; Businesses are likely to suffer because of the inability to take on desperately needed skilled staff so reducing employment prospects for people both in the UK and prospective migrants to the UK.

UK businesses believe that the cap will have a negative impact on recruitment and retention of skilled employees. 45 percent of respondents said that the cap would adversely affect their business. Only 16 percent of those surveyed thought that the cap was good for the UK. 25 percent of respondents felt that the cap was only an attempt by the Government to show that it is "doing something" when in reality it would make little difference to people looking for work.

The immigration cap specifically targets skilled and highly skilled non-EU workers. Over a third of businesses surveyed felt that skills they needed are in short supply in the UK. Therefore the immigration cap will not result in more jobs being available for workers in the resident labour market.

Many businesses are also worried about losing key employees who are unable renew their visas.

"The message from clients seems clear: many dont feel the proposed cap on skilled migrants will have a great deal of impac [unemployment] and it could cause employers severe problems," said Shaun Greenfield, Poolia's Managing Director.

"So the question is, why introduce it? The concern is that by squeezing the source of skilled workers, employers will face increased pressures, which could have an impact on cost, productivity and overall trading performance," he added.

Western Australia sees sharp increase in skilled migrants

Businesses in Western Australia (WA) have recorded a sharp increase in the number of Dutch, Malaysian and Irish workers being sponsored to fill skilled job vacancies.

Close to 4000 skilled migrants were granted temporary 457 visas in WA in the second half of last year, an increase of more than 44 percent over the same period in 2009.

There was a substantial increase in clerical and administrative occupations in demand from 40 to 110 positions during the last half of 2010, according to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). The greatest demand continued to be for workers in Professional level occupations.

Migrants from Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ireland accounted for the majority of skilled workers entering WA on temporary 457 work visas.

Ireland's economic problems have meant that many younger workers have gone abroad to find jobs abroad, with many choosing Australia as their destination Country. The number of Irish entering WA under temporary
457 visas rose by 91 percent in the last six months of 2009.

While there was a sharp increase in the number of Malaysians, Dutch and Irish moving to WA, the UK maintained its position as the dominant source of skilled migrants for WA, with many coming to Australia under the General Skilled Migration program.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Business group urges Australia to allow more skilled immigration

The Business Council of Australia has urged the Australian government to increase temporary skilled immigration.

The resources sector of Australia, which includes industries such as mining, are concerned about expected skills shortages as a number of multi-billion dollar projects get underway.

The BCA has urged the government to make changes to the 457 visa program and introduce a special faster labour agreement to approve visas for large projects.

The BCA said many employers are concerned about lengthy delays and paperwork involved in hiring temporary overseas workers.

A recent briefing with Immigration Minister Chris Bowen warned that at least 140,000 skilled migrants were caught up in a processing backlog of up to 28 months.

The immigration department recently announced speedier visa decisions for companies involved in reconstruction efforts related to the recent floods. The BCA wants that agreement expanded to other projects.

Public sector could suffer from UK immigration cap

A new survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) finds that many employers in the UK public sector are having a difficult time filling job openings due to more stringent immigration rules.

The study found that one in six employers -- a good proportion of which are in the National Health Service -- say that they have not been able to recruit workers from overseas due to the recent cap on immigration.
Immigration changes from 6 April 2011 include the following:
  • The Tier 1 (General) visa will be replaced with an 'exceptional talent' visa limited to 1,000 places per year. This visa will be almost impossible to come under even for highly skilled people.
  • A limit on Tier 2 visas of 20,700 places per year.
Employers are finding it difficult to fill vacancies in a number of sectors, including engineering, medicine, accountancy, and information technology locally from the British and EU workforce.

"Keeping out skilled non-EU workers won't help unemployed people in the UK, but could have negative consequences for business and the public sector," said CIPD advisor Gerwyn Davies.

It is forecast that there will modest growth in the UK economy in 2011. Limiting employers access to highly skilled workers from abroad could make the situation worse.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Canada welcomes largest number of immigrants in 50 years

Canada welcomed the largest number of immigrants in 50 years in 2010, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). This included applicants under the federal skilled worker program as well as the provincial nominee program.

280,636 gained permanent residence in Canada during this period, six percent more than the Government's planned range of 240,000 to 265,000 new permanent residents. The Canadian Government adjusted its immigration plan in 2010 to increase skilled immigration.

"While other Western countries cut back on immigration during the recession, our government kept legal immigration levels high," said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. "Canada's post-recession economy demands a high level of economic immigration to keep our economy strong."

"In 2010, we welcomed the highest number of permanent residents in the past 50 years to support Canada's economic recovery while taking action to maintain the integrity of Canada's immigration system with the introduction of the Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act," he added.

"It's important to understand that the ranges are for planning purposes only. The key number is how many immigrants Canada actually admits. For 2010, that number is 280,636, with the growth coming mostly from skilled economic immigrants," said Dr. Alice Wong, Parliamentary Secretary.

The increase in skilled immigration visas actually being issued has helped Canada reduce a backlog of immigration applications in the federal skilled worker category, Canada's points based skilled immigration scheme.

"Last year, the backlog of people who applied before the [Action Plan for Faster Immigration] was drawn down to 335,000 applicants, which represents close to half the number of people who were awaiting a decision in 2008," said Kenney.

"I'm very pleased that a higher number of admissions in 2010 means that more people are now out of the lineup and well on their way to beginning a new life in Canada," he added.

In addition, Canada increased its provincial nominee program by twenty percent. The provincial nominee program allows Canadian provinces and territories to sponsor skilled immigrants.

"Since 2006, our government has allowed for the provincial nominee program to expand significantly, from 8,047 people in 2005 to 36,419 in 2011," Kenney said.

UK Government clarifies upcoming immigration changes

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has provided further details of the changes that will take place in April 2011 which include a permanent immigration cap on skilled immigration, a new exceptional talent visa, and new criteria for skilled workers with a job offer and intra-company transfers. There will in effect be significant changes in the rules for sponsoring non-EU workers. In addition the Tier 1 General skilled immigration visa will in effect end on 6 April 2011.

From 6 April 2011, there will an annual limit of 20,700 Tier 2 visas and 1,000 visas for the new 'exceptional talent' visa category. The exceptional talent visa will replace the popular Tier 1 (General) highly skilled immigration route.

The UKBA, has said that there will be 20,700 Tier 2 certificates of sponsorship available which will be divided into 12 monthly quotas of 1,500 places. Because of expected high demand when the permanent immigration cap is introduced in April 2011, the monthly allocation for April 2011 will be higher with 4,200 certificates of sponsorship.

"In the event that the monthly allocation is over subscribed, certificate of sponsorship applications will be ranked using a points system designed to favour jobs on the shortage occupation list, scientific researchers and those with a higher salary," the UKBA said in a statement.

"Once a certificate of sponsorship has then been granted to an employer it must be assigned to the prospective employee within 3 months," they added.

Currently, businesses have an annual allocation of certificates of sponsorship. Under the new rules, employers will have to apply for a certificate of sponsorship from the UKBA for a specific post.

Non-EU workers must meet new requirements to be eligible for a Tier 2 visa starting in April 2011. They must be working in a graduate level job in the UK, speak at intermediate level English, and meet certain salary and employment requirements.

The Tier 2 visa intra-company transfer route will also see some changes; Although the UK will not place a cap on the number of workers that can enter the UK though this scheme, applicants must be in an occupation on the graduate occupation list. If a worker is to stay in the UK beyond one year, he or she must be working in an occupation that pays more than £40,000 per year. For those earning more than £40,000 a year visas will be granted for three years with the possibility of extending the visa for another two years. For jobs that pay between £24,000 and £40,000, workers may only stay in the UK for one year; At the end of the first year they must leave the UK for at least 12 months before applying again for a Tier 2 visa.

Canada proposes changing skilled immigration rules

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has proposed changes to the Federal Skilled Worker Program in the hope that these changes will result in immigrants that better meet their economic goals. CIC has begun consulting with key stakeholders as well as the public on the proposed changes.

A recent evaluation of Canada's skilled immigration program found that changes implemented in the last few years have resulted in more immigrants who can fit into and be successful in Canadian society. However, the CIC still feels that there is room for improvement.

"To stay competitive globally, we have to make sure the skilled immigrants we choose are the ones that we need, and the most likely to succeed when they get here," said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

"Research points to some key changes that will help us meet those goals," he added.

The proposed changes would place a higher emphasis on youth and language ability. Another interesting proposal is to make it much easier for skilled tradespeople to qualify for immigration. Countries are increasingly finding that they have too many professional level people and not enough tradespeople.

CIC will consult on:
  • Requiring skilled immigrants to have a minimum level of language skills
  • Making skilled immigration easier for tradespeople, technicians and apprentices;
  • Making skilled immigration easier for younger applicants;
  • Readjusting points scored for work experience to "other factors that better contribute to success in the Canadian work force"
  • Reducing the potential for fraudulent job offers.
The Federal Skilled Worker Program -- introduced in June 2002 -- is a points based system which scores applicants on criteria such as language skills, age and education. For more information and a free Canadian skilled immigration assessment, see our Canadian immigration section.