Thursday, January 31, 2013

London Evening Standard: More than 300,000 people living in London can't speak English

The growing diversity of London’s population was confirmed today as figures revealed that more than 100 different languages are spoken in virtually every borough.

Statistics from the 2011 Census show that 78 per cent of the capital’s residents speak English as their main language. But the remaining 22 per cent — equivalent to just over 1.7 million people — have another first language.

Of these nearly 320,000 say that they cannot speak English well or at all. That figure will prompt renewed concern about the levels of integration of some overseas nationals.

The most striking revelation, however, is the scale of linguistic diversity. The Office for National Statistics, which compiled today’s figures, says that overall there are 53 “main” languages in the capital spoken by at least 0.1 per cent of residents.

There are also another 54 which include variants of established languages such as Chinese or those, such as Caribbean Creole, Cornish or Gaelic, spoken by a small number of people.

The most common other language is Polish, spoken as the main language by nearly two per cent of residents, followed by Bengali, Gujarati, French, Urdu and Arabic. The most diverse borough is Hillingdon, where all of the 107 languages defined by the Census are spoken, followed by Newham, where 104 languages are spoken.

Newham also has the weakest standards of English with nine per cent of residents — equivalent to 25,000 people — unable to speak it. They are among the 41 per cent of the borough’s population that does not have English as their main language.

Today’s figures also reveal that more than 100 languages are spoken in 30 of the capital’s 33 boroughs with only the City, Richmond and Havering falling below this benchmark. Ealing, where Poles are the largest group of those speaking another first language, and Haringey, where Turkish is the top alternative to English, are among other linguistically diverse areas.

Brent and Harrow top the list for Gujarati, while Arabic is the second most popular language in Westminster. Kensington and Chelsea has the highest proportion of French, Spanish, Italian, German and Filipino speakers.

Today’s figures on languages apply to 7.8 million London residents aged three and above. Of those Londoners who have a foreign language as their main tongue, 47,917 say that they cannot speak English at all.

Other statistics show that London has the highest proportion of people reporting that they are in good health and the lowest percentage suffering disabilities.

Cycling has also soared in popularity with four per cent of workers, equivalent to 161,700, using a bike to commute. That is more than double the figure a decade ago.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Poll shows Britons find immigration worrying but welcome immigrants

A new poll conducted by polling company Ipsos Mori for the think tank British Future shows that immigration is regarded by many Britons as a potential source of local and national tension. British Future was established in 2012 by Sunder Katwala, a British Asian who is a former General Secretary of the left-wing think tank The Fabian Society. Its stated aim is to 'to involve people in an open conversation, which addresses people's hopes and fears about identity and integration, migration and opportunity'.

The poll showed that a fairly constant 20% of people saw immigration as a potential source of tension in their local communities. This figure did not seem to depend upon the number of immigrants who live in any community. In the North East, 19% of people saw immigration as a potential source of tension; Only 5% of the population in the North East was born overseas. In London 20% saw immigration as a potential source of tension; In London 33% of the population was born outside the UK.

The poll also showed that nearly a third of people (30% saw immigration as being a possible source of tension nationally. British Future's director Sunder Katwala said that he drew hope from the fact that people were more concerned about the national picture than they were about their own community. 'People are obviously very anxious about immigration but I was struck by now much higher it was as a national tension than a local tension….I think it would be wrong to say that local concerns are real and national concerns are just driven by the media but I think what is going on there is people asking; 'does the system work? And I don't think anyone has any confidence as how it is managed as a system.

Ipsos Mori questioned 2,515 people aged between 16 and 75 about their attitudes about the UK and being British. Only 25% believed that it was necessary to be born in the UK to be considered to be British and two thirds believed that benefits should be extended to foreign born people who had been good citizens. The most important traits of Britishness, the survey found were respect for the law, respect for free speech and an ability to speak English.

The Observer, a UK Sunday newspaper has reported that the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, is to make a speech in which he will say that it will be necessary for immigrants to learn English so that they can integrate into wider society. In December, Ed Miliband, the Labour opposition leader, said a similar thing during a speech in south London.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Microsoft presses US immigration for H-1B reform

Last year, Microsoft reported that it was looking for qualified IT professionals. Last September, it announced that it had 6,000 vacancies that it could not fill, 3,400 of these were IT roles. It began to lobby the US government for a change to the skilled immigration visa rules.

Microsoft says that its problems finding skilled workers illustrate the need for reform. It is pressing for two changes. Firstly, it is seeking a reform and an expansion of the H-1B non-immigrant work visa programme. Secondly, it is pressing for an increase in the number of green cards (permanent residence visas) issued to skilled IT workers. It suggests that US companies should buy H-1B visas and green cards. This would enable them to find the staff they need and the money could be used to fund training for US IT students to prevent a similar skills shortage in future.

Currently there is an annual cap of 65,000 on the number of H-1B visas that can be granted annually (another 20,000 can be granted to students with masters or higher degrees). H-1B visas are usually granted for an initial period of three years but can be extended. They are granted to graduates skilled in a 'specialty occupation'. Most of them are granted to students skilled in the STEM subjects; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

While the number of applications fell after the financial crisis of 2008, they have since risen. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting applications for the fiscal year 2013 on 6th April 2012 for a start date on or after 1 October 2012. The cap was reached on June 12th 2012. Many business organisations have called for an increase in the cap on H-1Bs but unions complain that companies use them to import cheap labour and to undercut American workers. Some worry that the US is not training enough of its own IT professionals because it can import graduates from overseas. Ron Hira, a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology told ComputerWorld magazine that the reason why US students are not studying IT, whereas they do study law and medicine, is because of the poor terms and conditions of employment for workers in the IT sector. He believes that, if these were improved, more US students would study IT and there would be no need to bring in foreign workers.

Microsoft says that there must be more H-1B visas granted but says that companies should buy them for $10,000 each. Business would also pay $15,000 to purchase green cards for some skilled overseas workers. The money raised should be invested in training US IT graduates. Microsoft has estimated that this would raise some $500,000,000 annually which would be used to fund training for US students.

This policy would be bound to be controversial as it presupposes that somewhere in the region of 40,000 H-1B visas and green cards would be issued to foreign IT professionals every year. It might also be unwelcome to Indian IT companies. Indian news portal comments 'Given that Indian techies grab the maximum number of H-1B visas, such a proposal, if accepted by the Congress, would hit the Indian IT companies the most.'

Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel and executive vice president delivered some prepared remarks at Washington's Brookings Institution in September 2012 in which he said 'Our nation faces a paradox of a crisis in unemployment at the same time that many companies cannot fill the jobs they have to offer…We risk these jobs migrating from the US, creating even bigger challenges for our long-term competitiveness and economic growth.'

ComputerWorld Magazine points out that H-1B visas are already expensive for companies. Though it only costs $325 to file an application, employers who employ more than 26 people must pay an extra $1,500. There is also a $500 fraud detection fee and a $1,225 charge if the employer requires faster processing of their visa application. Any company which has more than 50% of its staff on H-1B or L-1 visas must also pay a $2,000 surplus. Microsoft may already be paying $3,550 per H-1B visa . It is not clear whether Microsoft is suggesting that the $10,000 fee it is suggesting is instead of or as well as these existing fees.

President Obama has said that he intends to reform the US immigration regime in 2013. The President has said that he believes that graduates should be encouraged to stay and work in America. On November 15th 2012, he said 'The business community continues to be concerned about getting enough high-skill workers and I am a believer that, if you've got a PhD in physics or computer science who wants to stay here and start a business here, we shouldn't make it harder for him to stay here. We should try to encourage him to contribute to this society.'

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Canada launches new Start-up Visa for entrepreneurs

On Thursday January 24th 2013, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced that it is to launch a new visa for entrepreneurs. It will open for applications on April 1st 2013 and will be known as the Start-Up Visa.

Jason Kenney, the Canadian immigration minister and head of CIC said 'Our new Start-Up visa will help make Canada the destination of choice for the world's best and brightest to launch their companies. Recruiting dynamic entrepreneurs from around the world will help Canada remain competitive in the global economy.'

The scheme will, according to the CIC press release 'link immigrant entrepreneurs with private sector organisations in Canada that have experience working with start-ups and who can provide essential resources.'

The plan is to bring the non-Canadian entrepreneur together with Canadian venture capitalists, who may be able to provide funding, before the visa is granted. To that end, CIC has arranged to collaborate initially with two venture capital associations; Canada's Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA) and the National Angel Capital Organisation (NACO). CIC says that it is also working with the Canadian Association of Business Incubation so that they too can become involved soon.

CIC trumpets the Start-Up visa as 'the first of its kind in the world' and says it will be 'a powerful incentive to attract individuals with potential who will have a real impact on the Canadian economy.'
Details of the scheme are sketchy at this point but CIC says 'By providing sought-after immigrant entrepreneurs with permanent residency and immediate access to a wide range of business partners, Canada will position itself as a destination of choice for start-ups.'

CIC has not yet announced how many visas or funding will be available. Nor has it explained how the entrepreneur's suitability will be assessed. It is also not clear now much capital entrepreneurs will need to commit in order to qualify.

Sanwar Ali of said 'I am very keen to see the details of the new visa. When CIC began consulting on this proposal last year, it proposed that it would be able to issue up to 2,750 visas a year for an initial period of five years.

'Clearly, the establishment of a new visa sounds like great news for entrepreneurs but we need to know the details. Once we have those, we can prepare to help our clients with applications as soon as the visa stream is open for applications.'

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Friday, January 25, 2013

UK government will not meet immigration target says think tank

The UK government will not meet its target of reducing net immigration to below 100,000 annually, according to a respected think tank. A report issued by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) suggests that the government has made some progress towards its target but that any reductions in immigration 'are likely to be short-lived'.

In 2010, before he became Prime Minister, David Cameron, then the leader of the UK's Conservative opposition, promised to reduce net UK immigration from its 2010 level, about 260,000 per year, to 'tens of thousands' a year by 2015. Mr Cameron became Prime Minister in June 2010 at the head of a Coalition government formed by the Conservatives and the smaller Liberal Democrat Party. He reiterated the commitment as Prime Minister and his government has made many changes to immigration policy in an effort to meet this commitment.

The IPPR report says that the government has made some progress towards its target. Figures from the UK's Office for National Statistics suggest that the annual net immigration figure for 2011, which was calculated by subtracting the number of UK residents who left the country during that year from the number of foreign nationals who settled in the UK over the same period, fell to about 215,000. The IPPR says that this leaves the government well short of its target.

Figures released by the ONS in November 2012 suggest that the net immigration figure for the year to March 2012 fell further still to 183,000. This compared with a figure of 242,000 in the year to March 2011. The IPPR says that it expects this figure to fall yet further to 160,000 in 2013 and 140,000 in 2014. However, thereafter, the report says, it is likely that the number will rise again.
This is because of the way in which the figures are calculated and because of the way in which the government has gone about reducing immigration.

In order to reduce the net immigration figure, the government has taken action in three main areas; family migration, student migration and work migration. The main changes are listed below.

• In order to reduce the numbers of family members of UK residents who come to settle in the UK, the government has introduced a minimum income threshold for those wishing to bring a spouse to live in the UK from outside the European Economic Area. If a UK citizen has an income lower than this minimum amount, £18,600, then he/she will not be able to apply for permission for his/her spouse to remain in the UK. This minimum threshold is increased with every child that is included in the application.
• The government has launched a crackdown on educational institutions including universities to prevent 'bogus students' from obtaining Tier 4 student visas. Over 500 educational institutions have lost their licence to sponsor overseas students for UK tier 4 student visas. The government removed the Highly Trusted Sponsor status of London Metropolitan University because of alleged irregularities with the university's systems for checking that foreign students were genuine.
• The government closed the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa stream which allowed students to stay and work in the UK for two years after graduation.
• The government also closed the Tier 1 (General) visa stream which allowed highly skilled migrants to stay and work in the UK.
• The government introduced a minimum income threshold of £31,000 for international workers who wish to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. Workers earning less than this will probably have to leave the UK after five years.
• The government introduced a cap of 20,700 on the number of Tier 2 (General) visas that could be issued in any given year.

When the latest ONS figures were released in November, much of the reduction in net immigration was caused by a fall in the number of students coming to study in Britain. Much of the rest of the reduction is caused by an increase in the number of UK residents leaving the UK to live abroad. Net immigration was 183,000, a fall of 59,000 on the 2011 figure. Of that fall, 19,000 was caused by a rise in the number of people emigrating from the UK. Of the reduction in immigration, Some 20,000 was called by a fall in the number of students coming to Britain.

The IPPR report says that, because students are counted as immigrants when they come to the UK, a fall in the number of students coming to study in the UK is likely to lead to a fall in the number of people leaving the UK in two or three years' time when those people would be leaving the UK. This explains why the IPPR believes that the net immigration figure is likely to rise in 2015.

Sarah Mulley of the IPPR said that the government was running out of ways to cut non-EU immigration. She said, 'Although net migration will fall next year, the Government is fast running out of options for further restricting non-EU immigration in any significant way….The next two years will show the limits of government action on net migration as the Government runs out of ways to significantly reduce numbers further.'

Many in the higher education sector, as well as business organisations and politicians have called for students to be removed from the net immigration figures. They say that this would prevent the government from damaging the export education sector, in its attempts to cut the headline immigration figure. Figures from the UK's Department for Innovation, Business and Skills suggest that export education is worth some £15bn annually to the UK.

The government has refused. The last immigration minister, Damian Green said in May 2012 that to remove students from the immigration figures would be 'fiddling the figures'. The new immigration minister, Mark Harper, has also refused to do so. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has also said that students should continue to be counted as immigrants. However, the government has announced that it will 'disaggregate' students from the main immigration figure in future.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

USCIS introduces online policy manual

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has begun the introduction of an online manual that will inform and guide all its staff worldwide. It is hoped that this will lead to greater consistency in decision making on visa applications.

Staff have been given training on how to use the manual. The first sections of the manual went live on 7th January 2013. The manual, known simply as the USCIS Policy Manual, will replace both the Adjudicators Field Manual which has been used in the past and the USCIS Immigration Policy Memoranda website.

Alejandro Mayorkas the Director of USCIS said 'With the introduction of the Policy Manual, we take a further step to provide our customers, stakeholders and workforce with an efficient and effective adjudication process that provides a high level of quality and consistency.'

There have been criticisms in the past about the consistency of USCIS decision making. In October 2012, the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), a Washington think tank, said that USCIS had in practice changed its criteria for granting H-1B and L-1 visas since 2008. The NFAP report said that the USCIS rules were being applied inconsistently, making it especially hard for Indian applicants to know if their visas are likely to be granted.

H-1B visas are granted to graduates who are skilled in a 'specialty occupation'. These visas are usually issued initially for a three year period and can be extended.

L-1 visas are intra company transfer visas which allow companies that have offices in the US and elsewhere to transfer highly skilled and management level employees to the US. Executives and managers may travel to the US on an L-1A visa. L-1A visas are valid for up to seven years. Skilled employees with 'specialized knowledge' can apply for L-1B visas. L-1B visas last for up to five years.

In July 2012, Ameet Nivsarkar of the Indian software industry body Nasscom said that Indian companies applying for L-1B visas had found that 'interpretation by consular officials [is a] very important' factor in visa determinations.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Study says almost a million illegal immigrants living in the UK

A new report issued by a leading UK university estimates that there are 863,000 people living illegally in the UK out of which 604,000 (70%) live in London.

The report, Practical Measures for Reducing Irregular Migration was written by researchers at the London School of Economics. Its findings are accepted by the UK government. The report says that it believes that the main countries from which illegal residents have come are India, Nigeria, Pakistan, China and Bangladesh.

In December 2012, the UK's Office for National Statistics (ONS) released figures which showed that 13% of the UK's population was born outside the UK.

The UK's immigration minister Mark Harper blamed the figure on the previous Labour government of the UK which was in power between 1997 and 2010. 'It's no surprise that after years of uncontrolled immigration, we have a sizeable illegal immigrant population in Britain,' he told reporters. He added 'We are determined to get immigration under control and in the past year, net migration has fallen by a quarter.'

The LSE report says that it is, by definition, hard to be exact about the numbers involved. Illegal residents comprise those who entered the country illegally and those who have overstayed having entered legally. The authors of the report believe that the majority of illegal residents fall into the latter category.

The report says that the taking of biometric data from immigrants and all those who apply for UK visas has made the task of finding illegal migrants easier. The report also states that between 2004 and 2012, about 10,000 illegal migrants were granted permission to remain in the UK indefinitely based on fourteen years of stay in the UK. This 'fourteen year rule', so called because people who had remained in the UK for fourteen years legally or illegally (or a combination of both legal and illegal residence) could apply for permanent residence, was abolished by the UK government in July 2012.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

White House to push for US immigration reform immediately

Anonymous Washington insiders have said that President Obama is to press ahead with efforts to achieve comprehensive immigration reform immediately. However, because of the almost complete lack of cooperation between the parties it is not clear that the President will succeed in forcing reform through.

President Obama promised to reform the US's immigration system during his first term but failed to do so. In the run-up to the presidential election in November 2012, the President explained his failure to achieve reform. He said that, in 2008 and 2009, he had been busy with the financial crisis and had failed to act on immigration. Then after mid-term elections in 2010, Mr Obama's Democratic Party lost control of the junior chamber of the US Congress, the House of Representatives (known as 'The House') to the Republicans. This made it harder for him to achieve reform. Insiders say that the President intends to press hard to ensure that reform happens in his second term.

No details have emerged of any proposed legislation. It is believed that Democrat and Republican Congressmen are cooperating to create a draft law. Among those said to be working on the law are Republican moderate Lindsay Graham and former Republican Presidential candidate John McCain. The process should take at least two months and it is unlikely that any vote would be held until June at the earliest. It is thought that the legislation would involve four main proposals.

• A further strengthening of US border security
• The establishment of a biometric ID system to identify legal immigrants and to prevent illegal immigrants from working
• The establishment of a process for registering temporary workers
• A mechanism whereby some illegal immigrants can gain a green card (permanent resident status) and progress towards US citizenship

It is far from certain that reform will occur. Under the US system, in order for an act to become law, it must be passed by both chambers of Congress; the Senate and The House and be signed by the President. One of the major difficulties that the President will face in forcing through reform is that, at the elections in November 2012, the Republicans kept control of the House and the Democrats kept control of the Senate. This means that there will have to be some cross party cooperation if US immigration laws are to be changed.

Cooperation has become increasingly rare in Congress in recent years, particularly since a right-wing popular movement, 'The Tea Party' began to exert influence over the Republican Party, moving it further to the right in 2009. The Tea Party, named after the Boston Tea Party, a revolt about a tax on tea imposed by the British in 1773, is a loose, right-wing grouping that is 'is anti-government, anti-spending, anti-immigration and anti-compromise politics' according to the New York Times.

So, because the Republicans control The House and are increasingly opposed to both immigration and cooperation, there must be questions as to the likelihood of reform being passed by The House, as it would have to be to become law.

Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren is expected to lead the Democratic attempts at reform in The House. She admitted that reform depends on Republican cooperation. She told the Huffington Post 'In the end, immigration reform is going to depend very much on whether [Republican Speaker of The House John] Boehner wants to do it or not'.

Democrats believe that reform is still possible. While right-wing Republicans supported by the Tea Party may oppose reform, senior Washington Republicans may well ignore them and support reform in any event.

This is because the Republican Party's increasingly anti-immigration stance in recent years has led to a collapse of support for the Party among Latino voters. About 41% of Latino voters who cast a ballot in 2000 and 2004 voted for George W Bush. In 2012, fewer than 30% of Latino voters voted for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who campaigned on a hard-line anti-immigration policy. President Obama has said that he won the election in November because of the Republican's immigration policy.

And, because the percentage of the population made up of Latino voters is rising, immigration is likely to become an increasingly important issue in American politics. Over 17% of US voters are now of Latino ethnicity. This percentage is due to rise to 30% by 2050. Republicans, therefore, may calculate that, unless they change their immigration policy, they will never take the presidency again.
Angela Kelley, vice president of the Centre for American Progress told the Huffington Post that Republicans would suffer an electoral backlash at the next election if they block reform, 'They (the Republicans) can procrastinate as long as they want, but they're going to have a serious day of reckoning next election cycle', she said.

Even so, there is no guarantee that the Republicans will cooperate. Two key figures in The House are likely to do all they can to block the proposed law's progress. The new Chairman of The House Judiciary Committee will be Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Republican who has been a vocal opponent of immigration reform and the new chairman of the House subcommittee on immigration and border security, Republican Representative Trey Gowdy, is also an opponent of any relaxation of US immigration law.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Universities say UK immigration is deterring foreign students

The chief executive of the umbrella body of UK universities, "Universities UK", has said that a series of hostile speeches and policy initiatives from UK government ministers about UK immigration is driving international students away from the UK. Many students from India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and China are choosing to study in other countries such as Australia, the United States and Canada according to Nicola Dandridge, the chief executive of Universities UK.

Ms Dandridge warns that this could have negative consequences not only for the export education sector but also for the UK as a whole. The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has estimated that the UK's export education market is worth nearly £15bn per year to the UK economy.
'We are concerned about the language and the atmosphere that is being created, not least because it plays very, very badly internationally,' said Ms Dandridge to UK newspaper The Guardian.

'Whatever the intentions of the politicians are…every time these sorts of comments are made by the Home Secretary or others, it does have a potentially very damaging impact internationally.'

Home Office ministers in particular have made a series of speeches which Ms Dandridge says have had a negative effect on the numbers of international students applying to UK universities. Below are some recent events that may have further discouraged international students from studying in the UK;

• In August 2012, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) revoked the Highly Trusted Sponsor status of London Metropolitan University because of alleged irregularities with the university's systems for checking that international students were genuine. Some 2,600 students were told that they would have to leave the university without finishing their courses.
• In October 2012, 30,000 international students in London were told to register at a single London police station. Students could not start their course until they had registered but lengthy queues meant that many had to return numerous times in order to be seen. One told The Guardian, 'Obviously, this will damage British universities' reputation. This isn't the only country that offers international education – the US and Canada do not treat foreign students like this.'
• In December 2012, Home Secretary Theresa May made a speech at the Policy Exchange think tank; she said that immigrants had 'displaced' some UK workers and driven up house prices in the UK
• Also in December 2012, Mrs May announced that the UKBA would carry out more than 100,000 interviews annually on students from certain countries including Pakistan and India to ensure that students spoke adequate English to study at UK universities before they were granted Tier 4 student visas.

Since it came to power in 2010, the UK's Coalition government has pursued policies designed to cut the level of immigration into the UK to below 100,000 a year from the 2010 level of about 260,000 a year. The government are committed to this policy; David Cameron, now the UK Prime Minister, told BBC interviewer Andrew Marr in January 2010 that a government led by him would bring net immigration to 'tens of thousands' every year by 2015. The Institute for Public Policy Research and many others say that the UK government will not succeed in meeting the target.

The net immigration figure is made by taking the total number of immigrants in any one year and subtracting the total number of people leaving the country over the same period. Because so many of the people who are counted as immigrants to the UK are students it would be impossible for the government to meet its target without cutting student numbers.

In the year to March 2012, net immigration was 183,000. This is calculated by subtracting the number of UK residents leaving the country (353,000) from the number of foreign nationals coming to live in the UK ((536,000). Of the 536,000, 213,000 were international students coming to the UK on Tier 4 student visas.

The government has cracked down on 'bogus colleges' which were, in the words of the immigration minister Mark Harper 'selling immigration, not education'. Mr Harper says that some 500 colleges have lost their licence to sponsor overseas students for UK Tier 4 student visas since the Coalition came to power in 2010.

However, there had been, until this year, a continuing increase in the number of international students coming to study at UK universities. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of applications from international students to UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, which handles applications to UK universities, rose by 7% annually. However, UCAS says that figures that will be released later in January will show an increase of only 0.8% for the coming year. Figures compiled by the Office for National Statistics showed a fall of 26% in the number of study visas granted by the UK Border Agency in the year to September 2012.

Ms Dandridge told The Guardian 'universities are reporting…significant drops, particularly from India, from Pakistan and now from China and Saudi Arabia. These are countries that send large numbers and also they are important countries in terms of international engagement and industry engagement, so we want to be promoting and fostering relations with them, not erecting barriers.'

Ms Dandridge called on the government to remove students from the immigration figures so that the government could meet its targets without damaging UK universities. 'We need to encourage politicians and decision makers to portray the UK as being open and welcoming to international students. That can be done without in any sense compromising our immigration laws.'

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Friday, January 18, 2013

White House to campaign for immigration reform in 2013

President Obama has told Latino pressure groups that he will do everything he can to reform the US's immigration system in 2013. But first, he has asked for their help in helping to pull the US back from the brink of the 'fiscal cliff'.

The president held a conference call with the leaders of many Hispanic American pressure groups on 11th December in which he assured them that he would put the weight of the White House behind a campaign to reform immigration in 2013. One person who was involved in the conference was Brent Wilkes, the executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens. Mr Wilkes said 'as soon as we get the fiscal cliff issues taken care of, he's committed to doing it (immigration reform)'.

The fiscal cliff is the popular term for two changes in American taxes and public spending that will come into force on January 2nd 2013 unless the two main parties in Washington can reach a compromise.

Unless the Democrats and Republicans can reach an agreement on the national debt by 2nd January, firstly the US will have to start to repay the national debt at the rate of $109bn per year. Secondly, tax cuts introduced by President George W Bush in 2001 which were limited until 2013 will expire, resulting in many Americans having to pay more tax. The average effect, according to the Tax Policy Center could be every household in the US paying $2,000 a year more in tax.

Some economists argue that the combination of a reduction in government spending and higher taxes would push the US back into recession. The president is currently negotiating with Republicans in Washington and has asked Latino groups and others, to bring 'people power' to bear on his Republican rivals.

Latino groups are keeping the pressure up in Washington. There will be a series of events in Washington around the time of the president's inauguration in mid-January and Hispanic voters are being urged to write to their representatives to urge them to act.

There is reason for optimism. Some Republicans have said that they want reform. Republican Senator Lindsay Graham of North Carolina has already introduced a bill with New York Democrat Charles Schumer which would reform the system. A group of eight Democrats and Republicans known as The Gang of Eight is meeting in Washington to discuss the details of any comprehensive reform. Insiders say that the broad principles of the reform have been agreed. Most proposed reform legislation in recent years has involved proposals to strengthen border security, particularly along the Mexican border, the introduction of a visa stream for low paid, low skill immigrant workers and the establishment of a 'path to citizenship' for some of those who are already in the US illegally. The principles are clear but no doubt, negotiation over the details will be fierce.

Even Paul Ryan, the vice-presidential nominee for the Republicans in the recent presidential election, has said that he now wants reform. The Republicans campaigned on an anti-immigration platform at the election. This explains, pollsters say, why Mr Ryan and the Republicans' presidential candidate Mitt Romney polled less than 30% of votes among Latino voters.

Democrat representative Luis Gutierrez claims that Mr Ryan has approached him and asked to cooperate on immigration reform. 'Mr Gutierrez said that Mr Ryan told him 'I want to do it because it's the right thing to do.' Recently, former president George W Bush spoke out in praise of immigrants.

Many Republican Party strategists say that, if the Republicans adopt an anti-immigration stance, they will find it increasingly difficult to win elections as the demographic makeup of the US changes. Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans and African Americans already make up 34% of the US population and they all vote overwhelmingly for the Democrats. As the Republicans have become more anti-immigrant, so their share of the Latino vote has gone down. George W Bush received over 40% of the Latino vote in 2000 and 2004. Mitt Romney received about 29% in 2013.

However, in their Behind the Curtain column on the website, journalists Jim Vanderhei and Mike Allen point out that, whatever the bigger picture may be, many Republican congressmen and women will be loath to vote in favour of immigration reform. Vanderhei and Allen say that Washington Republicans who vote in favour of immigration reform, in particular, in favour of allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens, will be punished by anti-immigration Republican voters in their states. 'Many of the Republicans who would have to vote on such a [immigration reform] package' would then have to 'run for re-election in elections dominated by white conservatives…Regardless of exit polls, demographic trends and lectures from party leaders, lawmakers know that many voters, especially primary voters, and especially their primary voters, hate anything that smacks of amnesty', they write.

In the US system, any new law must be passed by both chambers of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives, and signed by the president, in order to become law. Since the election in November, President Obama's Democrats hold control of the Senate but the Republicans control the House of Representatives. It remains to be seen whether enough Republican Representatives will vote for change when the chips are down.

Global Visa Support offers a variety of programs in United States. Please check our USA page for more information:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Canadian minister 'not contemplating' scrapping immigrant investor program

The Canadian Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, has told Canadian press agency Postmedia News that he does not intend to scrap the Canadian Immigrant Investor Program (IIP). The program was suspended in July 2012 with a backlog of cases that could take up to ten years to clear. There had been press speculation that Mr Kenney might cancel all the undecided applications and change the rules.

The Canadian Immigrant Investor Program until 2010 allowed foreign nationals with CAN$400,000 to invest and total assets of CAN$800,000 to apply for permanent resident status. In 2010, the rules were changed so that applicants had to meet a higher investment requirement of CAN$800,000 and had to have CAN$1,600,000 in assets in order to be eligible to apply under this immigration scheme.
In July 2012, the number of people waiting for decisions had risen to 85,500. This consisted of some 27,000 applicants together with members of their families. Mr Kenney closed the program to new applications. There were fears among some applicants that he might cancel the applications that were in the backlog. These fears were based on the fact that Mr Kenney terminated the backlog of cases that had built up on the Canadian Skilled Worker Program in July 2012.

The Federal Skilled Worker Program is Canada's main immigration programme for skilled workers. It proved so popular with foreign applicants that by July 2012, a backlog of some 380,000 cases had built up. Mr Kenney announced in July 2012 that he was terminating all 280,000 applications made before February 2008 and would refund application fees. That decision is being challenged in the Canadian courts with the first hearing being held early in 2013.

There are still 25,000 applicants on the IIP waiting list. Asked in December 2012 if he intended to terminate the cases, Mr Kenney reportedly failed to rule it out completely but the minister told Post Media News 'At this point we're not contemplating legislative measures to reduce the backlog in that stream'. But he said that he was considering a number of changes to the program to make investors pay more and to require investors to take on a more active investment role and to actually put their investment at risk.

The National Post newspaper reports that Canadian Immigration is considering asking applicants already on the waiting list whether they would be prepared to be bound by any new rules that they might introduce to the IIP. If applicants agreed, their applications would be fast-tracked.

A Toronto immigration lawyer, Tim Leahy, represented nine investors who brought a court action against the Canadian government in December to force the government either to deal with their claims promptly or, alternatively, for CAN$5m to be paid in compensation. Mr Leahy's clients were unsuccessful in their legal action against the Government and Mr Leahy has since said that there is a significant chance that the government will cancel applications in the backlog.

The Canadian New Democratic Party opposition spokesperson on immigration, Jinny Sims, said that terminating the backlog would be 'off the table'.

Global Visa Support offers a variety of programs in Canada. Please visit our Canadian page for more information:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Immigration contributes to Australian population growth

Australia's population grew by 1.6% or 359,600 people in the year to the end of June 2012. 58% of that rise was caused by immigration. The population reached 22.7m in July, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Last year, the Australian population grew by only 1.14%. This coincided with a period when levels of immigration were lower than normal. In 2009, the Australian government curbed immigration in response to the global economic slowdown.

Now that the immigration rate has gone up, Australian population growth is outstripping that in other developed countries. Canada experienced a 1% growth in population over the same period. The US population rose by 0.9%, the UK's by 0.6% and France's by 0.5%.

Net immigration caused the population to rise by about 208,000 in the year to June 2012. There were some 472,000 arrivals and 264,000 departures. The net immigration figure increased by 22% from 2011 when the net immigration figure was only 170,000. Natural population growth, caused by a greater level of births than of deaths, caused a rise of only about 151,500; there were 298,000 births and 145,500 deaths.

Net immigration figures include temporary migrants who travel to Australia to work on temporary work visas such as 457 visas providing they stay in the country for over 12 months. There was strong growth in the number of international workers coming to Australia with temporary work visas (known as '457 visas'). The number of 457 visas granted rose by 26.6% in the year to July. 457 visas entitle their holders to live and work in Australia for up to 4 years. The greatest number of 457 visas was issued to construction workers though many also went to resources industry workers.

The greatest percentage rise in population occurred in Western Australia where the population grew by 78,000 or 3.3%. Western Australia is home to much of Australia's resources industry. There were also significant rises in population in Victoria (89,000), Queensland (86,000) and New South Wales (79,000).

Gareth Aird, an economist with the Commonwealth Bank, told journalists that the growth in the number of 457 visas 'reflect[ed] a relatively strong labour market by international standards and the strong Aussie dollar'. Mr Aird explained that a strong dollar increases the attractiveness of working in Australia for immigrants, particularly temporary immigrants, because it increases the real value of their wages outside Australia.

Global Visa Support offers a variety of programs in Australia. Please check our Australian page for more information:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Canada's Federal Skilled Trades Program opens for business

Canada's new immigration programme for tradespeople opened for applications on 2nd January 2013. The scheme is intended to help skilled tradespeople such as plumbers, electricians and metalworkers to attain Canadian permanent resident status. It will do this by focussing on skills and trades qualifications and less on academic learning and linguistic ability than the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP); tradespeople typically did not gain enough points to come under FSWP.

In the first year only 3,000 applications will be accepted. We recommend that if you wish to apply, you should do so quickly. Applications will be processed in the order in which they are received so the sooner you apply, the better your chances.

Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney first announced the scheme in 2012. On December 10th 2012, he announced that in order to be successful, applicants will need:

• An offer of employment in Canada or a 'certificate of qualification' from a province or territory which will certify that applicants are 'job ready' on arrival.
• Basic language skills
• A minimum of two years' recent work experience as a skilled tradesperson
• To be able to demonstrate that they possess skills that match those set out in the National Occupation Classification system (NOCB)

Mr Kenney told reporters on December 10th that the list of trades that would qualify for the FSTP would be published before 2nd January 2013.

The list features two groups of trades. In Group A there will be a sub-cap of 100 applications in each trade. In Group B, there will be no sub-caps.

The full list is set out below.
Group A –Sub-caps of 100 applications per trade
• Contractors and supervisors, electrical trades and telecommunications occupations
• Contractors and supervisors, carpentry trades
• Contractors and supervisors, other construction trades, installers, repairers and servicers
• Carpenters
• Contractors and supervisors, mechanic trades
• Contractors and supervisors, heavy equipment operator crews
• Supervisors, logging and forestry
• Supervisors, mining and quarrying
• Contractors and supervisors, oil and gas drilling services
• Logging machinery operators
• Agricultural service contractors, farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers
• Supervisors, mineral and metal processing
• Supervisors, petroleum, gas and chemical processing and utilities
• Supervisors, plastic and rubber products manufacturing
• Central control and process operators, mineral and metal processing
• Power engineers and power systems operators
• Water and waste treatment plant operators

Group B – no sub-caps
• Machinists and machining tool inspectors
• Sheet metal workers
• Structural metal and plate work fabricators and fitters
• Ironworkers
• Welders and related machine operators
• Electricians (except industrial and power system)
• Industrial electricians
• Power system electricians
• Electrical power line and cable workers
• Telecommunications line and cable workers
• Telecommunications installation and repair workers
• Plumbers
• Steamfitters, pipefitters and sprinkler system installers
• Gas fitters
• Construction millwrights and industrial mechanics
• Heavy-duty equipment mechanics
• Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics
• Railway carmen/women
• Aircraft mechanics and aircraft inspectors
• Elevator constructors and mechanics
• Crane operators
• Drillers and blasters - surface, mining, quarrying and construction
• Water well drillers
• Underground production and development miners
• Oil and gas well drillers, servicers, testers and related workers
• Petroleum, gas and chemical process operators

Speaking at the launch of the FSTP in Ottawa on 2nd January 2013, Mr Kenney said 'the new Skilled Trades Program will address serious labour shortages that some regions of the country are facing and will help grow Canada's economy…Canadian employers have long been asking for ways to get the skilled tradespeople they need to meet demands in many industries.'

Global Visa Support offers a variety of programs in Canada. Please visit our Canadian page for more information: