Friday, March 29, 2013

Poll shows UK split on immigration but in favour of limiting benefits

A recent UK poll has shown that a majority of UK citizens believe that immigrants should have to pay tax in the UK before they can get social benefits in the UK or use the UK's free National Health Service.

The poll was conducted by YouGov, one of the UK's best known and largest polling organisations, for UK newspaper The Sunday Times. A sample of people were asked what proportion of immigrants they thought made a positive contribution to British life;
• 45% thought that half or more than half had made a positive contribution.
• 46% said that they thought fewer than half had made a positive contribution.
• 9% said that they did not know.

When asked whether they would support measures that would limit the right of people who had arrived in the UK within a certain time period, such as a year, to benefits;
• 86% said that they would support such measures.
• Only 7% said they would oppose them.
• 7% said they did not know.

Similarly, when asked if they would like to see the right of recently arrived immigrants to use the National Health Service;
• 75% of those surveyed said that they would like to see the right limited
• 16% said they would not and
• 9% said they did not know.

We're all in this together

YouGov co-owner Peter Kellner says that this is not so much a sign that the UK population dislikes immigrants and immigration but much more a sign that it believes, particularly in a time of national economic difficulty, that only those who contribute to the public finances should be entitled to access public services.

Writing for the UK version of the global political news website, The Huffington Post, Mr Kellner said 'YouGov research has shown consistently that people … like the broad idea of the contributory principle – that people should pay in when they can and obtain help when they need it... Immigration is only one facet of this debate; scroungers, cheats, individual and corporate tax avoiders… also play their part.'

The poll showed that the people who thought least favourably of immigrants and immigration tended to support UKIP or the Conservative Party but even those who believed that most immigrants made a positive contribution to British life believed that benefits should be limited for new arrivals.

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

Thursday, March 28, 2013

US tech chiefs lobby Obama and Congress on H-1B visas and green cards

The chief executives of some of the most famous companies in the world have written a public letter to President Obama to press him to support legislation that would allow more skilled immigration into the US. They urge the President to 'address the need for more qualified, highly-skilled professionals, domestic and foreign, and to enact immigration reform this year'. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Eric Schmidt of Google and Bradford Smith of Microsoft all signed the letter.

The letter, dated 14th March 2013, is part of a campaign organised by TechNet, a policy network for the chief executives of high tech industries which aims to promote the interests of the tech sector. It was sent not only to the President but also to Congressmen and women and other influential figures in Washington D.C. It expresses support for legislation that would see more employment-based US visas granted, in particular employment based green cards and H-1B 'specialty occupation visas.

The letter says that 'the need for more qualified, highly-skilled professionals, domestic and foreign, who can create jobs and immediately contribute to and improve our economy' is 'one of the biggest economic challenges facing our nation'.

Immigrants founded eBay, Google, and Yahoo

The letter says that the US has 'a long history of welcoming talented, hard-working people to our shores' pointing out that immigrants founded companies such as eBay, Google, PayPal and Yahoo!

However, this vital role in the economy is endangered, the letter says, by an 'outdated and inefficient' immigration system which is now driving many immigrants away because of 'visa shortages, long waits for green cards, and lack of mobility'. The letter says 'there are tens of thousands of unfilled jobs requiring highly skilled individuals. Four high-tech companies alone – IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Oracle – have combined 10,000 openings in the United States. Each one of these jobs has the potential to create many others, directly and indirectly'.

In recent years, there have been many critics of the US immigration system. US tech companies complain that they cannot get enough H-1B visas for migrants working in a 'specialty occupation'. They also complain that the fact that foreign workers often have to wait for eight years to have their permanent residence (or green card) applications decided is driving them to other countries such as Canada. Many international companies also complain that it is getting harder to get L1-A and L1-B intra-company transfer visas.

Congress agreed that reform is necessary

Many Congressmen and women agree that reform is necessary but cannot agree on what form it should take. This problem has been made worse by an almost total absence of cross-party cooperation in Washington in recent years. Consequently, when the Democrats introduce a bill, Republicans oppose it and vice versa. As a result, the system remains unreformed.

The CEOs, who also include John Donahoe of eBay, John Chambers of Cisco and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo, asked the President and Congress to reform the skilled immigration system to ensure that 'numerical levels and categories for high-skilled non-immigrant and immigrant visas' are responsive to market demands.

They also ask for a change in US immigration law so that spouses and dependent children of main applicants 'should not be counted against the cap of high-skilled immigrant visas'. At present, if a worker gains a US employment based green card and brings his wife and two children with him, all four visas would be included in the cap. The CEOs say that 'there should not be a marriage or family penalty'.

Two acts have bipartisan support

The CEOs ask Congress to pass legislation to reform the system this year. They mention the Immigration Innovation Act and the Start-Up Visa Act as Acts that are already before Congress, which have bipartisan support and which would help the Tech industry to find the skilled employees it needs.

The Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 has been introduced by a group of four senators, two Republican and two Democrat. It would increase the number of H-1B visas issued by US immigration each year to 115,000 immediately and would establish a mechanism that would see more visas granted in times when they were needed up to a maximum of 300,000 a year. It would also exempt certain categories of people including graduates in the STEM subjects from US universities and wives and children of skilled migrants, from the cap on the number of employment based EB-3 green cards that can be granted each year. There is currently a cap of 41,455.

The Start-Up Visa Act would grant 75,000 green cards each year to entrepreneurial tech workers and a further 50,000 to graduates from US universities in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

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

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

UK immigration minister announces changes to Tier 2 visa system

Mark Harper, the UK immigration minister announced a series of proposed changes to the UK immigration system on Thursday 14th March 2013. He told the House of Commons that the changes will be introduced on April 6th 2013. The most significant changes will be made to the Tier 2 visa scheme, the tier visa of the UK's five tier points-based immigration system that is for skilled workers with a job offer.

Fees will be going up so we advise you to make your application now. The minister says that the changes will make the system more responsive to the needs of business. The introduction of a new introductory pay rate for graduate trainees and younger workers may make it easier to get a UK Tier 2 visa for some people but changes to the Shortage Occupation List will make it harder too.

Mr Harper announced a series of changes including

  • Cap for Tier 2 (General) visas fixed at 20,700 per year until further notice
  • An update of the Shortage Occupation List. Some medical occupations are removed from the list. Some engineering occupations are added
  • Amendments to the Code of Practice for Employers
  • Changes to salary thresholds and minimum appropriate salaries for individual occupations
  • A series of changes designed to 'further improve flexibility for Intra-Company Transferees and for employers carrying out the Resident Labour Market Test'
  • A rise in the level of fees

The Tier 2 visa system was established in 2008 by the then Labour government. Skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area who have a job offer in the UK can apply for a Tier 2 visa. In order to apply, they must have a valid job offer from a UK employer which has a valid Tier 2 sponsorship licence from the UK Border Agency.


Since 2011, there has been a cap on the number of Tier 2 (General) visas that can be granted each year. This cap has now been fixed at 20,700 annually. It will require a change to the immigration rules to change the cap in future.
Before the prospective applicant can apply for a UK Tier visa, the UK employer must issue him with a Certificate of Sponsorship. This allows him to apply to the UKBA for a UK Tier 2 visa.
If a worker is going to apply from abroad, the sponsor can only issue a Certificate of Sponsorship if the job is at above National Qualification Framework level 6. If the worker is already in the UK, the job must be at or above NVQ level 3. (NQF and NVQ qualifications are UK standards for educational achievements. NQF level 6 is equivalent to a bachelor's degree with honours. NVQ3 is equivalent to having 1-5 A-levels (UK exams taken by school children at 18) at grades A*-C))

Shortage Occupation List

The UK's Shortage Occupation List is a list of skilled occupations for which there is a shortage of UK resident workers leading to positions remaining unfilled. The list lays out the shortage occupations and the minimum appropriate salary rates that Tier 2 workers should be paid to work in one of those occupations.

The new list has been updated by the Migration Advisory Committee. Several medical professions have been removed from the list because of increased availability of UK resident workers due to training of local workers. Several engineering roles have been added to the list because of shortages of UK resident engineers.

If the job is on the Shortage Occupation List, then a foreign born worker who is offered the job will be awarded the points required to pass the points-based test to acquire a Tier 2 visa. They will, however, still have to prove their ability to speak English and to support themselves when they arrive in the UK (maintenance requirement).

Resident Labour Market Test

If the job is not on the Shortage Occupation List then the employer will have to carry out a resident labour market test before it can issue the Certificate of Sponsorship. The resident labour market test is carried out by advertising the job for a prescribed period, usually 28 days, in a national paper in the UK.

The new rules say that, from now on, employers may have to advertise jobs in two places. If the employer is a large company (250 people or more) one of those places may be the company's own website. The new rules say that the employer can place the advert where it believes that it is most likely to find a successful candidate for the role. All jobs with a salary under £71,000 must now be advertised on the Jobcentre Plus website and through one other outlet.

Code of Practice

The employer must also comply with the UKBA Code of Practice for Skilled Workers. The latest version was issued on 14th March 2013. The Code lays out

  • The skills level for each occupation
  • The minimum appropriate rates of pay for each occupation and
  • Information to allow employers to match up the job they are offering to the corresponding classification code in the Code of Practice

Changes in the minimum salary levels

  • The minimum qualifying salary for Tier 2 visas rises from £20,000 to £20,300
  • The level at which jobs are excluded from the Tier 2 (General) cap rises from £150,000 to £152,000
  • The minimum salary at which Tier 2 visa holders will qualify for indefinite leave to remain rises from £35,000 to £35,500

Changes to appropriate salary rates for separate occupations

The minimum qualifying salary for individual jobs remains at the 25th percentile. - that is to say, the qualifying wage must be equal to that earned by at least 25% of people in a given occupation or higher. It cannot be less. This proviso is in place to prevent Tier 2 workers undercutting UK workers and being employed when UK workers are available.

New Entrant salary level

Mr Harper has announced he intends to introduce a new introductory tenth percentile rate for new entrant employees. It will be permissible to pay new entrants at the tenth percentile level. The following groups will be eligible for the new entrant salary level

  • Graduates switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2
  • Graduate recruits employed after university 'milk round' recruiting
  • Those sponsored in the Intra-Company Transfer Graduate Trainee route
  • Anyone under 25 at the date of their original Tier 2 application

N.B. When new entrants apply for a renewal of their visa after three years, they must then be paid at the 25th percentile or higher.


The fee for a Tier 2 visa application will rise from £450 to £494

  • The fee for a Tier 2 Extension application will rise from £561 to £578
  • The fee for a Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship will rise from £179 to £184
  • The fee for applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK made by Tier 2 workers and submitted by post will rise from £991 to £1,051

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

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Canadian immigration announces further changes to Federal Skilled Worker Program

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has issued a short statement about the Federal Skilled Worker Program. The program is currently suspended but is due to re-open for business in May 2013.

The CIC statement advises that if you intend to apply for the revamped FSWP in May that it intends to make three announcements in April about the program. This will affect the way in which you make your application.

CIC says it will provide details of the following in April
• There will be a cap on the number of applications in the first year of the new FSWP. The level of the cap will, presumably, be announced in April
• There will be a new list of priority occupations. This too should be revealed in April
• Canadian Immigration will announce the list of organisations that will be authorised to conduct educational assessments under the new FSWP.

CIC says that if you complete your application before this information is released you run the risk of making and invalid application. If your application does not comply with all the requirements of the new FSWP, then your application will not be processed.

FSWP 'Canada's main skilled immigration route'

The FSWP was Canada's main immigration route for skilled workers until it was suspended by CIC in June 2012. Previously, about 55,000 people gained Canadian permanent residence under the FSWP annually. However, a substantial backlog of applications had built up with some people waiting eight years to have their applications processed.

Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney announced in June 2012 that all applications made before 28th February 2008 would be terminated and the application fees of applicants returned. This decision has been challenged in the courts by some of those applicants. Their case is currently being heard by the Canadian federal court.

In July 2012, Mr Kenney announced the temporary closure of the FSWP. No fresh applications have been accepted since then. Mr Kenney said that this would allow the backlog to be further reduced and allow CIC to reform the program. In December 2012, Mr Kenney announced a series of changes that will apply to the FSWP when it re-opens.

FSWP reformed while suspended

These include
• A higher minimum threshold of skill in either English or French (Canada's two official languages) than before. Applicants will now have to demonstrate by way of a test that they meet level 7 of the Canadian Language Benchmark.
• A greater number of points will be granted to younger applicants than under the old system.
• A new 'Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) scheme will allow the Canadian government to compare foreign educational qualifications with Canadian ones
• A reform of the 'Arranged Employment' rules so that those with an offer of employment can be hired more quickly
• Additional points will be granted to FSWP applicants if their spouse has attained a certain level of English or French ability and/or has work experience in Canada.

Mr Kenney has said that he intends to reform the FSWP in future so that it is more similar to the Australian 'expression of interest' system. He says that this will enable CIC to select the immigrants with the right skills for Canadian business.

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

Monday, March 25, 2013

UK government in small U-turn on post study work UK immigration route

On 14th March 2013, The UK's immigration minister, Mark Harper, announced changes to the UK's Tier 4 student visa. He announced in the House of Commons that from 6 April 2013, all foreign PhD students with Tier 4 visas will be allowed to stay in the UK for a year after completing their course to work in a skilled occupation or to set up in business as an entrepreneur.

Mr Harper is a member of the UK's Coalition government which has taken steps to reduce immigration into the UK though he was not immigration minister when the government closed the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa route in 2012. The Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa allowed all foreign graduates of UK universities to stay in the UK to work for two years after graduation. This change to the Tier 4 visa will be seen as a partial U-turn by the government, even though it applies only to PhD students.

In a speech in November 2011 the mayor of London Boris Johnson criticised the UK government for closure of the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa route which he said had been 'crazy' and sent out the wrong message to international students who would go and study elsewhere.

Increase in Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visas

The UK Border Agency, the UK's main immigration agency, also confirmed an increase in the number of Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visas that can be granted each year from 1,000 to 2,000 on 14 March. Mrs May had announced the change in a major speech on immigration in 2012; Mr Harper's announcement confirms that the change is to be made on 6 April.

The 1,000 extra places will be allocated to MBA students only. Applicants will be able to apply from outside the UK for a Graduate Entrepreneur visa.

Global Visa Support offers a variety of programs in United Kingdom. Please visit our UK page for more information:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Budget cuts will affect US immigration and visa system

During the early months of 2013, while Republicans and Democrats in Congress were negotiating ways to deal with the US budget deficit, some US commentators were wondering what would happen if they failed to reach an agreement. Now they have failed and, on March 1st, President Obama signed a Presidential Order cutting $85bn from the US federal budget in the next seven months.

The President described the cuts, known in the US as 'the sequester', as 'arbitrary and pointless'. He warned that they will cause a slowdown in the US economy and he laid the blame squarely on the heads of Republicans in Congress who refused to accede to any tax rises for the rich or to the closure of any tax loopholes to offset some of the cuts.

The Republicans, of course, blame the President. Whoever is to blame, the government will have to find savings and this will mean cuts in services. Most spending will be docked from military programmes but all government departments will need to find savings.

Visas and other applications will be delayed

And this will, of course, include the immigration system. Many federal employees will have to take 'furloughs' or unpaid leave, in order to save money and this is bound to lead to delays in the processing of paperwork. Thus delays should be expected in visa petitions and other applications. John Kerry, the new US Secretary of State wrote last month that the cuts would 'jeopardize the Department's efforts to provide secure, error-free, travel documents to those eligible to receive them, while denying them to those not eligible. Reduced funding would also undermine progress made in ensuring that visa requests are processed in a timely fashion'.

ICE, the Immigration and Citizenship Enforcement agency, has already freed hundreds of illegal immigrants from detention centres in several states in order to save money.

Immigration court backlog will grow

The US's immigration court system will lose $15m. There is already an average 550 day waiting time for immigration cases to be heard. This is only going to get worse with the sequester.

ABC news predicted that the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review, which is responsible for the immigration courts, would not be able to hire any new judges and said that the case backlog would rise by 6% to 350,000. The EOIR backlog has already been rising steadily in the last year.

Cuts in border staff

Finally, the sequester is likely to cut the number of border patrol guards. There are currently some 20,000 such guards, almost all of them deployed along the Mexican border.

This could be a problem for President Obama's plan for comprehensive immigration reform. One of the elements of the plan is that there should be yet more border security. Some Republicans including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, have said that the border must be secured to their satisfaction before there can be any progress made in normalising the immigration status of the 11m illegal immigrants currently in the US.

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

Thursday, March 21, 2013

BBC criticised for being uncritical of UK anti-immigration pressure group

The Migration Matters Trust, a UK group founded by parliamentarians to encourage an open and honest debate about immigration in the UK, has criticised the BBC for accepting statistics presented by an anti-immigration organisation without question.

Migration Matters has written to the BBC complaining about the prominence that it gives to figures produced by Migrationwatch UK. The Migration Matters letter complains 'Migrationwatch UK are not an independent thinktank or academic body but a lobbying and campaigning organisation'.
Migration Matters complains that Migrationwatch's stated objective is 'to control the number of non-EU migrants who are given the right to settle permanently in the United Kingdom' but the organisation is treated by the BBC as 'neutral analysts of UK migration'.

Sir Andrew Green, the chairman of Migrationwatch UK, said that their research has 'a track record of accuracy which is now widely acknowledged' but accepted that its aim was 'to see a reduction in current levels of migration'. He said that this goal was 'supported by 70% of the public'.

250,000 people to come to UK in five years

Migrationwatch UK has recently predicted that 50,000 people will come from Romania and Bulgaria to the UK each year once EU controls on free movement for nationals of these Countries ends after 31 December 2013. Bulgarians and Romanians can already work in the UK on a self-employed basis, on a work permit, under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme or in some cases under low skilled work visa schemes. From January 2014, the transitional controls on Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK will be lifted and nationals of these Countries will no longer have to apply under the above visa schemes. Migrationwatch UK has said that 250,000 people will come to the UK in the five years to 2019.

The UK government has said that it has estimated the number of people who are likely to come to the UK from the two countries but has refused to reveal what its figure is. George Eaton, a New Statesman journalist, launched a Freedom of Information Act request to force the government to reveal the figure but the government has asked for more time to consider whether it is in the public interest to reveal the figure.

Global Visa Support offers a variety of programs in United Kingdom. Please visit our UK page for more information:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

US Tech sector backs immigration reform

US tech firms are supporting the proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill that is being drafted by a group of eight senators. Tech industry associations such as the Technology CEO Council are also supporting the bill. Marshall Fitz of the pro-immigration reform Center for American Progress told US TV station ABC, 'From a tactical perspective, this is their best chance in the short term of getting the reforms they care most about'.

US tech firms have been supporters of skilled immigration reform for many years. They rely on foreign-born workers to fill many posts. This is in part because US-born students are not choosing to study computer science at university and in part because the US population is ageing, according to a report by The Partnership for a New American Economy, a pro-immigration reform pressure group founded by the mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg.

Tech firms 'really believe reform is good for the country'

But now they are backing the comprehensive reform bill currently being drafted by a group of eight senators known as the Gang of Eight. The US tech industry is supporting it for tactical reasons but Marshall Fitz says that many in the industry 'also really believe this broader immigration reform is good for the country'.

Washington commentators say that the Gang of Eight's bill has a reasonable chance of becoming law because it has broad-based support not only in Washington but in the country as a whole. President Obama said, shortly after his re-election in November 2012, that he was determined to introduce comprehensive reform of the US's immigration system in 2013.

He said, however, that he was prepared to leave the drafting of the legislation to a bipartisan group of senators who became the Gang of Eight. The Gang includes former Republican presidential nominee John McCain and young, up-and-coming Hispanic senator Marco Rubio. Among the Democrats is Chuck Schumer, a veteran advocate of reform from New York.

Building blocks of reform

The basic elements of the framework are
• The establishment of a 'path to citizenship' for the 11m illegal immigrants currently living in the US.
• Strengthening security along the Mexican border
• More resources to be put into tracking foreign nationals in the US on visas.
• Overhauling the US visa system to reduce backlogs.
• Awarding green cards to foreign technology graduates from US universities
• Rolling out a national 'e-verify' system to prevent illegal aliens from working in the US
• Establishment of a low-skilled migrant worker visa which would allow US employers to employ foreign workers in sectors such as agriculture where it is impossible to recruit US citizens.

While Washington insiders say that the Gang of Eight's bill has a good chance of success and while many senior Republicans have said they will support reform, in recent days, the air of cooperation has begun to sour.

Washington has been increasingly partisan in recent years and some commentators believe that Republican Congressmen will vote against a comprehensive bill because many Republican voters are opposed to any legislation that would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Some say that it would be rewarding criminal behaviour and merely encourage more illegal immigrants into the US.

Virtual march for immigration reform

The US tech industry has not put all its eggs in one basket. Steve Case of AOL and the former boss of Mozilla are joining Michael Bloomberg's 'virtual march for immigration reform'. It aims to flood the offices of Washington politicians with emails, tweets and Facebook messages in support of reform.
Meanwhile, Microsoft, Intel and many other companies have been lobbying Congress in favour of reform. Last year, Microsoft proposed a bill allowing US tech firms to buy H-1B visas and green cards for overseas workers.

Microsoft spent $8m on lobbying in Washington in 2012, much of it on the immigration. Intel spent $3.7m and the Consumer Electronics Association spent $2.8m. Many other tech firms are also lobbying.

And if the Gang of Eight's bill is derailed on its way through Congress, as its predecessor, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, was, then there are currently several lesser bills which would see the US granting more green cards and H-1B visas to skilled workers.

The Immigration Innovation Act would see up to 300,000 H-1B visas granted each year as well as an increase in the number of green cards granted to foreign graduates of US universities. The Startup Bill 3.0 would see 75,000 green cards granted to foreign-born entrepreneurs and 50,000 more to graduates of US universities each year.

All in all, it seems that, one way or another, the US tech industry may get its way on skilled immigration reform this year. But nothing is certain in Washington.

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Labour's Cooper proposes alternative UK immigration policy

On 7th March 2013, shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper delivered a speech acknowledging that the last Labour government made 'mistakes' on immigration and laying out the party's new position and policies.

Ms Cooper was speaking at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) in London. She said that immigration was a difficult subject for politicians but too important to ignore. She said that the UK must not 'pull up the drawbridge on the outside world'. She said that immigration had enriched the UK but said that 'mass migration can create stresses and strains'.

She said that Labour had been listening to British people and had come up with a new approach to the subject. She echoed the suggestion made by Labour leader Ed Miliband yesterday that all immigrants should be made to learn English to help them integrate. She then went on to outline the party's new position on immigration in more depth.

Three main areas

She said that the party's proposals focussed on three main areas
• Tackling the unequal impact of immigration
• Introducing immigration controls
• Enforcement

Ms Cooper said that proper enforcement of the UK's minimum wage would remove one of the incentives for bringing immigrants to the UK. Labour would also crack down on slum landlords who put up immigrants in inadequate housing. She said that there should be tougher penalties for those that breach the rules and more training for UK citizens to help them get jobs in sectors currently dominated by immigrant labour.

Ms Cooper said that the pace at which immigration occurred was important so controls on the numbers of immigrants were necessary. She said that the cap on Tier 2 (General) visas did not seem to have caused too many problems so Labour would not interfere with that.

Current policy 'too simplistic'

However, she said that the immigration policy of the UK's Coalition government is 'too simplistic' By focusing on the single headline figure for net immigration, the government is treating all immigration as the same. This, Ms Cooper said, needed to change.

The Coalition is focussing on reducing net immigration to under 100,000 a year by 2015 after David Cameron, then leader of the opposition, now Prime Minister, told the BBC in 2010 that immigration was too high and ought to be reduced to 'tens of thousands' annually.

The net immigration figure is calculated by calculating the number of immigrants in a given year and subtracting the number of emigrants over the same period. For much of the time that the last Labour government was in power, the net immigration figure was about 250,000. The latest figures show that the headline figure has now dropped to about 160,000 a year.

Damaging the economy and not addressing the problem

But Ms Cooper said that focusing on this headline figure was damaging the economy and was not addressing the real problem of immigration. She said 'Astonishingly, two thirds of the drop in net migration is actually British citizens. And it seems a large proportion of the rest is students. Net migration has gone down by 72,000 since the election. Yet that includes a 27,000 increase in Brits leaving the country and a 20,000 drop in the number of Brits coming back home. Meanwhile student immigration dropped by 38,000'.

She says that the drop in student immigration has cost the UK economy £8bn a year and done nothing to address problems caused by immigration.

Ms Cooper said that the government had got hung up on the 'tens of thousands' pledge and was doing nothing to address genuine immigration concerns that did not impact on that pledge. She said 'everything that is included in net migration is treated as the same while the government tries to bring it down. Everything excluded from the 'net migration' measure is being ignored – even if it causes serious problems.'

Government is ignoring illegal immigration

Therefore, Ms Cooper said, the government is ignoring illegal immigration because illegal immigrants do not show up in the immigration statistics. In particular, she said that the government is doing nothing to address potential abuse of the student visitor visa. The number of these visas issued has gone up by 30,000 a year since 2010. But people with student visitor visas are not included in the net immigration statistics. Ms Cooper said that more should be done by UK immigration to check that people coming to the UK on student visitor visas were actually studying.

She said that there must be much greater effort put into policing illegal immigration with unannounced checks on employers suspected of breaking immigration law and the power of arrest going to UKBA officials. She also called for proper exit checks to be put in place at UK ports and airports so that the UK immigration authorities can know how many people are in the country and arrange 'swifter action when people overstay'.

With regard to EU immigration, Ms Cooper said that the UK should, in future, impose the maximum possible transitional controls. She said that cracking down on employers who pay less than the minimum wage would prevent employers from trying to gain an advantage by employing cheap eastern European labour.

She also said that the government should introduce a residency test and lobby Europe to remove the requirement that countries should pay family benefits to be paid to workers from abroad who leave their children in their home countries. Ms Cooper said that workers from Newcastle could not go to work in London and send benefits home so it was wrong that workers from Paris or Prague should be able to do so.

Global Visa Support offers a variety of programs in United Kingdom. Please visit our UK page for more information:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Canadian immigration accepts record numbers of immigrants - again

Jason Kenney, the Canadian immigration minister, has announced that over 250,000 people gained Canadian permanent resident status in 2012. This, he said, means that Canada experienced record immigration during the seven years between 2006 and 2012.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Mr Kenney's governmental department, says that 30,250 more people gained permanent resident status each year between 2006 and 2012, under the Canadian Conservative Party government of which Mr Kenney is a member, than had done so between 1995 and 2005 under the previous administration.

Mr Kenney has said before that Canada needs immigration to maintain its economy. He said that there would be no change to Canada's immigration target in the near future and next year's immigration target range remains unchanged at 240,000 to 265,000.

'A modern and effective immigration system'

Mr Kenney said that the Canadian government 'is continuing to move toward a modern and effective immigration system that attracts the skilled immigrants that Canada's economy requires'. He added ' this new, fast and flexible system will respond more effectively to Canada's labour market needs, support family reunification and provide protection for genuine refugees'

Under Mr Kenney's stewardship, Canada has focussed more on skilled immigration. The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) is the main skilled immigration visa class but Mr Kenney has also introduced the Federal Skilled Trades Program for skilled tradespeople and the Canadian Experience Class visa for foreign graduates with work experience in Canada. He has faced criticism in particular for his decision in 2012 to terminate all Federal Skilled Worker Program applications made before February 2008. A challenge to that decision is currently being heard in the Canadian courts.

Rise in language requirement

Mr Kenney has also been criticised for running a 'discriminatory' immigration policy. It has been said that his decision to raise the standard of English or French required by applicants under the FSWP was intended to discriminate against applicants from China and India and favour applicants from the UK and Europe. He has also been criticised for increasing Canada's use of temporary work visas and for removing certain benefits from some refugee migrants.

Mr Kenney has brushed aside criticisms saying that he is merely trying to make the immigration system more effective.

After announcing the latest immigration figures in February, Mr Kenney said 'Canada has been welcoming not only the highest sustained level of immigrants in Canadian history, we also have, on a per capita basis, among the highest immigration rates in the world'. He continued 'Immigration is a key part of the government's plan to grow our economy, spur job creation and ensure long-term prosperity.'

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

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Australian immigration minister cracks down on 457 temporary work visa 'abuse'

The new Australian immigration minister Brendan O'Connor, has announced that he has evidence that one of the country's main temporary work visas is being abused by Australian companies to undercut Australian workers and has announced a crackdown. Mr O'Connor said that some Australian firms were employing people on Temporary Work (Skilled) Standard Sponsorship (Subclass 457) visas (better known as '457 visas') claiming that their roles were skilled when they were not.

In order to employ a worker on a 457 visa, an Australian employer must first nominate a position which he wants to fill. The employer must state, in his application, that the position is a skilled position and that there are no available Australian workers to do the job.

The Australian employer can then seek foreign employees to do the job. After he offers the position to a foreign worker, that worker can apply for a 457 visa in order to take that job. If successful, the worker is granted a visa which will allow him to work in Australia for four years.

'Administrators' working as security guards

Mr O'Connor said that some Australian firms were dressing up low skilled work as high skilled work so that they could employ cheaper workers on 457 visas. He cited the example of one Melbourne IT company which had hired temporary workers as administrators. The firm had nominated several 'administrator roles, saying that they were skilled roles and there were no available Australians willing or able to do the job. The firm then offered the posts to foreign workers who had received 457 visas and taken the 'administrator' roles. The workers then worked for the Australian firm as security guards, Mr O'Connor said.

Mr O'Connor said that he will introduce new legislation to ensure that 457 visas can only be granted where there is a genuine skills shortage and to make sure that Australian workers are given a chance to get the job first. He said that he will also increase the level of English required by those who get 457 visas.

Mr O'Connor said 'There are situations where Australian workers are being discriminated against because of the abuse of the programme. Rogue employers are deliberately employing people from overseas without giving a local a chance.'

Australian unions are pleased. Dave Oliver of the Australian Council of Trade Unions said that there was a 40% rise in the number of 457 visas issued in the last year but, at the same time, there are 70,000 fewer jobs on offer in the Australian construction sector.

New regime 'risks damaging IT sector'

However, Australian business, particularly the IT sector has said that the new regime risks damaging the sector and cut the number of jobs available.

Julie Mills of ITCRA, the Information Technology Contract & Recruitment Association for Australia and New Zealand, said that many Australian firms faced with increased restrictions on recruitment might well outsource the jobs to India or elsewhere resulting in fewer jobs for Australian workers, not more.

She told the Australian Financial Review 'for all recruiters, the opportunity to bring in skilled overseas workers requires a rigorous assessment of need via the 457 labour agreement process…A bigger concern is the offshoring of ICT process and administration roles…if the right skills are not available in the right place, then projects cannot wait until the talent re-skills or graduates.'

Andy Cross of recruitment firm Ambition told the Australian Financial Review, 'With falling demand for undergraduate technology courses and an aging population, it's obvious we can't realistically expect to meet current or future demand with our current home-grown supply. We probably need to be encouraging overseas applicants to meet market demand and support the technology industry.'

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

US budget crisis impacts on immigration

On Friday 1st March 2013, President Obama ordered swingeing cuts in US public spending after Congress failed yet again to agree a deal on public spending. The President's order will cut $85bn from the federal budget in the next seven months. The cuts have already hit the US's policing of immigration and further disruption is likely.

On Friday, the President said that he had had no choice but to sign the order. He said the cuts were 'dumb and arbitrary' and blamed Republicans in the House of Representatives who had refused to reach any compromise agreement with the President's Democrats that would have allowed some of the cuts to be offset by tax rises and the closure of tax loopholes for the rich.

Much of the reduction in spending will be borne by the US Military but most areas of federal spending will have to be reduced. Democrats predict that there will be disruption in education and air travel, and a slowdown in the economy. Federal agencies like US Citizenship and immigration (USCIS) will also probably suffer budget cuts and many staff may have to take unpaid leave.

Immigrants being released from detention

In the area of immigration, it seems that some illegal immigrants are already being released from detention in order to save money according to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
ICE has been releasing hundreds of immigrant detainees from detention centres around the country. They have been released on 'supervised release' in order to save money. The deportation cases against them will continue in the US courts. Some are being ordered to wear electronic tags.

Representative Bob Goodlatte of Virginia said 'it's abhorrent that President Obama is releasing criminals into our communities to promote his political agenda on sequestration…By releasing criminal immigrants onto the streets, the administration is needlessly endangering American lives'.

Decision 'may prevent Republican cooperation on reform'

Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama said that the decision to release immigrants from centres might prevent bipartisan cooperation on comprehensive immigration reform because it showed that the president 'has no commitment to enforcing the law and cannot be trusted to deliver on any future promises of enforcement'.

A spokeswoman for ICE said that those released had been 'non-criminals and other low-risk offenders who do not have serious criminal histories'. ICE staff say that there are no plans to release more detainees at present.

US immigration workers say that the scale of the release programme has been unprecedented. There have been releases in New York and New Jersey, Georgia and Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Arizona. It has been estimated by the National Immigration Forum that it costs about $150 a day to keep immigrants in detention whereas it costs a fraction of this amount to monitor them in the community but it is likely that some of them at least will disappear before their cases are decided.

The US budget crisis arises because the country's national debt is rising. It has continued to rise under both Democrats and Republicans for the last ten years. Previous Congresses agreed to raise the national debt but made the agreements temporary so that Congress will have to return to address the issue from time to time. The latest deadline came on Friday 1st March.

No cooperation in Washington

Matters are made worse by the fact that Republicans and Democrats now agree about almost nothing in Washington. In recent years, particularly since the rise of the Tea Party, a right-wing pressure group that is driving the Republican Party further to the right, there has been almost complete inertia in Washington as Republicans refuse to vote for bills proposed by Democrats and vice versa.

There have been talks this year between the two parties to try to reach an agreement and avert the cuts. The Democrats said that they would agree to some cuts but said that they wanted to see tax rises and the closure of tax loopholes for the rich as well. Right wing Republicans refused to agree to any tax rises. On Friday, as the deadline came, the President said he had no choice and signed the order for the cuts.

Both parties now hope that the US electorate will blame their opponents for the mess and will vote accordingly in the next elections. Early indications are that more US voters are blaming Republicans for the current crisis but the President's approval rating has fallen too.

So, if you are planning on applying for a US visa, it would be as well to apply early. Delays will not be a surprise.

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

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

UK immigration figures show fall of one third

The latest immigration statistics have been released by the UK's Office for National Statistics (ONS). They show that net immigration for the year ending in June 2012 was a third lower than it was in the year ending in June 2011.

The ONS says that immigration caused the population of the UK to rise by 163,000 in the year to June 2012, compared with a rise of 247,000 the previous year. The UK government welcomed the fall. Prime Minister David Cameron promised in 2010 to cut the UK's net immigration figure to below 100,000 annually by 2015. The UK's immigration minister Mark Harper said 'our tough reforms are having an impact in all the right places. We have tightened the routes where abuse was rife and overall numbers are down as a result. We will continue to work hard to bring net migration down from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands by the end of this parliament'.

The net immigration figure is calculated by subtracting the number of emigrants from the number of immigrants over any given period. In the year to June 2012, the ONS calculates that 515,000 people came to live in the UK, down by 74,000 on the figure for the year to June 2011 (589,000). Meanwhile, the number of emigrants for the year to June 2012 was 352,000 – some 10,000 higher than the 342,000 who left in the year to June 2011.

The ONS figures found that, both in 2011 and 2012, the main reason that immigrants came to the UK is for education. However, the number of students coming to the UK in the year to June 2012 was 20% lower than in 2011. They also showed that the number of immigrants coming to the UK from 'new Commonwealth countries' such as India, Pakistan and Nigeria had fallen by 30%; the number fell from 168,000 in 2011 to 117,000 in 2012. There was also a fall of 14,000 in the number of immigrants coming to the UK from eastern Europe. In the year to June 2012, 62,000 came, the ONS said.

'Half the drop is down to students'

Chris Bryant, the opposition Labour Party's spokesman on immigration, said that 'these figures demonstrate that the government is not focussing on the kind of immigration that worries people the most. 'Half the drop is down to students', he said 'while 30% of the net migration is down to more British people leaving [the country]'.

Sarah Mulley of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said that the government's success in reducing immigration was self-defeating. She said that much of the reduction in immigration was caused by a reduction in the number of students coming to the UK. She said that, because students tend to stay in the UK for three or four years, the number of people leaving the country is likely to start falling in years to come. This will reduce the number of emigrants and thereby increase the net immigration figure.

Ms Mulley said 'given that the government still need to reduce net migration by 63,000 in order to meet their target, it is clear that this cannot be achieved in the medium term without radical changes that go far beyond the student visa regime'.

The BBC's Home Affairs Correspondent Dominic Casciani said that some critics of the government might argue the fall in the number of immigrants coming from eastern Europe might be down to the UK's failing economy rather than the government's efforts to cut immigration.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Canadian immigration says Canadian Experience Class visas growing fast

9,353 people gained Canadian permanent resident status under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) visa in 2012, according to recently released figures. This, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) the official Canadian immigration Government Department that deals with immigration and citizenship issues, is about 34% above the planned level for 2012 of 7,000.

CEC visas allow skilled workers from overseas who have been working in Canada in a skilled occupation to apply for permanent resident status. In order to qualify, applicants must have at least 12 months' experience of working full time in a skilled role in Canada in the last three years and you must also be able to prove your proficiency in English or French. The language requirements vary depending on the nature of your skilled work experience. You must take a language test when you make your application showing that your English or French language ability meets either Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level 5 for technical jobs or skilled trades, or CLB 7 for management or professional level jobs.

CEC target to be increased

The Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney, altered these requirements in 2012 to make it easier to qualify. Previously, applicants needed to complete eighteen months skilled work in only two years. Mr Kenney said in November last year that he intended to increase the target for the number of CEC visas to be issued in 2013 from 7,000 to 10,000. The rise in the number of CEC visas will be offset by a reduction in the number of Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) visas that will be granted.

The FSWP is Canada's main skilled immigration visa. About 55,000 people gain Canadian permanent resident status each year under the FSWP. Skilled workers are assessed against CIC's points grid to assess their ability to adapt to the Canadian job market.

Canada accepted over 250,000 new permanent residents in 2012 and has said that it intends to continue to do so every year for the next few years at least.

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Obama upsets Republicans on immigration reform

Republicans in the US Congress have been upset by the revelation that the White House is working on a draft immigration reform bill. Republican senator Marco Rubio has issued a statement which reads 'it is a mistake for the White House to draft immigration legislation without seeking input from Republican members of Congress. If actually proposed, the President's bill would be dead in the water'.

One of President Obama's former aides, David Axelrod has said that the President made a mistake in showing his draft legislation to too many people. 'The mistake here was to disseminate it (the bill) so widely that it got leaked' Mr Axelrod said. But Mr Axelrod also said that the President was not guilty of the greater 'crime' of planning to drive the White House draft through Congress before the gang of eight's bill has been given a chance. Mr Axelrod told US broadcaster MSNBC that the White House is working on its own legislation in case the gang of eight fail to deliver; 'the President's backup plan is a backup plan' he told the Morning Joe programme.

Immigration a major priority

Mr Obama has promised that he will make immigration reform one of his main priorities in 2013. However, the US Congress is deeply divided along party lines. There has been less and less bipartisan cooperation in recent years. Unsurprisingly, the Democrats and the Republicans blame each other for this state of affairs.

This may be why Mr Obama has indicated that he intends to leave the drafting of a comprehensive immigration reform bill to a group of eight senators (four Democrats and four Republicans) known as 'the gang of eight' who are in favour of reform. The gang of eight includes Senator Rubio, a Republican senator from Florida and the son of Cuban immigrants, as well as former Republican presidential nominee John McCain and Democratic senator Chuck Schumer of New York.
These senators have already agreed the framework of a proposed comprehensive reform act. The gang of eight is currently thrashing out the details but the fundamental components are as follows:
• Strengthening security along the Mexican border
• The establishment of a 'path to citizenship' for illegal immigrants currently living in the US.
• More resources to be put into tracking foreign nationals in the US on visas.
• Overhauling the US visa system to reduce backlogs.
• Awarding green cards to foreign technology graduates from US universities
• Rolling out a national 'e-verify' system to prevent illegal aliens from working in the US
• Establishment of a low-skilled migrant worker visa which would allow US employers to employ foreign workers in sectors such as agriculture where it is impossible to recruit US citizens.

The leak of the President's own legislation shows that the White House has continued to work on its own version of the legislation. This it seems, in the notoriously partisan cockpit of Washington is enough to put Republican noses out of joint.

Backup legislation

It makes little difference that the President's 'backup' legislation appears to differ in no major detail from the gang of eight's proposals. The fact that the President is working on it at all may provide a pretext for Republicans to walk away from reform if they think it is in their interests to do so.

Senator Rubio denounced the White House bill as 'half-baked and seriously flawed'. He claimed that the measures proposed by the President for further border security were inadequate. The US already spends some $18bn a year on border security.

Senator Rubio also decried the fact that the White House draft 'creates a special pathway that puts those who broke our immigration laws at an advantage over those who chose to do things the right way and come here legally'. In fact, the draft proposes that illegal immigrants will not get their cards until the 6m people who are currently waiting for a green card to become available, having already been approved for a green card, have their green cards. It seems that illegal immigrants would have to wait about eight years to achieve permanent residence and could then apply for citizenship about five years after that.

Drones to police the border

Meanwhile, the White House has also attracted critics on the left because of proposals in the bill to appoint yet more Border Patrol Guards and to use unmanned 'drone' aircraft to police the border. Senator McCain told voters in Arizona that the gang of eight plan also involves the use of drones. Libertarians are also alarmed at proposals for the introduction of a 'fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant and wear-resistant' social security card.

All in all, the story of the leak shows one thing above all others; the divisions in Washington are so deep and Congress so evenly balanced that despite all the speeches made by politicians in both parties about the need for reform, Congress could still fail to deliver.
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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tory MP says UK's 'mixed messages' on immigration will damage trade

Gavin Barwell, the Conservative MP for Croydon, has warned that pronouncements by UK politicians and heavy-handed policing of immigration rules by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) are damaging the UK economy.

Mr Barwell aired his views in UK newspaper the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday 19th February 2013, while the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron was in India heading a trade mission. Mr Barwell wrote 'It's no good the Prime Minister committing so much of his time to….telling the world we are open for business if every time we talk about immigration domestically it is always in terms of it being a problem.'

UK entitled to control immigration

Mr Barwell said that there was nothing wrong with the UK having controls on immigration. 'No one thinks that we should be a soft touch' he said, 'but the process needs to be efficient, consistent and fair.'

Mr Barwell congratulated the Prime Minister, the leader of Mr Barwell's Conservative Party, for sending out the right message on immigration on Indian television. Mr Cameron told Sunrise TV last week, 'there is no limit on the number of students who can come to study at British universities' and added 'And what's more, after you've left a British university, if you can get a graduate-level job, there is no limit to the amount of people who can stay and work, or the time that they can stay and work'. This is the actual position, Mr Barwell said.Immigration message is 'not getting through'. However, he added, 'this is not the message that has been getting through'. He said that 'the way in which we conduct the [immigration] debate in this country' and 'the way in which the UKBA administers the system' has meant that 'the reality for Indians trying to come to Britain to study or do business can be depressingly different.'

This has led, he said to a drop of 24% in the number of Indian undergraduates coming to study in the UK in the last year as well as a drop of 28% in the number of Indian post-graduate students. Mr Barwell says that research by the Immigration Matters Trust, (co-founded by Mr Barwell) suggests that these figures mean, in real terms, a cost to the UK economy of £169m.

Indian investment in UK dropping

Mr Barwell says that there was also a reduction in the value of investments in the UK by Indian companies of some 17% over the same period. He quoted Sanjaya Baru, a former media director for India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh who said that the UKBA asked for 'too many documents and said that they UK's immigration procedures are 'intimidatory and very expensive'.

Mr Barwell said Britain should not be scared to enforce its immigration controls but should do so in a consistent and fair manner. But he warned UK politicians 'the tone of our domestic debate on immigration matters internationally'. He said 'we need a more nuanced debate.'

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Australia To Introduce New Post-Study Work Visa Arrangements for Graduates

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) will introduce new post-study work arrangements in early 2013 for overseas graduates who hold an Australian Bachelor's, Master's or a Doctoral degree, a DIAC spokeswoman announced.

According to the announcement, the new post-study work arrangements is an additional stream in the existing temporary skilled graduate (subclass 485) visa which allows overseas graduates with skills and qualifications related to an in-demand occupation to remain in Australia for an additional 18 months. The introduction of new post-study work arrangements for degree level graduates in Australia was a key recommendation of the Strategic review of the student visa program 2011, conducted by the Hon Michael Knight AO.

The post-study work stream of the subclass 485 will be available for overseas students who lodged their first Australian student visa application after the introduction of the genuine temporary entrant requirement (GTE) on November 5, 2011.

If applicants do not meet the requirement, they can still apply for the temporary graduate visa through the graduate work stream (the existing subclass 485 arrangements).

To qualify for the new post-study work arrangements, applicants must graduate from an Australian educational institution with a Bachelor's, Master's and/or Doctoral degree. To complete this qualification, the study must have been at Bachelor level and above and must meet the Australian study requirement.

As the spokeswoman stated in the announcement, the duration of the subclass 485 visa under the new post-study work arrangements that applicants are granted will depend on the qualification that they have used to qualify for the stream. Graduates who have completed a Bachelor's degree, Master's by coursework degree or Master's extended degree may be eligible to apply for a two year post study work visa. Graduates who have completed a Master's by research degree or a Doctorate may be eligible to apply for a three or four year post-study work visa respectively. Other graduates may be eligible to apply for an 18 month subclass 485 visa through the graduate work stream.

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

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

McCain talks immigration on the border

Senator John McCain, the former Republican presidential candidate, returned to his home state of Arizona this week for a series of meetings about immigration with his constituents.

Mr McCain is a member of a species that was very rare in Washington until the last US presidential election, a Republican in favour of immigration reform. Now, there are many more Republican voices speaking out for reform in the US capital but in Arizona, as Mr McCain found out on Tuesday, Republicans and immigration reform are still an explosive combination.

Gang of Eight

Mr McCain is one of the so-called 'gang of eight'; a group of eight senators, four Republicans and four Democrats, who have drafted a framework for a comprehensive immigration reform bill.The bill will, if it becomes law,
• Strengthen the Mexican border still further
• Provide a 'pathway to citizenship' for many of the 11m foreign citizens currently living illegally in the US
• Provide more green cards (as permanent resident status is known) to more foreign graduates of US universities
• Rolling out the 'e-verify' system nationally to prevent illegal aliens from working in the US (employers will have to check that workers are entitled to work before employing them)

Most Republicans have traditionally been opposed to any 'amnesty' granting citizenship to illegal immigrants. They have said that to grant an amnesty would reward criminal behaviour and lead still more immigrants to come to the US illegally in the hope of becoming citizens in another amnesty in a few years' time. However, senior Republicans now say that, if the party does not embrace reform, including an effective amnesty for illegal immigrants, they may never regain the presidency again.

70% of Hispanics vote Democrat

This is because Hispanic voters are the fastest growing segment of the US electorate and they are in favour of an amnesty because most illegal immigrants are Hispanic (over half are from Mexico and about 80% are from Latin America). Over 70% of Hispanics voted Democrat at the last election. Many pollsters say it was the Hispanic vote that delivered the presidency to President Obama.

Mr McCain is a long-term supporter of immigration reform but he discovered yesterday in the Phoenix suburb of Sun Lakes that, away from Washington, pro-reform Republicans are a rare breed.

Mr McCain told his audience that strengthened border controls would prevent further illegal immigration. He said that a new, tamper-proof social security card would help prevent identity fraud and that there were not enough buses to deport all the 11m illegal immigrants currently in the US. He said that, before they became citizens, illegal immigrants would have to learn English, pay their back taxes and also pay fines for breaking immigration law.

Guns 'would stop immmigrants'

This sort of stuff might have gone down well in Washington but it was not popular with his audience in Phoenix. One man suggested that guns would stop illegal immigrants in their tracks. Another said that illegal immigrants should never be granted citizenship. A third denounced illegal immigrants as illiterates who were invading the US in search of benefits. It must have seemed to Mr McCain that he was a long way from Washington.

Arizona is the front line for illegal immigration in the US. It is on the US border with Mexico. 37% of all people stopped on the Mexican border are stopped near Tucson, Arizona. Arizona is the state with the eighth highest number of illegal immigrants in the US.

Janet Napolitano, the US Homeland Security Secretary, who was also in Arizona yesterday, said that border crossings have fallen by 50% since 2008. Last year, the US spent $18bn on border security.

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Monday, March 4, 2013

UK Home Secretary in showdown with immigration lawyers

Theresa May, the UK's Home Secretary, has accused the UK courts of shielding dangerous criminals from deportation. She says that immigration judges have been ignoring the will of parliament and that their stance will inevitably lead to crimes on the streets of the UK.

Traditionally, serving UK judges do not make public pronouncements about their decisions but many senior lawyers and retired judges spoke out against the Home Secretary saying that she is wrong to blame judges for decisions that she doesn't like because judges are only applying the laws of the land. If parliament wants the law to change, it should pass a new one, they say.

Right to family life

The dispute concerns the application of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to foreign criminals who are facing deportation from the UK. Where a foreign criminal has committed an offence in the UK, the UKBA will make a decision about whether to deport that person. Where they decide that deportation is appropriate, the criminal may contest that decision in court. If the criminal has a family in the UK, he will often claim that the decision to deport him is in breach of his human rights. Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights states that all people have the right to privacy and a family life. They will claim that their right to a family life is being interfered with.

However, Mrs May says that judges are deliberately ignoring the will of parliament when applying the ECHR.

In June 2012, Mrs May instigated a debate in the House of Commons on new immigration rules. The rules were designed to assist judges in deciding human rights cases brought by foreign criminals facing deportation. MPs agreed that, in most circumstances, criminals who are sentenced to a prison sentence of one to four years should be deported even if he had family in the UK, regardless of Article 8 of the ECHR.

'Parliament cannot predetermine the results of individual cases'

At the time of the vote, many eminent lawyers warned that judges could not be bound by the parliamentary vote and would still have to decide each case on its merits. Geoffrey Robertson QC, a leading human rights lawyer, told the Sunday Times in June 2012 'Parliament cannot predetermine the results of individual cases which all depend on careful and compassionate assessment of very different facts' and Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC said that any attempt by parliament to guide the courts by means of a vote would be 'ineffective because ultimately what controls the situation is article 8 (of the ECHR)'.

Since the debate in parliament last June, judges have continued to allow some criminals to stay in the UK under Article 8. This has evidently greatly upset Mrs May because she wrote an article for the Mail on Sunday, a UK newspaper, on 17th February 2013 in which she accused the judges of ignoring the will of parliament. Mrs May wrote that 'unless there are very exceptional circumstances, foreigners who have committed serious crimes…should be deported.' She said that this was the wish not only of herself but also of parliament and the people of the UK. But, she complained 'some of our judges appear to have got it into their heads that Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (the right to family life) is an absolute right'. Mrs May said that this is not the case.

No need for a vote

Mrs May said that parliament had come to a decision after a vigorous debate that as a general rule, any foreign national who had committed a serious offence should be deported, whether they had a family or not. Mrs May said that the House of Commons had been unanimous that there had been no need for a vote on the issue.
Mrs May said that this debate had expressed the will of parliament so clearly that it was wrong now for judges to decide to allow foreign criminals to stay in the UK in order to protect their right to a family life. Mrs May said that parliament is the 'ultimate law-maker'. She said that because some judges appear to question parliament's supremacy, she intended to introduce new primary legislation that would specify when foreign criminals would be allowed to stay and when they should go.

May says there will be 'more victims of violent crimes'

But Mrs May said that, in the meantime, there would be 'more victims of violent crimes committed by foreigners in this country – foreigners who should have been, and could have been deported'.
Senior lawyers such as Lord Woolf, a former Master of the Rolls (now retired), said that judges applied the law and if Mrs May wanted to change it, she should do so. Lord Carlile, a former advisor to the government on terrorism law, said that the Home Secretary had been wrong to attack the judges. Lord Pannick, a senior lawyer, said that if the Home Secretary did not like the decisions that judges made, she should appeal against them through the courts. He added that she had failed to do so.

Judge decries 'populist electioneering'

Peter Herbert, a junior immigration judge dismissed the Home Secretary's words as 'populist electioneering' and said that judges were required to consider each case on its merits. He said 'Where children are involved and where the crime was not serious, I am more likely to allow the claimants to stay. Judges are not in the business of breaking up families, separating children from parents to the detriment of society'.

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