Wednesday, July 31, 2013

UK benefitting from US immigration deadlock

The UK's tech sector has been growing fast in recent years. Industry insiders say that this is, at least in part, because US tech companies cannot get visas to bring skilled workers into the US.

London's growing tech industry, centred on 'Silicon roundabout' in the Old Street area of East London, has been growing particularly fast recently. The Financial Times recently reported that 15,720 new businesses were created in the EC1V (Old Street) postcode area alone in the year to March 31st 2013. Most of these were tech start-ups.

There have been some great start-up success stories such as Last.FM, and Mind Candy, the developer of Moshi Monsters.

US firms expanding in London

But another driver for the UK's tech boom has been the growth of large offices of US tech firms. These companies just cannot get skilled programmers into the US on H-1B or L-1 visas so they are expanding their operations in London.

Google, for example, is planning to build a new UK headquarters a mile or so down the road from Old Street in the newly redeveloped King's Cross area. Facebook has opened an office in trendy Covent Garden and Amazon and Cisco also have a presence in the city.

Michael Fertik, a US tech entrepreneur told the FT in June that the UK was profiting both because the UK has 'the world's most entrepreneur –friendly regulatory environment' and because the US immigration system is in such a mess.

'Huge boom for the London technology scene'

He said 'This is a huge boom for the London technology scene. It is just a nonsense to put [software] engineers anywhere apart from your home office. If you are doing that, it is because immigration [law] is getting in the way'.

Mr Fertik is the founder of the online reputation management service He has recently bought a UK company in the same business, Reputation 24/7, to hasten his expansion into Europe. He has decided not to base his business in London but in Liverpool, a city in the north-west of the country.

But he says that, if the US does manage to pass immigration reform legislation, that could be bad news for Silicon Roundabout and the UK in general as US firms would, he believes, then expand their US operations.

No immediate likelihood of US immigration reform

However, perhaps London need not get too worried just yet, even though there is an immigration reform bill currently on its way through Congress. The law would, if it became law:

  • Increase the number of H-1B visas for bachelor's degree holders from the current level of 65,000 to 130,000 with the capacity to rise to 180,000
  • Remove the cap, which currently stands at 20,000, on the number of H-1B visas that can be issued to holders of advanced degrees
  • Allow all advanced graduates of US universities to apply for US permanent resident visas (green cards)

The proposed law is called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act 2013. It was passed by 68 votes to 32 by the US Senate in June but needs to be passed with at least 261 votes in favour by the lower house of Congress, the House of Representatives, too if it is to become law.

But the House of Representatives is controlled by the Republicans who are, on the whole, opposed to the Act because of its central provision which is the establishment of a 'pathway to citizenship' for the estimated 11.5m people currently living illegally in the US. Republicans say that to do this would be to reward criminal behaviour.

UK visa options

Skilled workers coming to the UK to work for tech firms will usually come with a Tier 2 (General) visa, for skilled workers 'who have been offered a job to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker'. There is a cap of 20,700 annually on these visas though this has not yet ever been reached.

Workers who already work for international companies can come to the UK on Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) visas. There is no cap on these visas. This makes it easier for countries such as Google to set up and staff offices in London.

Entrepreneurs who have money, or can raise money, to invest in UK start-ups can also come with Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visas. You must have access to either

  • at least £200,000 of investment capital or
  • at least £50,000 from either
    • a registered venture capital firm,
    • a UK government endorsed seed funding competition or
    • a UK government or regional government department.

You must also be able to speak English to the required standard and have sufficient maintenance funds to meet the UK requirements.

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

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Quebec Immigrant Investor Program to reopen on 1st August 2013

As predicted, Quebec's Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP) is to reopen on 1st August 2013.

The QIIP will accept only 1,750 applications before it closes again. Applications will only be accepted between 1st August and 16th August 2013 by post. A maximum of 1,200 applications can come from any one country. In the event that more than 2,000 applications are received, there will be a ballot to decide which applications will be accepted for consideration.

Requirements of the QIIP

The main requirements are as follows.

  1. Applicants must invest CAN$800,000 for five years with a financial service provider approved by the Quebec government
  2. Applicants must have assets worth at least CAN$1,600,000. These assets must have been lawfully acquired and held for over six months.
  3. Applicants must have had over two years' management level experience in one of the following fields within the last five years
    • Farming
    • Commercial business
    • Industry
    • Professional business
    • International agency
    • A government, a government department or agency
  4. You must intend to settle in Quebec

Further requirements

When assessing your application, The Quebec immigration authorities will also assess

  • Your French language skills
  • Your age
  • The quality of your management level work experience

You should be aware that in March 2013, Canadian federal immigration minister Jason Kenney warned people who gain Canadian permanent resident status through the QIIP that they are committing immigration fraud if they live anywhere else in Canada other than Quebec.

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

Monday, July 29, 2013

Government advisory body says UK needs more skilled immigration

The UK's Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR) has advised the government that the country requires high levels of immigration to help grow the economy. It says that young migrants who come to the UK as skilled workers will have the greatest beneficial effect on the national accounts.

The OBR published its Fiscal Sustainability Report 2013, published on 17th July 2013. This report looks at the economic outlook for the UK in the medium to long term. It looks at all the factors that will affect the economy, from natural resource production to employment rates to immigration. The purpose of the exercise is to see whether the UK's fiscal position is sustainable in the long term.

The report finds that immigration, or a lack of immigration, will greatly affect the UK's economic performance and debt levels over the next fifty years.

UK has ageing population

The UK underwent a 'baby boom' between about 1945 and 1970. There is now an ageing population. Without immigration, there will be a shortage of labour to fill the available positions. The country is also experiencing a decline in revenues from the exploitation of North Sea oil and gas.

The country was also very badly hit by the economic crisis of 2007. The UK's economy is very dependent upon the financial services sector and the government was forced to spend many billions bailing out UK banks. In addition, the government has been spending more than it takes in in tax receipts for many years. As a result, the national debt currently stands at 90% of GDP.

The government is attempting to reduce this figure but the OBR warns that, if net immigration fell to zero in 2016, then by 2066, public debt would have risen to 174% of GDP. If immigration remained at the 2010 level of 260,000 then the public debt would have fallen to 75% of GDP.

Younger migrants better for the economy

The effect would be more favourable for the country if more of these migrants were young, working age migrants who would be economically active and would contribute very much more to the economy than they would take out, the OBR says.

The report says that 'the fiscal impact of immigration tends to be small in most countries' but says that there is 'clear evidence that, since migrants tend to be more concentrated in the working-age group, relatively to the rest of the population, immigration has a positive effect on the public sector's debt dynamics'.

The UK government is committed to a policy of reducing net immigration to below 100,000 annually by 2015. This puts it in disagreement with its own budgetary advisor.

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

Friday, July 26, 2013

UK immigration criticised for 'no hiding place' tweet

The UK's Home Office has been criticised for a tweet that was posted on a social networking website. The Home Office Twitter feed featured a tweet which promised that 'there will be no hiding place for illegal immigrants'.

The tweet was posted on 3rd July 2013 along with pictures of immigration enforcement officers placing several men of Asian appearance in a Home Office van. An attached video clip showed Immigration Minister Mark Harper talking about proposed changes to immigration law while standing at the scene of an immigration raid. Two people were arrested during the raid.

The Home Office posting caused a stir on Twitter. One tweeter responded 'You'd fit right in in Germany circa 1936'. Another suggested 'you might want to consider how you're approaching this whole social media thing really'.

Boot stamping on a human face stuff

Another said that the Home Office tweet was in 'the long noble tradition of making humans live in fear of 'the knock on the door'. Another said 'Truly chilling tweets from @ukhomeoffice on #immigrationbill. Orwellian is overused but this is pure 'Boot stamping on a human face' stuff.'

The Home Office did not respond to journalists' requests for comments.

The Home Office has been criticised for its tweets about immigration enforcement before. In August 2012, civil rights campaigners complained about the Home Office placing pictures of immigration raids on Twitter.

Home Office hoped to recover credibility after fiascos

After one immigration raid in Atlantic Road, Brixton, South London, Dr Nando Sigona, an academic working in immigration at Oxford University said that the raid, and others like it, were 'mainly a PR exercise…carried out in the hope to recover some credibility after a number of migration and border management fiascos'.

Dr Sigona went on to warn that the raids 'may turn out not to be the media success that they hope for' and 'can potentially exacerbate tensions in local communities. He said that the Home Office's campaign featured images of non-white males in places like Brixton. He said that this was 'a very partial and convenient representation of the population of undocumented migrants in London'.

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

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Republicans intend to block US immigration reform

After a meeting of Republican Congressmen and women on Wednesday 10th July 2013, the prospects for the comprehensive immigration reform bill initially passed by the Senate last month look poor. To become law, the bill must also be passed by the Republican controlled House of Representatives (The House). At a meeting on Wednesday 10th July, many House Republicans spoke out against it.

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Bill 2013 (the bill) was passed by the upper house of Congress, the Senate, with 68 votes in favour on 28th June. To become law, it must obtain 60% support in both the Senate and the House.

While the Senate is controlled by the Democrats, the House of Representatives is controlled by the Republicans. A sizeable number of Republican Representatives are vehemently opposed to the bill mainly because of its central provision; the creation of 'a pathway to citizenship' for many of the 11.5m immigrants currently living in the US illegally.

Few House Republicans support reform

While some House Republicans, such as the former Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan, support the bill, the meeting of Representatives on 10th July seems to show that they are not the majority.
Former Republican presidential hopeful Michelle Bachman told journalists on Tuesday that she was opposed to the bill. She said 'Until they can certify that the border is secure, I don't think we should take up any bill whatsoever.

She told journalists on Thursday 11th July that Republicans were very split on the issue and that all shades of opinion were to be found among representatives.

This seems to make it even less likely that the bill will be passed. The leader of the Republicans in the House, John Boehner, has said that he will not allow a vote on the issue in the House unless a majority of Republicans support it.

This makes the mathematical chances of the bill passing even smaller. To gain 60% support in the House, the bill requires 261 votes out of the 435 available. The Democrats hold 201 seats. If all Democrats voted for the bill, 60 Republicans would need to support it to see it become law.

Bill must get support from 117 Republicans to proceed to vote

But Representative Boehner's promise to block a vote unless half of Republicans support it means that it will need support from 117 Republicans at least. Washington commentators say that this won't be forthcoming any time soon.

The House was expected to vote for the bill before the summer recess but Representatives are now saying that there is unlikely to be a vote until after they return to Washington in September. One, John Fleming from Louisiana said there was no chance of a vote in July. 'We are going to go back to our districts and talk to our constituents' he said, 'that is what August is for'.

Another Representative, Darrell Issa of California sought to blame the President for the failure of Republican representatives to support reform. He said that Mr Obama should spend 'more time working with Congress instead of trying to undermine it'.

Congress increasingly split along party lines

Washington commentators have noted that, over recent years, there has been increasingly little cooperation between Democrats and Republicans in Washington. The Republican Party has moved to the right under the influence of the grass roots Tea Party movement and finds it almost impossible to agree with Democrats on any issue. Republicans claim that Mr Obama's Democrats have moved further to the left.

On the issue of immigration, Republicans say that to grant a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants would be to reward criminality and would be unfair on genuine, lawful immigrants who apply in the normal way.

They are also concerned that most illegal immigrants in the US are believed to come from Latin America and most Latin Americans currently vote Democrat. So Republicans fear that granting citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants would harm their party's electoral prospects.

Republicans losing support among Latino voters

Others warn the party that because Latino voters support the pathway to citizenship, the Republicans are losing support among current Latino voters by opposing reform.

At present, in the House at least, it seems that the Republicans are set against the bill.

House leader John Boehner says that, if the bill does not pass, he will work on a series of piecemeal reforms which would increase the number of H-1B visas available for graduate workers in a 'specialty occupation' and the number of work-related green cards for foreign graduates of US universities.

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

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

UK immigration minister says 'UK visa process is good and getting better'

Mark Harper, the UK Immigration Minister, has said that it is 'a misconception' that Chinese visitors to the UK 'have a hard time getting a UK visa and it's time to stop knocking the system'.

Writing in UK travel magazine Travel Weekly, Mr Harper wrote 'I believe we are running a good visa service – and our customers disagree' though he conceded that 'we should do more'. He conceded that there had been 'reports' that the UK was not running a good visa service in China but said that they were false. 'The facts speak for themselves', he wrote 'almost 300,000 visas were issued in 2012 with the vast majority processed in 15 days and around half in just five days'.

He continued 'Our customers in China are happy, with 99% of those surveyed saying they were satisfied with the service and telling us that it compares well with their experiences with other visa services'.

However, Jason Yap, a travel agent who helps Chinese tourists and businesspeople to travel to the west disagrees. He says 'the reality is that the UK visa application process remains far more complicated than in neighbouring EU countries such as France'.

Chinese passport applicants find EU visa process easier and quicker

Mr Yap says that

  • Applicants for UK passports have to attend an embassy in person to get a visa so that their thump print can be taken
  • The application must be filled out in English. French visa forms come in Chinese
  • UK visas take, on average 15 days whereas French visas take ten.
  • UK visas are 50% more expensive than French visas and French visas allow their holders to visit the 25 other nations in the EU's borderless Schengen Area.

Mr Yap says that this explains why, in 2012, 1.15m Chinese people visited France whereas only 180,000 visited the UK.

Mr Yap says that the number of applicants for French visas has risen by 49% in the last year. He says that the UK is missing out on the opportunity to attract a great deal of tourist revenue.

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Obama says US immigration reform wold add $1.4 trillion to economy

President Obama has attempted to keep up pressure on Congressional opponents of immigration reform by making the economic case for reform. The President told the country that the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in June would add $1.4trillion to the US economy in the next 20 years.

The bill will only become law if it is also passed by the lower house of Congress, the House of Representatives, with at least 60% support. The House of Representatives (known as 'the House') is controlled by Republicans and many Republican Representatives are opposed to the current bill because it proposes a 'pathway to citizenship' for many of the 11.5m illegal immigrants currently living in the US.

The President promised to make comprehensive immigration reform a priority in his second term and so is attempting to pressurise the House to pass the bill. He said that Congress has been debating the matter for more than a decade and must act now. The last time a similar bill was introduced was in 2006 under President Bush but this too failed to become law.

'Foreign companies are more likely to invest' in the US after reform – Obama

The President used his weekly address to the nation on Saturday 13th July to say that 'immigration reform would make it easier for highly skilled immigrants and those who study at our colleges and universities to start businesses and create jobs right here in America'. He said that 'foreign companies are more likely to invest here. The demand for goods and services would go up creating more jobs for American workers'.

He added that additional tax revenue, largely paid by the former illegal immigrants who would pay taxes once they were able to work legally, would enable the government to reduce the US budget deficit by up to $850 bn over 20 years.

It is unlikely, however, that these economic arguments will have very much effect on the hard core opponents of the bill. For them, it is the creation of 'a pathway to citizenship' for illegal immigrants that makes the bill so offensive.

Pathway to citizenship would reward criminality

Many Republicans say that to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants would be to reward criminal behaviour.

After a meeting of House Republicans last week, it became clear that a vote in the House is now unlikely before September. Until it happens, supporters of reform will intensify their lobbying campaign. They believe that they successfully lobbied Republicans in the Senate to support the bill at the Senate's vote on 28th June 2013.

The current bill is called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act 2013. It seeks to totally upgrade the US immigration system which politicians of all parties agree is failing the country.

Main points of proposed law

If the Act becomes law

  • Spending on border security along the Mexican/US border would be massively increased
  • A 'pathway to citizenship' would be established for most of the 11.5m illegal immigrants living in the US. They would have to pay $500 fine for illegally immigrating, pay back taxes, learn English and wait for at least ten years before they could acquire citizenship.
  • The number of H-1B 'specialty occupation' visas granted to Bachelor's degree students would rise immediately from 65,000 to 130,000 per year and could rise to 180,000 in times of high demand. The cap on H-1B visas for PhD and Doctorate students, currently set at 20,000, would be removed altogether.
  • Graduates of US universities with doctorates and PhD degrees would be able to apply for US permanent resident visas (or 'green cards'). There would be no cap on the number of applications allowed.
  • US businesses would be required to check all new employees against the E-Verify computer system to check that they are entitled to work in the US.
  • There would be a new 'w-visa' for unskilled workers in agriculture and construction.

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

Monday, July 22, 2013

UK immigration: MP calls for British 'green card' visa for migrant workers

Right wing Conservative MP Liam Fox has called for radical reform of the UK's immigration system in favour of skilled workers at the expense of family members of UK citizens.

Dr Fox, who was forced to resign as the Minister of Defence in 2011 after allegations of impropriety, has spent the last two years writing a book about his political vision. His proposals relating to immigration are perhaps lacking in detail.

He proposes an 'open and shut' immigration policy which would increase the number of visas granted to skilled workers and reduce the numbers granted to family members of UK citizens and residents.

He says 'If we are going to ensure that those with the necessary skills for the high end of our economy are more able to come to the United Kingdom, then the corollary will be that the numbers of those who come here as part of our social or cultural migration will need to be curtailed'.

UK must reform immigration systems to be more like Australia, Canada and US – Dr Fox

Dr Fox says that the UK should reform its immigration system to be more like those in Canada, the US and Australia. However, according to the Organisation for Economic Development, the UK already has a system which takes in a similar proportion of working migrants to those in Australia and Canada. It takes a much higher proportion of working migrants than the US.

Writing in right-wing UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph, Dr Fox says that the UK profits from immigration and has been, since the Norman Conquest in 1066, 'a successful, if not always willing, partner in assimilating a wide range of cultures and interests'. Nonetheless, he says that he has found when he travels the country many people express their concerns about the level of immigration to him.

He says that immigration was out of control under the previous Labour government when there was net immigration of over 250,000 people every year. This figure has now been reduced to 160,000 and is expected to fall further soon, he says.

'The country has a structural imbalance' – Dr Fox

However, Dr Fox says that the UK's population is ageing and therefore 'the country has a structural imbalance which requires a sustainable solution'. He says that 'we need to move away from an immigration debate that is driven purely about numbers and start to talk about which individuals and skills we will need in the future'.

He says 'We need to stop talking simply about how many people are coming into Britain and start taking about which people are coming into Britain. He says that the UK needs to attract more skilled workers and cut the number of family immigrants.

Dr Fox says that there are many examples of immigration systems which are skewed in favour of economic immigrants. He says that Australia, Canada and the US are examples of countries with such systems. He says 'The United States has long operated a Green Card system with quotas that benefit immigrants with a profession or experience in business, the arts, sport or academia – talents that benefit American society and their economy. We need to follow a similar path.

UK already issues higher proportion of work visas than US

In fact, the UK already has a skilled worker immigrant visa; the Tier 2 visa. There are two types of Tier 2 visas;

  • Tier 2 (General) for skilled workers. There is a cap of 20,700 annually, though this has never been reached and
  • Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) There is no cap on these visas which, as the name suggests, enable workers in international companies to transfer to the UK.

The UK also has special visas for 'high value migrants';

  • The Tier 1 (entrepreneur) visa allows foreign entrepreneurs to set up businesses in the UK.
  • The Tier 1 (investor) visa allows people with £1m to invest in UK investments to come to the UK as investors and
  • The Tier 1 (exceptional Talent) visa allows world-leading talents in the arts, humanities and sciences (including engineering) to apply for a UK visa. It is extremely difficult to qualify for one of these visas. There is a annual cap of 1,000 but only about 50 were issued in the first year that they were available.
  • The Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa allows graduates from UK universities with a viable business plan to apply for a visa to let them stay in the UK for a year while they establish a business.

It is also interesting to note that only 6% of US migrants annually are classed by the OECD as economic migrants whereas about 28% of UK migrants are economic migrants. The UK's proportion of economic migrants is in line with those in Australia and Canada.

Dr Fox resigned from the Coalition government in 2011 over allegations that he had taken a friend with him on governmental trips and had carried out private business.

Young researcher lived rent free in his house

The UK's media raised questions about Dr Fox's relationship with his friend Adam Werrity. Dr Fox met Mr Werrity while Fox was the Conservatives' front bench spokesman on Scotland and Mr Werrity was studying at Edinburgh University. After leaving university, Mr Werrity briefly became a parliamentary researcher for Mr Fox and lived rent free in his London flat from 2002 to 2003.

Between 2009 and 2011, Mr Werrity travelled abroad with Dr Fox on 20 separate occasions. Some of these trips occurred when Dr Fox was Secretary of State for Defence. Mr Werrity was described by Dr Fox and business associates as a 'special advisor' to Dr Fox though he had no governmental position.

Dr Fox resigned because 'my frequent contacts with [Mr Werrity] may have given an impression of wrongdoing, and may also have given third parties the misleading impression that Mr Werrity was an official adviser rather than simply a friend'.

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

Friday, July 19, 2013

US Immigration reform bill passes the Senate

Comprehensive immigration reform came a step closer in the US on Thursday 28th June 2013 after the US Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act 2013. For the Act to become law, it still needs to be passed by the other house of Congress, the House of Representatives (known as 'the House').

The law would create a 'pathway to citizenship' allowing many of the 11.5m illegal immigrants living in the US to apply to become citizens. It would also greatly increase the number of H-1B temporary work visas issued annually and allow many foreign graduates of US universities with doctorates and PhDs to apply for US permanent resident visas.

The Senate passed the proposed law by a majority of 68 votes to 32. The House will vote on the bill in July and it will need the support of at least 60% of Representatives to become law. This amounts to 261 of the 435 Representatives. In the House, there are 234 Republicans and 201 Democrats so it will need the support of at least 60 Republicans. This is by no means assured.

'We're going to do our own bill' – Boehner

The Republican leader in the House, John Boehner, previously said that he was in favour of reform of the immigration system but he has also said that he will not send forward the Senate bill for a vote in the House. He told the press 'we're going to do our own bill…that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people'.

This could mean that the draft law that emerges from House committees has been amended so heavily that it is almost unrecognisable. Many Republicans are vehemently opposed to reform. In particular, they see the 'pathway to citizenship' as a reward for criminal behaviour (entering or remaining in the US illegally) and also fear that illegal immigrants who become citizens are likely to vote Democrat. One Representative, Lamar Smith of Texas, has already suggested that the final House bill may no longer include provisions for the creation of a pathway to citizenship; for most supporters of reform, its most important provision.

Meanwhile, the pressure from pro-reform activists is likely to build on Representatives. One pro-reform Democratic Representative, Luis Gutierrez, said 'I don't think the House of Representatives quite understands how broad and deep [support for reform] is because it's been perpetually stationed outside the Senate for the last four months. Well now, they're closing down camp there [outside the Senate] and setting up camp here [outside the House].

Schumer endorses million-person pro-reform rally

A Democrat senator, Charles Schumer, has endorsed a planned million-person march to Washington by pro-reform activists. The President is calling on the House to pass the bill soon.
President Obama made immigration reform a priority for his second term. Republicans in the House may see that as yet another reason to vote against it. On the other hand, a recent Gallup poll published on 19th June suggests that 87% of US voters would vote in favour of the establishment of a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants providing that immigrants
  • Wait for 'a long period before becoming citizens
  • Pay back taxes and a penalty for entering the country illegally
  • Pass a background check and
  • Learn English.

These are all requirements for those who wish to become US citizens that are already in the bill passed by the Senate. Some Republican Representatives may believe that they would be foolhardy to ignore such clear poll results.

Provisions of the bill

Te bill would

  • Create a 'pathway to citizenship' for most illegal immigrants with no criminal record. They will be required to pay back taxes and a fee of $500. The process would take over ten years. They will also be required to learn English.
  • Massively increase spending on border security and would provide for a doubling of the number of border guards, the creation of a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border and border patrols by unmanned 'drone' aircraft.
  • Require all US employers to check new employees against the E-Verify database to ensure that they are entitled to work in the US.
  • Immediately increase the number of H-1B 'specialty occupation' visas available. Under the current system, there are 65,000 H-1Bs available for annually for foreign workers in 'specialty occupations' with masters' degrees (or 'degree equivalence') and 20,000 for those with PhDs and doctorates. If the bill is passed, there will be no cap for those with PhDs and doctorates and the number of H-1Bs for those with masters' degrees will rise immediately to 130,000 and could rise as high as 180,000 in times of high demand.
  • Allow foreign graduates of US universities with PhDs or doctorates to apply immediately for a US permanent resident visa (colloquially known as a 'green card'
  • Establish a new 'w-visa' for low-skilled workers in construction and agriculture.

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

Thursday, July 18, 2013

UK immigration inspector says UKBA ignored police data on missing asylum seekers

The UK's chief inspector of immigration, John Vine, has issued a final damning report into the workings of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) which was abolished in March 2013. He found that, while there had been improvements in the organisation's systems for finding asylum seekers in its final months, it continued to ignore important data right up until the end.

Mr Vine has been the UK's chief inspector of immigration since 2008. He was recently reappointed and will stay in his position until July 2015. He is considered by the Home Affairs Committee, a committee of MPs which oversees the work of the Home Office, to have been successful in discovering inefficiency and bad practice in the UK's immigration authorities.

In November 2012, Mr Vine's office issued a report into the working of the UKBA's handling of 'legacy asylum cases'. These were asylum claims which had been 'lost' by the UKBA and left undecided, often for many years. In 2006, an internal review in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate of the Home Office, which then handled UK immigration, had uncovered some 450,000 such cases which had not been dealt with. The UKBA was established in 2008 and instructed to clear this backlog by 2011.

UKBA failed to deal with asylum backlog

The UKBA failed to deal with the backlog and has been frequently criticised by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee for its inefficiency. In early 2013, there were still 310,000 cases awaiting decision.

Mr Vine's November 2012 report found that the UKBA's systems for finding and deporting failed asylum seekers were chaotic and inefficient.

For example, in its efforts to find 74,500 claimants who had 'disappeared', the UKBA said that it had checked each file against a range of government databases in order to find out more information about the claimants and, perhaps, to find them. Jonathan Sedgwick, a former acting head of the organisation, told the Home Affairs Committee in April 2011 that the Agency had made 'exhaustive checks' on all 74,500 files against 19 government databases.

Mr Vine's inspections established that this was not true and that, in many instances, no checks at all had been made. Mr Sedgwick was forced to appear again before the committee in November 2012 and to apologise for 'inadvertently' misleading parliament.

In his November 2012 report, Mr Vine made several recommendations for improving performance. In December 2012, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, asked Mr Vine to report again on how well the UKBA had implemented the recommendations of his previous report.

UKBA made some progress in early 2013

Mr Vine issued this follow-up report on 26th June 2013. It covers the period of January to March 2013. It says that, during this period, the UKBA made some progress in implementing his previous recommendations but was still far from perfect.

He found that UKBA staff were implementing many of his recommendations. But there were some significant failures. There were many older cases which had been transferred from paper files. Staff did not check the paper file to see if more information was held in the paper file. The UKBA now uses electronic files but older cases were originally held on paper.

Mr Vine found that some information and documentation in the paper files was missing in the new computerised filing system. He recommended that UKBA staff should always check the paper file when dealing with such a case to check to see if there was further information on paper.

Mr Vine found that the UKBA wrote to about 105,000 legacy asylum claimants. They received 25,500 responses and have reopened those files. They have closed 80,300 because the people in question could not be found but Mr Vine found that the Agency had not followed up any 'hits', or positive matches, found on the Police National Computer.

UKBA failed to pursue over 3,000 hits on Police National Computer

Mr Vine reports that of the 105,000 names checked against the PNC, there were 3,077 matches. This means that the individual who claimed asylum, or someone with an identical name, had been in contact with the police. The police therefore had contact details for those people which may have been more up-to-date than those on the UKBA system.

Having asked the police to make the checks, the UKBA then made no use of the data. Mr Vine said that there seemed to be 'no rationale' for this failure. He has recommended that the UK immigration authorities should follow up all 3,077 leads as soon as possible.

He also found that, where the UKBA had reopened files after a computer check had revealed a 'hit', it had taken no action since reopening them. He recommends that now that they have been reopened, they should be completed one way or another.
He also recommends that UK immigration should
  1. Publish a realistic and achievable timescale for the completion of all legacy asylum and migration cases.
  2. Prioritise the implementation and conclusion of all outstanding recommendations from the previous report.
  3. Undertake its own sample of closed legacy asylum and migration cases in order to determine whether information contained in the paper files can help it trace a greater number of applicants.
  4. Takes action to:
    • review all 3,077 PNC positive hits to determine whether these records contain contact information that can be used to locate and trace applicants; and
    • refine its bulk data-matching methodology and follow up all 'maybe' hits to determine whether applicants can be traced

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

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Citizenship and Immigration Canada asks Canadians for views on immigration

The Canadian immigration minister, Jason Kenney, has asked the Canadian public and a number of 'stakeholders' to submit their opinions about immigration in an extensive online consultation. The consultation opened on 21st June 2013 and will continue until 31st August 2013.

At the launch of the consultation, Mr Kenney told journalists 'Since 2006, the government of Canada has welcomed the highest sustained levels of immigration in Canadian history. Given the importance of immigration to our economic growth and long-term prosperity, we are especially keen to hear the views of Canadians as we prepare for the years ahead'.

Canada has encouraged high levels of immigration in recent years because of fears that the ageing population will lead to a skills shortage when so-called 'baby-boomers' retire. Canadian business organisations say that Canada needs to bring in skilled workers to fill skills gaps.

Canada takes 250,000 new permanent residents per year

The Canadian government has maintained one of the largest immigration programmes in the world in proportion to its population. Every year some 250,000 people gain Canadian permanent resident status but there is some evidence that some Canadians may want immigration to be scaled back.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has invited various 'stakeholders' to respond to the consultation and has also invited contributions from the public. Among the stakeholders asked are

  • Employers
  • Unions
  • Academia
  • Educational institutions
  • Professional organisations
  • Business associations
  • Regulators
  • Municipalities
  • Aboriginal Groups
  • 'Settlement provider organisations' and
  • 'Ethnocultural organisations'

CIC issued a statement saying that the consultations 'present an opportunity to raise greater public awareness of the difficult decisions involved in managing a global immigration system'.

'There are competing visions for the future'

It continued 'There are competing visions and diverging goals for the future of the immigration program. Engaging stakeholders and the broader public is key to CIC's development of an overall strategy for Canada moving forward'.

There is some evidence that public enthusiasm for immigration in Canada may be waning. A poll conducted by EKOS Research in February found that 40% of respondents believed there were too many immigrants in Canada. 43% of native Canadians felt this way as did 27% of first-generation Canadians.

EKOS carried out similar polls in 1994 and in 2005. In 1994, 50% of respondents said that they believed that there were too many immigrants in Canada. By 2005, this figure had fallen to 30%. Now, however, it has risen again.

Hostility to immigration has not increased

Frank Graves, the president of EKOS said that he did not believe that hostility to immigration had increased. He said that the company had changed its method of collecting data and now used Interactive voice response automated software to gather data.

Mr Graves told The Huffington Post Canada that he believes that people are more likely to be honest about their dislike of immigration when questioned impersonally by a 'robot'. The robot was not used in the earlier polls and this, Mr Graves believes, led to underreporting of opposition to immigration.

The poll shows that younger Canadians are more likely to be unworried by immigration as are people with higher education qualifications and people living in metropolitan areas.

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

'Prince of Darkness' tells Republicans to back US immigration reform

Karl Rove, the controversial advisor to George W Bush has written an article in The Wall Street Journal in which he warns the Republican Party that it will have to 'do better with Hispanics' if it ever wants to regain the presidency. This means, among other things, that Republican Congressmen and women will have to support the comprehensive US immigration reform bill which is before Congress at the moment.

Mr Rove was a divisive figure who was accused by Democrats of dirty campaigning and dubbed an 'evil genius' in the dark arts of political smear and political 'attack ads'. He was also credited by George W Bush with winning the 2004 Presidential campaign for the Republicans and so he is an influential figure in the Republican Party.

The Republican Party is split on immigration. Some national strategists warn that the Republicans need to embrace the Latino vote in order to be able to compete in presidential elections. They say that the Latino vote is growing and that Latinos vote overwhelmingly for the Democrats (nearly 80% of Latino voters voted for President Obama in the 2012 presidential election.

Some Conservative voices call on Republicans to focus on white voters

Other strategists say that the Republicans should focus on their core support which is to be found among the white community. Mr Rove says that leading conservative voices such as Phyllis Schlafly of the conservative Eagle Forum, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan, and Mark Krikorian of the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies 'argue that, if Republicans want to win back the White House, they should focus on white voters rather than worrying about Latinos.

These and other conservatives argue that 100,042,000 white voters voted in 2008 whereas only 98,041,000 did so in 2012. They argue that appealing to white voters would provide enough votes to gain the presidency for the Republicans because whites still make up 72% of the electorate.

But Mr Rove says that this is flawed thinking. He says that to have won against President Obama, Republican challenger Mitt Romney would have needed to draw 62.54% of white voters. This, Rove says, would be 'a tall order, given that Ronald Reagan received 63% of the white vote in his 1984 (landslide) victory'.

In addition, the non-white share of the vote has doubled since 1984 when Ronald Reagan won 49 of the 50 states on his way to the Presidency. It was 13% then and it is 28% now. This means that 'winning the white vote' has become less electorally decisive. Mr Rove says that the first President Bush won 60% of the white vote in 1988 and won 426 Electoral College votes. 16 years later in 2004, his son George W Bush won 58% of the white vote and gained only 286 Electoral College votes.

'The non-white share of the vote will keep growing' – Rove

'The reality is that the non-white share of the vote will keep growing' Mr Rove says and he concludes 'if the GOP leaves non-white voters to the Democrats, then its margins in safe congressional districts and red (Republican) states will dwindle-not overnight but over years and decades'.

At the same time, Mr Rove argues, appealing to Latino voters (who comprise 72% of the electorate in 2012) but annoying white voters is clearly not a sensible policy either. He says 'They (the Republicans) need to do better with white and Hispanic voters'.

Republicans must appeal to all Americans - Rove

Mr Rove says that even if the Republicans support immigration reform, it will not solve all their problems but he says the party must appeal to Americans of all races in order to win the presidency again.

The House of Representatives is due to vote on the immigration reform bill in July. It may be that Mr Rove's support will persuade some Republican representatives to vote for reform.

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

Monday, July 15, 2013

Boris Johnson says UK should give amnesty to illegal immigrants

The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has backed a plan to give an amnesty to illegal immigrants who have been in the UK for twelve years or more. Mr Johnson was speaking on London news radio station LBC Radio on Tuesday 2nd July 2013 on his new Ask Boris show.

Mr Johnson was asked by co-presenter Nick Ferrari whether he supported an amnesty for all illegal immigrants. He said that, in fact, the UK already has an effective amnesty for people who have been in the country illegally for twelve years. He asked 'why not be honest about it?'

Mr Johnson said that he had made this suggestion before in 2010 and all the major party leaders had 'turned their machine guns on me'. Mr Ferrari asked Mr Johnson whether he would 'reward' people who had broken the UK's immigration law by granting them citizenship.

'Why not be honest about what is going on?' – Johnson

Mr Johnson said that he would because this would enable them to come out into the open and work legally and pay taxes. He said that the UK effectively has an amnesty already and asked 'why not be honest about what is going on?... Otherwise…they're not engaged in the economy. They're not being honest with the system. They're not paying their taxes properly and it's completely crazy'.

Mr Johnson added that he believed 'the key thing is to stop [illegal immigrants] from coming in such numbers' and 'to be much tougher in your approach to borders'. He said that 'the human rights culture' made it incredibly difficult to deport illegal immigrants and said that in the last 20 years, the UK had failed to evict anyone due to the power of 'ambulance chasing lawyers'.

Last week, a Conservative MP, Nadhim Zahawi, made a similar call for an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Mr Zahawi, himself a Kurdish immigrant from Iraq, said that, if a Conservative government granted an amnesty to illegal immigrants, it might improve the party's standing among ethnic minority voters.

Mr Zahawi is also the founder of polling company YouGov and said that polls repeatedly show that ethnic minority voters do not support the Conservative Party in large numbers. He said that only 6% of ethnic minority voters consider themselves to be supporters of the Conservative Party compared to 53% who back the left-wing Labour Party.

Ethnic minorities have a deep distrust of the Conservative Party – Nadhim Zahawi MP

He said that polling also shows that ethnic minority voters support many Conservative policies but had a deep distrust of the party. He said that a significant gesture, such as the granting of citizenship to illegal immigrants, might begin to reduce that distrust.

But the UK's Prime Minister, David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, asked about Mr Zahawi's proposal on Friday afternoon said 'It's not [a plan] we're going to implement. It would tend a terrible signal of Britain as a soft touch'.

Mr Johnson, also a Conservative, has therefore put himself on the opposing side of the argument from his leader. Political commentators in the UK press are continually looking for signs that Mr Johnson, one of the most popular elected politicians in the UK, is seeking to challenge Mr Cameron who is the leader of an increasingly unpopular Coalition government.

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

Friday, July 12, 2013

Overseas students say 'UK immigration cap' makes them feel less welcome

poll of international students carried out on behalf of a UK trades union has found that over half of foreign students questioned said that 'the government's immigration cap makes them feel less welcome in the UK'.

The poll was carried out for the University and College Union (UCU), a trades union for university and college lecturers. 510 students from 105 UK higher education institutions were questioned.

The UK does not have an overall immigration cap. There is, however, an annual cap of 22,700 on the number of Tier 2 (General) visas that can be issued to skilled workers.

Over 80% of international students happy with their UK education

The poll found that over 80% of international students who were studying at UK universities on Tier 4 student visas said they were happy with the education they were receiving. 94% said that UK higher education was highly respected.

Simon Renton of the UCU issued a statement in which he said 'The government either does not realise the damage its rhetoric on immigration is doing to our standing on the global stage or it doesn't care. Including overseas students in the immigration cap was a mistake and this research is a real insight into the damage that decision has done to UK PLC.'

Mr Renton when talking about the immigration cap seems to be referring to a promise made by the UK's Prime Minister, David Cameron, before the last general election in 2010. Mr Cameron said that, if he became prime minister, he would reduce the level of annual net immigration into the UK from its then level of about 260,000 per year to 'tens of thousands' per year.

Government ministers now say that what they mean by this is that they would reduce net immigration to below 100,000 per year. Professor David Metcalf of the Migration Advisory Committee says that the 100,000 figure is something that the government "aspires to" rather than a target.

UK net immigration has fallen to 150,000 annually

However, since the election, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, and the Immigration Minister, Mark Harper, have both confirmed that the government is working towards this goal. The latest figures show that net immigration has fallen to about 150,000 per year after the government made various changes to the immigration rules.

But in April, Mr Harper said in an interview 'There is no limit to the number of students who can come to the UK'. Mr Harper said that the government had closed down 500 colleges that had 'sold immigration, not education' but said that the government was keen to attract 'the brightest and the best' to the UK.

Mr Cameron gave the same message in an interview with Indian television in February 2013. He said ''there is no limit on the number of students who can come from India to study at British universities, no limit at all. All you need is a basic English qualification and a place at a British university.'

Closure of Tier 1 (Post Study Work) Visa stream may discourage international students

The government has, however, introduced several changes to its immigration regime that have had an impact on students. In 2012, it closed the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa which allowed international graduates from UK universities to stay in the UK for two years after leaving university. There have been fears that this might dissuade students from studying in the UK.

The government has also introduced more checks on overseas students which they say is to ensure that they are 'genuine students and are not abusing the UK's Tier 4 student visa by coming to the UK to work, rather than study.

In June 2012, university vice-chancellors called on the government to remove students from the immigration statistics. They said that, because the government was committed to reducing the net immigration total to below 100,000 per year, it was damaging the UK's export education sector. They asked that students should be counted as temporary rather than permanent residents in the immigration statistics.

But the then immigration minister Damian Green said that to do so would be 'absurd'. He said that students were immigrants because they live in the UK for three years and use the same services as other residents.

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

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Deal on US immigration enforcement should see reform act pass Senate

Immigration moved centre stage in Washington last week as Congress debated the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act 2013 ('the bill'). This bill will, if it becomes law, comprehensively reform the US immigration system.

There was good news for supporters of reform when it emerged that the bill should pass the upper house of Congress, The Senate, by 70 votes to 30 after senators reached a deal on border security.

The bill must be passed by both houses of Congress with 60% support to become law but its supporters want it to gain at least 70 votes in the Senate to put pressure on the lower house, the House of Representatives, to pass the bill too.

$50bn extra to be spent on US border security

News of the deal emerged on Thursday 20th June 2013. A Republican amendment which would see a further $50bn spent on border security along the US's south-western border with Mexico was accepted. The extra money would be spent on doubling the number of border guards and on manned and unmanned reconnaissance planes, radar and electronic surveillance equipment.

The US already spends US$18bn on border security annually; more than all other law enforcement combined. The original draft of the bill proposed spending a further $4.5bn but this was not enough for some Republicans.

For years politicians from both parties have agreed that the US immigration system is 'broken' but, as ever in Washington, they cannot agree on what to do about it. Congress is bitterly divided along party lines and it has become almost impossible in recent years for any legislation to be passed, particularly because the balance of power is so fine. The Democrats hold the 100 seat Senate by 54:46 whereas the Republicans hold the 435 seat House by 234 seats to 201 (54% to 46%).

Bipartisan cooperation is rare in Washington

This means that bills require bipartisan support to become law but the bitter rivalry between the parties means cooperation is rare.
President Obama promised to make immigration reform a major priority in his second term. He left the drafting of the bill to a group of eight Senators, four Republicans and four Democrats, known as the Gang of Eight, in the hope that this might encourage bipartisan support. The bill would
  • Increase border security
  • Provide a 'pathway to citizenship' for the 11.5m illegal immigrants living in the US. This 'pathway' would be long and hard. It will take well over ten years for those who apply to become citizens.
  • Award permanent resident visas (or 'green cards') for foreign students who receive doctorates and PhDs from US universities
  • Increase the number of H-1B 'specialty occupation' temporary work visas granted each year from the current level of 85,000 annually to a maximum of about 200,000 annually
  • Create a 'w-visa' for low-skilled workers in agriculture and construction
  • Require US employers to check the employment status of all workers against the E-Verify system before employing them

It is the second provision which causes many Republican Congressmen to oppose the bill. Republicans believe that the establishment of a 'pathway to citizenship' for illegal immigrants is wrong because it rewards criminal behaviour; entering the country or remaining in the country illegally. They also argue that, if the pathway is established before the border is secured, within a few years, there will be another 11m illegal immigrants pressing for citizenship.

Republicans fear illegal immigrants would vote Democrat if given citizenship

They are also concerned because 80% of illegal immigrants in the US are of Hispanic descent and Hispanic voters overwhelmingly vote Democrat.

Republican strategists tell Congressmen that, unless they back reform, to appeal to Hispanic voters, there will never be another Republican President because Hispanic voters are growing rapidly as a proportion of the electorate.

One Republican senator, Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, a member of the Gang of Eight, has warned colleagues that, if they vote 'no', they will be locked in a 'demographic death spiral' and face electoral oblivion.

Without reform there will be no more Republican presidents –Senator Menendez

Another senator, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, warned that, without reform, 'there will never be a road to the White House for the Republican Party'.

Nonetheless, many Republican Congressmen and women seem to be opposed to the bill. The reason for that may be self-interest. The US system of primary elections means that, before a politician can stand for election he has to be elected to stand by his local party members.

These activists are usually more extreme than the general population. Many have said they will deselect any Congressman who backs the bill. In short, Republican Congressmen have to choose between their careers and their party's chance of regaining the presidency.

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Strike causing delays for Canadian visa applicants

Continuing industrial action by the Canadian Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) is causing increasingly long waits for Canadian visa applicants who apply abroad. Particularly affected are applicants under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) as well as students and tourists.

Industry bodies for the Canadian tourism and education industries say that, if the strike is not resolved, visitors and students are likely to consider going elsewhere. Canada has been attracting increasing numbers of Chinese and Mexican visitors in recent years.

PAFSO is the union for Canadian government staff who work in other countries. Its members include immigration staff as well as diplomats, lawyers and economists. PAFSO members have been engaged in industrial action since June 6th.

Union will escalate industrial action if its demands are not met

There has been a series of co-ordinated walk-outs by PAFSO members. The union warns that its action will escalate if its demands are not met. The union says that its members are paid between CAN$3,000 and $14,000 per year less than government workers in other departments who do similar work.

Members have been working shorter hours, PAFSO has 1,350 members. 320 of these are visa and immigration officers working in visa processing offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Delhi, Chandigarh, Mexico City and Manila in the Philippines.

The Canadian government does not seem ready to back down to prevent further action. It says that PAFSO staff have other benefits such as a contribution to their dry cleaning bills, free vehicles, and an 'incentive allowance' for working abroad. These, the government says, compensate for their slightly lower salary.

Since June 6th, the waiting time for visas in Mexico and China has increased from between five and ten days to over six weeks. David Goldstein of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada said 'coming at this time of year, it's going to be devastating. If it's going to take 90 days to get a visa, people are going to be looking for other locations'. He warned that the disruption would be likely to cause long-term reputational damage.

Students are concerned they may miss the beginning of the academic year

Canadian schools and colleges have also begun to complain that their non-Canadian students are now contacting them with concerns they will not get visas in time for the academic year's start in September.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Canadian department with responsibility for issuing visas, says that it has contingency plans in place but the union says that, even so, the number of visas being issued at overseas offices is down by 75%.

A CIC spokeswoman advised anyone wanting to apply for a Canadian visa to apply as far in advance as possible to avoid getting caught by the backlog. She said that humanitarian applications would be given priority.

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

Monday, July 8, 2013

Angry reaction to UK immigration's visa 'security bonds'

India and Nigeria have reacted angrily to the announcement by the UK's Home Secretary Theresa May that the UK intends to introduce 'security bonds' for some visitors in an attempt to ensure visa holders leave the UK when their visas expire. Nigeria has said that the move is likely to prevent a bilateral trade deal between the UK and the African country. India has warned that there may be implications for trade.

The British High Commissioner in Nigeria, Andrew Pocock, was summoned to a meeting with the Foreign Affairs Minister Olugbenga A Ashiru in the capital Abuja on Tuesday 25th June 2013. Mr Ashiru made clear the 'strong displeasure of the government and people of Nigeria'. Mr Ashiru said that the policy was discriminatory and said that it would 'definitely negate' the proposed bilateral trade agreement between the two countries that is currently planned for 2014.

Security bond is 'targeted at the non-white Commonwealth'

Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje, a Nigerian MP who chairs a parliamentary foreign affairs committee, said that the scheme was discriminatory and clearly 'targeted at the non-white Commonwealth'.

The Indian government was also greatly concerned about the proposals. The Indian trade minister Anand Sharma was on a visit to the UK between 23rd and 25th June 2013 and submitted a formal request for information about the security bonds to the UK Business Secretary, Vince Cable, about the proposal.

The Indian Trade Ministry has issued a statement saying that Dr Cable had 'informed the Indian Minister that he had discussed the visa matter with the British home Secretary who assured that the proposal was mooted for a pilot but hasn't been considered by the British Government'.

Bond will have consequences for UK trade with Nigeria and India

But Mr Sharma has asked for further clarification from the UK government. Like Mr Ashiru in Nigeria, Mr Sharma made it clear that the proposal might have consequences for trade between his country and the UK.

The British press announced on Sunday 23rd June that Mrs May was planning to introduce the security bonds for visitors from six countries which are considered to be 'high risk' by the British government. The six are India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Ghana.

Under the proposal, some visitors from those countries would be required to pay a £3,000 security bond when they receive their visas. The money would be refunded when the visa holder left the country and would be forfeit if he or she overstayed.

The bonds would not be paid by all visitors from those countries but only from those considered to be likely to overstay their visas. Mrs May said that she intends to start a pilot scheme in November. If it were to be successful, she would extend the scheme to cover student visas and work visas.

Bond is '180 degrees opposite' to Cameron's claim of special relationship with India

Vindi Banga, the Chairman of the UK Advisory Group of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said that the introduction of the security bond would be '180 degrees opposite to Prime Minister David Cameron's emphasis on a special relationship with India'. He said it would 'adversely impact students, tourists, and business alike'.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the UK's deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has asked for a rethink on the policy. Mr Clegg is the leader of the smaller party in the UK's Coalition government, the Liberal Democrats. It was actually Mr Clegg who first raised the idea of a security bond in a speech in March. It is understood that Mr Clegg would like the bond to be £1,000 rather than £3,000.

Level of bond not yet decided

A Home Office spokesman told UK newspaper The Guardian that the level of the bond has yet to be confirmed. He added that the bond would not apply to all visitors but only to those considered to be high risk.

The chairman of the House of Commons' Home Affairs Committee Keith Vaz MP, who came to the UK as a child himself, said that 'the plans could potentially alienate already settled communities in the UK'.

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

Friday, July 5, 2013

UK visas and immigration chief answers MPs questions

The acting head of the UK's visa and immigration services has appeared before a committee of MPs in Westminster to answer questions about her progress in improving the UK's visa and immigration systems. Sarah Rapson was made acting head of the newly formed UK Visas and Immigration Directorate (UKVID) in April 2013.

During an hour-long appearance before the Home Affairs Committee on 11th June 2013, Ms Rapson was questioned at length about backlogs in UKVID's systems, in particular in asylum cases and in the processing of visas.

Ms Rapson said she would make every effort to eliminate backlogs where they were found and said that she believed that some headway had already been made though no figures were yet available. She also attempted, with limited success, to persuade the committee that, in some cases at least, service standards and timeframes for dealing with cases might have to be revised. She said she would try to increase the accountability and transparency of her directorate.

Long history of backlogs in UK immigration

The MPs' concern about backlogs is understandable. In 2006, a backlog of 450,000 asylum cases was discovered in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, which was then the Government immigration department that dealt with immigration casework. The cases had been shelved and no one knew how many of the applicants concerned were still in the country.

Since then, from time to time, further backlogs of cases have come to light. In March, the Committee said that UK immigration had a backlog of 320,000 cases and that, at the current rate, these would take 24 years to clear.

The committee repeatedly pressed her about backlogs but Ms Rapson was keen to stress that it was necessary first to establish a common definition of what a backlog case was. She has a degree in mathematics from Lancaster University and an MBA from London Business School but said that even she found immigration service standards confusing.

Mr Vaz was keen not to engage in any process of defining backlogs. He said that many senior UKBA figures had attempted to do so but said that, as far as he was concerned, 'if it looks like a backlog…then it's a backlog'. He said that most immigration applications could easily be dealt with in 45 minutes and it was unacceptable for cases to drag on for years.

UK visa authorities must develop 'service standards that Joe Public can understand'

But Ms Rapson said that a case should only be considered to be part of a backlog if it was not dealt with within the agreed service standard timeframe. She added that it would be necessary to develop a 'set of service standards that Joe Public can understand'.

She said that it might be necessary to alter current immigration service targets because she did not understand what they meant. For example, she said that one current UK immigration service target says that 65% of family or temporary migration applications should be dealt with within four weeks.

This, she said, was confusing. 'I don't know what 65% means' she said. 'If I am applying, I don't know whether that means I am going to get a decision or I am not.' The point Ms Rapson is making is that you may or may not be in the 65% of cases that should have been decided within the four weeks.

Ms Rapson became head of the UK's Identity and Passport Service (IPS) in 2010. There were significant performance improvements during her time there. Keith Vaz, the committee chairman noted that the IPS now deals with 98.9% off its cases in its target timeframe. He also noted that the situation at the UKVID is rather different.

Some progress being made with UK visa regime

The MPs asked her if she believed she was making improvements. She said that she believed that progress had been made in ensuring that more visa applications were dealt with within four weeks but had no figures available as yet. In 2012, the UKBA dealt with only 51% of work visa applications (such as Tier 1 visas for high value migrants and Tier 2 visas for skilled workers) and only 21% of Tier 4 student visa applications within four weeks.

Ms Rapson became head of UKVID in April after the UKBA was abolished in March by Home Secretary Theresa May. Ms May said that the UKBA had been simply 'not good enough'. The UKBA's functions were taken back into the Home Office and were split between two new directorates UKVID and the UK Immigration Enforcement Directorate (UKIED). This, Ms May said would allow UKVID to specialise in providing better customer service for those seeking visas and indefinite leave to remain while the UKIED focused on policing the UK's borders.

Before she left, the MPs wished Ms Rapson luck in reforming the UK immigration system. She will need it. At one point, Mr Vaz seemed surprised at Ms Rapson's candour. She said 'Are we ever going to be able to say about this quite complex organisation that it is perfect? I don't think so'.

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

Thursday, July 4, 2013

New Zealand immigration stats from the OECD

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently released its International Migration Outlook Report for 2013. The report contains subsidiary reports on all the 34 countries that make up the OECD including New Zealand.

New Zealand is one of the most isolated nations on earth. It is situated in the south-western Pacific Ocean. It is one of the smaller OECD countries with a population of 4.405m. It has sought to encourage immigration in recent years in large part because many native born New Zealanders leave the country as young people and do not return.

In 2011/12 62,000 foreigners became resident in New Zealand. Over the same period, 25,000 foreign people left New Zealand. In addition, 39,000 New Zealand citizens left, mostly to live in Australia. This meant that total emigration was slightly higher than total immigration into the Country and the population actually fell by 3,200 in 2011/12 because of migration out of the Country. In comparison in 2010/11, there was a net population gain of 3,900 due to immigration into New Zealand.

The three major countries of origin for new New Zealand permanent residents were

1. The United Kingdom 15%
2. China 13%
3. India 13%

Permanent migration figures


Temporary migration figures

2010 2011
Students 74,100 69,000
Working holiday44,800 45,100
Seasonal workers 7,700 7,800
Intra company transfer - -
Other temporary30,900 26,800

Top ten countries of origin
  1. United Kingdom
  2. China
  3. India
  4. Philippines
  5. Fiji
  6. South Africa
  7. Samoa
  8. Korea
  9. United States
  10. Tonga

Global Visa Support offers a variety of programs in New Zealand. Please visit our NZ page for more information:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Latest Canadian immigration figures from the OECD

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently released its International Migration Outlook Report for 2013. The report contains subsidiary reports on all the 34 countries that make up the OECD including Canada.

The report finds that Canada has continued to accept more migrants than most other OECD countries; it is sixth in the OECD. According to Statistics Canada, the country receives on average 7.5 immigrants per thousand people annually; one of the highest in the industrialised world and twice the rate of the US. Much of Canada's population growth in recent years has been down to immigration.

The latest figures presented in the report are for 2011. Overall immigration fell by 11% on the previous year. Canada admitted 249,000 new permanent residents in 2011. 62.8% of these were admitted under the economic migrant stream. This stream includes those who are admitted to Canada for work purposes and their families. Only 22.7% of new permanent residents were admitted under the family stream.

The OECD breaks down the figures differently in its report, including family members of workers as family migrants. Consequently, the OECD figure shows that, in 2011, 25.9% of new Canadian permanent residents are in the 'work' category. This compares very favourably to the US figure of 6.1%.

Many new Canadians from Asia

The three major countries of origin for new economic permanent residents were Asian. They were
  1. The Philippines 14%
  2. China 12%
  3. India 10%

Canada also admitted around 191,000 temporary workers under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in 2011, 6.4% more than in 2010 and also issued nearly 100,000 student visas, 3.3% more than the previous year. There were also around 36,000 humanitarian migrants in 2011.

The OECD notes that Canada reformed its economic immigration categories in 2012. Regular readers of will know that Canada reformed its main skilled worker immigration program, the Federal Skilled Worker Program, and also expanded the Canadian Experience Class and announced the creation of both the Start-up visa for entrepreneurs and the Federal Skilled Trade Program for tradespeople.

Canada intends to move towards an 'expression of interest' model for work-based immigration in coming years. Immigration minister Jason Kenney has already introduced major changes in 2012 and he has said he wants to introduce further changes to allow new residents in Canada to 'hit the ground running.

Permanent migration figures


Temporary migration figures

Working holiday50,00055,000
Seasonal workers23,90024,100
Intra company transfer13,60013,500
Other temporary85,50087,500

Top ten countries of origin
  1. Philippines
  2. China
  3. India
  4. United States
  5. Iran
  6. United Kingdom
  7. Haiti
  8. Pakistan
  9. France
  10. United Arab Emirates

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

Monday, July 1, 2013

Latest US immigration and visa figures from the OECD

In June 2013, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) issued its International Migration Outlook report for 2013. The report contains summaries of changes in immigration in the 34 member countries of the OECD including the US. The US is not only the most populous country in the OECD, it is also the one that is home to the greatest immigrant population.

Over 40m (40.4m) current American residents in 2011 were foreign-born. This amounts to 13% of the total population. The OECD reports that the number of family and employment based visas granted in 2011 fell, as did the number of asylum claims but the number of refugees and the number of diversity-visa immigrants rose.

The diversity immigrant visa program is also known as The Green Card Lottery. Each year, 55,000 US permanent resident visas (colloquially known as green cards) are distributed in the green card lottery to applicants from countries with historically low levels of migration to the US.

1,062,000 new permanent residents

In 2011, the number of people gaining permanent residence in the US rose by 1.9% on the previous year to 1,062,000. Of these 43% were of Asian descent, an increase from 33% a decade before. The proportion of the total number of immigrants coming from North America (Mexico predominantly but also from Canada) fell from 38% in 2001 to 31% in 2011. 694,000 people became naturalised US citizens in 2011, Mexico being the most common birth country.

It is notable that only about 6% of the total number of immigrants to the US in both 2010 and 2011 came in employment based visa categories.

There were also 808,500 people who came to the US as temporary migrants in 2011. Of these, about 450,000 were students and around 300,000 came on temporary work visas including about 71,000 on L-1 intra company transfer visas and 85,000 with H-1B 'specialty occupation' visas which allow graduate-level workers to work in the US for up to three years. These visas can be renewed once and those in the US with an H-1B visa are allowed to apply for permanent residence once they have been in the country for five years.

Permanent Migration inflows 2010/11


Temporary Migration inflows

2010 2011
Seasonal workers 55,90055,400
Intra company transfers 65,50070,700
Others 217,600 35,000

The OECD reports that there are an estimated 11.5m illegal residents currently living in the US who entered the country, whether legally or illegally, between 1980 and 2010. The OECD says that only 14% of these arrived after 2005 which suggests that the rate of illegal immigration has slowed though whether this is a temporary slowdown caused by the recession of 2007-12 is not clear.

The US immigration system is complex and huge backlogs have built up over the years. Applicants for permanent resident visas in some family categories and from some countries can wait for over 20 years to become permanent residents. Applicants for EB-3 employment based green cards from China and India can wait for eight years or more.

No consensus on fixing 'broken' immigration system

President Obama said, in 2012, that the US immigration system is 'broken' and figures from both the main political parties agree with him. However, they can never agree about what ought to be done to reform it.

The US Congress is currently considering the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act 2013. If this becomes law, it will
  • Increase the level of border security along the Mexican border
  • Create a 'pathway to citizenship' for many illegal immigrants
  • Increase the number of employment-based green cards
  • Increase the number of H-1B visas from 85,000 to over 200,000 at times of great demand.
  • Create a new 'w-visa' for unskilled workers
  • Require US employers to check the immigration status of potential employees using the E-Verify system

The bill was drafted by a group of four Republican and four Democrat senators known as the Gang of Eight. Supporters of reform hope that the bipartisan nature of the gang might help the bill pass through Congress which is bitterly divided along party lines. Congressmen and women have found it increasingly difficult to find any common ground in recent years so, despite the fact that most people agree that the system does not work, it may prove impossible to reform it. Congress will vote on the law this summer.

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