Friday, September 27, 2013

US immigration reformers push Obama for executive action

Supporters of radical immigration reform in the US are trying to persuade President Obama to use his presidential powers to cut through the 'gridlock' in Washington and introduce immigration reform. They have urged the President to act to allow illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship.

The White House has said that the President has no intention of doing so and has said that any change in the law must be a matter for Congress. US constitutional lawyers say the President's powers would not enable him to make such a change. Nonetheless, some Republicans suspect that this is the President's intention and have warned him not to try.

Supporters of immigration reform suspect that a comprehensive immigration reform bill that has been passed by the Senate is unlikely to be passed by the House of Representatives where they believe it will be opposed by Republicans.

'The President has a duty to act'

Speaking on 15th September 2013, Ana Avendano of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO) told Fox News 'If Congress doesn't move, the President has a duty to act' she added 'Just because the Republicans have buried their heads in the sand, doesn't mean that immigrant communities aren't feeling the sting of constant deportations.

However, White House spokesman Bobby Whithorne has definitively ruled this out. He said 'The only way to bring 11 million undocumented individuals out of the shadow economy is for Congress to pass common-sense reform…That's it. Full stop'.

At this point, if you are not an American, you might need a quick tutorial in US Constitutional law. Under the American Constitution, for a bill to become law it must be passed by both Houses of Congress; the upper house, The Senate, and the lower house, The House of Representatives (known as 'the House').

Presidential veto

The President does not even have a vote in Congress. If both houses pass a law, the President must then sign it for it to become law. If he doesn't sign it, it does not become law. This gives him a veto.

Power in Congress is currently split; the Democrats control the Senate and the Republicans control the House. This means that, in order to get any bill through Congress, the President and his Democratic colleagues require some cooperation from the Republicans.

During the 2012 Presidential election campaign, President Obama promised to make comprehensive immigration reform a priority if he was re-elected. He was re-elected and yet, nearly a year later, there has been no reform. This has not been for want of trying.

Gang of Eight

A comprehensive immigration reform bill was drafted by a bipartisan group of eight senators (the so called 'Gang of Eight'; four Republicans and four Democrats) and it has been debated at length in both houses of Congress. In July it was passed by the Senate. It must now be passed by the House to become law.

Some House Republicans, including former Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan, support reform but the majority don't.

Bipartisan support has become increasingly rare in Washington since 2009; the time when the Tea Party, a right-wing faction within the Republican Party, began to exert control over Republican Congressmen and women. Since the birth of the Tea Party, Washington Republicans have opposed every measure supported by the President.

White House stepped back

It was for this reason that the White House did not draft the immigration reform bill currently before Congress. The President left this to the Gang of Eight in the hope that Republicans might support it.

The Gang of Eight drafted a bill that would

• Create a 'pathway to citizenship for the majority of the estimated 11.5m people living in the
US illegally
  • Increase the cap on H-1B temporary work visas for graduates from 85,000 per year to over 200,000 per year
  • Increase the number of work related green cards (permanent resident visas) for international science, technology, engineering and maths graduates from US universities
  • Increase border security spending by $4.5bn per year
  • Create a 'w-visa' for low skilled workers in construction and agriculture
  • House Republicans look set to oppose the bill, if they vote on it. This is because of the bill's most controversial innovation; the establishment of 'a pathway to citizenship'.

Illegal residents could apply for legal status

If the bill became law, illegal residents without criminal convictions could apply for probationary legal resident status. They would have to pay a $500 fine for entering the country illegally and a sum to compensate the US for taxes that they should have paid whilst working illegally.

They would have to learn English and then, much later, they could apply for permanent resident status and finally citizenship. The process would take about 15 years.

Many Republicans in Congress oppose the creation of this 'pathway' because
  • To do so would reward the criminal act of entering the country illegally and encourage more illegal immigration and
  • Most illegal immigrants, if given the vote, would vote Democrat

Republicans will not support pathway

Some House Republicans have said that they will not vote for any bill that contains provision for the 'pathway to citizenship'. They intend to prevent the President passing legislation and now suspect that he will use his executive powers to drive through the change in any event.

Representative Raul Labrador from Idaho said 'I think that's actually what Obama wants to do. I think he wants Congress not to pass something so he can do it on his own and he can take the credit for it'.

President 'needs to be very careful'

He added 'He needs to be very careful though because if he continues to flout the law…Congress is going to have enough'. By this, Mr Labrador seems to mean that Congress may vote to impeach the President.

Pro-reform campaigners continue to lobby House Republicans in an attempt to get them to vote for reform. In such a highly-charged atmosphere, it seems unlikely that they will have much success.

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

Thursday, September 26, 2013

New Zealand PM argues for retention of UK visa work rights

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, is on an official visit to the UK and has held talks with senior UK politicians about the UK's visa regime for New Zealanders. In recent years, it has become harder for most New Zealanders to live in the UK.

Mr Key visited the UK having been invited by Queen Elizabeth II to stay for the weekend at her Scottish retreat Balmoral. While in the UK he held talks with Mr Cameron, with the UK's Foreign Secretary William Hague and with the Mayor of London Boris Johnson. New Zealanders' rights to work in the UK were at the top of the agenda.

Mr Key told The New Zealand Herald that New Zealand's historical and cultural links to the UK would make it 'grossly unfair' to further erode New Zealanders rights to work in the UK.

New Zealanders able to work in UK until 1973

Until 1973, New Zealanders and Australians were able to work freely in the UK. Then Britain joined the European Economic Community and this freedom was curtailed. More recently, after a period of an 'open door immigration policy' with net immigration reaching about 250,000 a year between 1997 and 2010 under the last Labour government, Mr Cameron's Coalition government came to power promising to cut immigration to below 100,000 a year.

The government has introduced numerous changes to the UK's visa regime and has so far cut immigration to about 150,000 a year. The government intends to continue to make efforts to cut the figure to 100,000 by 2015. Mr Key fears that this may mean that it will become even harder for New Zealanders to work in the UK.

The New Zealand Herald reports that recent visa restrictions mean that only 350 New Zealanders move to the UK to work each year with Tier 2 (General) work visas.

London mayor wants Australians/New Zealanders to be able to work freely in UK

Mr Key has some support within the UK's corridors of power. Last month, Boris Johnson, mayor of London, wrote a newspaper column calling for Australians and New Zealanders to be given the unfettered right to live and work in the UK. Mr Johnson suggested a 'Bilateral Free Labour Mobility Zone' between Australia and the UK.

By extension, he was calling for a similar arrangement with New Zealand. Mr Johnson did admit that this might cause problems with the European Union but said that they should be told to 'stuff it'.
Mr Key has also indicated that he is concerned that the UK might be considering ending the reciprocal Youth Mobility Scheme agreement which allows young people from New Zealand to work in the UK and, conversely, young people from the UK to work in New Zealand.

To stop New Zealanders working in UK would be 'grossly unfair'

Mr Key said 'We would think it grossly unfair and not representative of the historical ties. Those ties and bonds remain strong but…it's important we continue to make the case for New Zealanders' birth right to spend a couple of years working in the UK.

The government has not recently announced any plans to cut the Youth Mobility Scheme. The scheme allows young people from several countries, including Australia and New Zealand, to apply for a Tier 5 temporary work visa. 22,500 Australians and 10,000 New Zealanders are allowed to apply annually. They can stay in the UK for two years and are allowed to work.

Global Visa Support offers a variety of programs in United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Please visit our website for more information on UK:, Australia:, New Zealand:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

UK immigration criticised for Tier 1 decision-making

John Vine, the UK's chief independent inspector of borders and immigration, has released a report which criticises the UK's Home Office for the quality and promptness of its decision making on Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visas. The report states that the Home Office did not keep adequate records, made decisions based on flawed evidence and allowed a backlog of nearly 10,000 cases to build up in 2012.

Mr Vine issued his report on 12th September 2013. It was titled An Inspection of applications to enter and remain in the UK under the Tier 1 Investor and Entrepreneur categories of the Points Based System December 2012 – May 2013.

Tier 1 (Investor) visas allow wealthy individuals to acquire UK resident visas which last for a maximum of three years and four months. To qualify, you require at least £1m out of which you will need to invest £750,000 in approved UK investment vehicles, with the remaining £250,000 being spent on assets or put on deposit in the UK. Investor visas can be renewed.

91% of Tier 1 (Investor) decisions were 'reasonable'

Mr Vine's report found that 91% of Home Office decisions on Tier 1 (Investor) applications were 'reasonable'. By this, he meant that they were decisions which were made according to the rules and were supported by evidence. They were therefore defensible and probably correct. There were around 600 applications made in 2012.

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visas allow non-EU nationals with access to at least £50,000 to invest in a business and a viable business plan to apply for a UK visa. These visas also last for three years and four months and can be renewed. In the case of Entrepreneur visas, Mr Vine's team found that no more than 62.5% of these applications were reasonable.

Mr Vine's reports says that the number of Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) applications increased by 1,520% over the course of 2012 after the UK government closed down the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa in April 2012. The Post Study Work visa allowed international graduates to work in the UK for two years after graduation.

Insufficient staff working on Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) applications

There were, therefore, insufficient staff working on Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) applications and it failed to meet its own performance targets for either the Investor visa or the Entrepreneur visa in almost every month of 2012. By March 2013, a backlog of 9,191 entrepreneur applications had accumulated. It has since been reduced but Mr Vine says that this should have happened sooner.

The team asked to inspect a sample of 90 entrepreneur applications. In over 40% of these files, the inspectors found that the Home Office had not kept enough evidence of the work undertaken on the file so the inspectors were unable to determine whether the decision had been reasonable or not. In 39 of these 41 cases, the applicant was granted a Tier 1 entrepreneur visa.

Mr Vine says that, in cases where the files were properly kept and could, therefore, be inspected, staff had made decisions based on inadequate evidence. For example, they had accepted an applicant's word that he had sufficient funds to qualify for the visa without sufficient evidence to support that claim.

Files left unsecured overnight

The inspectors also found that, at the Home Office's Sheffield office, application files were left unsecured and unattended in open crates overnight. Mr Vine said that this was a breach of the Home Office's Data Protection Act duty to protect potentially sensitive information. He said that this situation should be rectified.

Mr Vine recommends that the Home Office should
• Improves the quality of its decision making
• Ensure that files are kept securely

  • Ensure that staff are informed of the rationale behind appeal decisions so that they can make decisions that are in accordance with the current rules
  • Takes steps to foresee and prevent build-ups in applications of any sort
  • Ensure that it keeps files properly so that reasons for decisions are recorded.

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

Friday, September 20, 2013

Jaguar Land Rover expansion a triumph for UK immigration

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), the British-based, Indian-owned car manufacturer announced an investment of £1.5bn in its UK car businesses on 9th September 2013. This was a triumph for JLR which has undergone a renaissance since being taken over by India's Tata Group in 2008.

The investment will create 1,700 new jobs in the UK, mostly at the Land Rover plant in Solihull, West Midlands. The unions have welcomed the creation of the jobs. Len McCluskey of the Unite union said 'JLR is a great British success story and this new investment in jobs and skills ought to maintain its global reputation for world-class vehicles'.

The UK's Prime Minister, David Cameron, said that the investment was a 'huge vote of confidence in the UK' and sought to take some of the credit for the investment. He said that the government would 'continue to back the automotive sector'.

JLR a triumph of the global economy

However, perhaps the investment should be seen as a triumph of the global economy and immigration. For, although JLR is based in Britain, it was rescued by an American company before being sold to new Indian owners. It has a German chief executive.

Many of its engineers come from outside the European Union and work in the UK with Tier 2 skilled worker visas. It is currently thriving because of greatly increased sales around the world but particularly in China. It is a truly global story.

The Tata Group took over Jaguar Land Rover in 2008. Ford had bought Jaguar in 1989 after it had been demerged from the nationalised British car maker British Leyland in 1984. Ford then bought Land Rover, which had also been part of British Leyland, from BMW in 2000.

Ford sold JLR to Tata

Ford put considerable resources into developing new models for both firms but sold them to Tata despite the fact that they were profitable. Ford was experiencing problems in the US and sold businesses that were not central to its business model. Tata bought JLR for £1bn.

In 2008, when the sale was announced, unions and commentators alike speculated that Tata would take the valuable car marques and move production to India. Tata promised that it would not do so. It committed to Ford's existing 5-year spending plan in the UK. This comes to an end in 2013. The announcement of the latest investment shows that Tata intends to maintain its presence in the UK.

And perhaps this is not surprising. Jaguar Land Rover is making a profit of £1.5bn annually. Much of this comes because of increased sales in China where the financial crisis that has been crippling European markets has hardly been felt.

Tata takeover has been a success, despite initial fears

Despite the initial fears of the unions and employees about their new Indian owners, The Tata takeover of JLR has been a positive experience for the firm and its workers. The firm has increased sales and profits.

This compares well with the experience of another English car marque, Rover. Rover, which had also once been part of British Leyland, was run by German car firm BMW between 1988 and 2000 before being sold to Phoenix Venture Holdings, a company run by four English businessmen.

Phoenix, bought Rover from BMW for £10. BMW agreed to make a 'dowry payment' of £500m into Rover on sale. Nonetheless, the Phoenix Four (as they became known) drove Rover into insolvency within five years. The Phoenix Four were later criticised by MPs for a failure to invest in new models and for personally taking £42m out of the business in dividends as it spiralled towards collapse.

No plans for a new Rover

In 2006, Tata bought the now-defunct Rover marque from BMW for £6m. There are no plans at present for new Rover cars to be built.

In 2012, Ian Callum, Jaguar's director of design, told Marketing Week magazine that Tata has given Jaguar and Land Rover the freedom to run themselves. He said 'Tata has been decisive in choosing the management, but once they're in place they leave people to get on with it, unlike Ford. They're long-term, committed, patient owners. All the things you want'.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Zealand immigration grants stay of execution for fat chef

The New Zealand immigration minister has announced that Albert Buitenuis, a South African chef, will be allowed to stay in the country. This reversed an earlier decision that he should be deported because he was too fat and was therefore likely to be a drain on the public health service. He has been granted a 2-year temporary resident visa.

Mr Buitenhuis left South Africa for New Zealand in 2007 and was given an Essential Skills work visa which allowed him to work as a chef. He settled in the city of Christchurch. At this point he weighed 160kg (25 stone). By 2013, he had lost 30 kg (about 5 stone) and now weighs about 20 stone (130kg). Mr Buitenhuis is 5 foot ten (1.78m)

But when he applied for a residence visa in 2013, he was refused on health grounds. It was left that his state of health meant that he was likely to require treatment from New Zealand's public health service.

Important to minimise demands on New Zealand health services

A spokesman for Immigration New Zealand, Michael Carley, said 'It is important that all migrants have an acceptable standard of health to minimize the costs and demands on New Zealand's health services'.

Mr Carley also explained that the reason why Mr Buitenhuis had been able to qualify for an Essential Skills visa in 2007 but had been refused a resident visa in 2013 was that the minimum acceptable level of health required for Essential Skills visas and resident visas are different.

He added that Mr Buitenhuis had an enlarged, fatty liver and a bad knee and said that this might have affected the decision of immigration officials to refuse his application..

Chef had nowhere else to go

Mr Buitenhuis decided to appeal the decision. At the time, he told Australian broadcaster ABC that he wanted to stay in New Zealand because he had nowhere to go having sold his property in South Africa. His only relative, a sister, also lived in New Zealand. He added that he was now penniless having been barred from working since his visa application was refused.

On 9th September 2013, the BBC reported that Mr Buitenhuis's appeal had been successful. Associate immigration minister Nikki Kaye told the BBC that the main reason for the original refusal of Mr Buitenhuis's application was that he had osteoarthritis in his knee which was likely to require treatment which would have imposed costs on the New Zealand taxpayer.

Couple awarded two year extensions

But Ms Kaye said that Mr Buitenhuis and his wife Marthie would be granted two year extensions on their New Zealand visas with the proviso that Mr Buitenhuis would be barred from accessing the public health system during that time.

Mr and Mrs Buitenhuis say that they are pleased with the result but upset that they are now penniless and fear for their futures. Mr Buitenhuis hopes to lose another 25 kilograms (4 stone) over the coming months.

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

US immigration reform advocates step up the pressure, the online pro-immigration pressure group founded by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook and other titans of the IT industry, has held a 'Day of Action' to put pressure on members of the US House of Representatives to back immigration reform legislation this autumn. was founded by Zuckerberg along with others including Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox. It supports reform of the US immigration system so that IT firms can employ more talented workers from around the world.

At present, they say, the US immigration system is so slow and restrictive that talented workers are unable to get visas. This, they say, is damaging the US economy.

Pro-immigration 'Twitter storm'

On Tuesday 10th September 2013, encouraged its supporters to email their Representative in Congress, urging them to back reform. The group also urged supporters to use their Twitter accounts to tweet at their Congressional representatives asking them to retweet the message. hoped to create a 'Twitter storm' in favour of reform.

The US Congress has just returned to Washington after its summer break. In June, the upper House of Congress, The Senate, passed The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act 2013 by 68 votes to 32. This bill would, if it became law, introduce many of the changes that wish to see. However, for that to happen, it must also be passed by the lower house; The House of Representatives.

Unfortunately for advocates of reform, many Republican Representatives say they will vote against the bill. In addition, the speaker of the House, John Boehner, A Republican, has said he will not even allow a vote on the bill unless a majority of Republican Representatives say they support it.

Bar set unreasonably high

This, reformers say, sets the bar unreasonably high; The House has 435 seats. 234 of these are held by Republicans and 201 by Democrats. To become law, the bill must get 261 votes (60% support). Given that most Democrats support reform, numerically, the bill should only require the support of about 60 Republicans.

Pro-reformers believe that they have this level of support but Boehner says he will not allow a vote unless the bill has the support of 117 Republicans.

This is unlikely. Washington is, more than ever, split along party lines and cross-party cooperation is rare. President Obama's Presidency has been accompanied by a rise in the number of 'Tea Party' backed Republican congressmen and women. These extreme right-wing Republicans believe that President Obama is 'a socialist' and are against big government, taxes and immigration.

Republicans oppose Obama's policies

The Republicans have fought all the President's policies. They have forced wholesale alterations to his healthcare reforms and have even refused to agree a new federal budget. This has seen the Federal government hamstrung. Federal agencies have been sending staff on 'furloughs' (unpaid leave) and waiting lists are rising in the courts and other government services.

Most recently, Republican members of the House of Representatives looked set to vote against the President over proposed military intervention in Syria. The President had called for retaliation against the Syrian government for a chemical weapons attack on a suburb of Damascus and asked Congress to support it.

Despite the fact that the Republicans have traditionally been the more likely party to back military action - George W Bush who decided to invade Iraq and Afghanistan was a Republican - many Republicans indicated they would vote against President Obama's proposal to take military action. The vote was not held in the end because of a Russian proposal for the Syrians to put their chemical weapons beyond use. Politicians from the US, Russia, Syria and Europe are examining the possibility of a peaceful solution.

Reform bill provisions

If the bill became law it would

  • Create a 'pathway to citizenship' allowing the estimated 11.5 illegal immigrants in the US to progress towards citizenship. They would have to register with the government, pay a fine for entering the country illegally and a sum to compensate the government for taxes they should have paid when working illegally. They could then become legally resident and ultimately, acquire citizenship. The 'pathway' could take up to fifteen years to complete.
  • Greatly increase the number of work-related green cards (permanent resident visas) going to skilled workers, particularly in IT.
  • Massively increase the number of H-1B temporary work visas that can be issued annually. At present, there is a cap of 65,000 on the number of H-1Bs that can be granted to international workers. They must be graduates (or have knowledge and skills to a graduate level) and work in the US in a 'specialty occupation'. There is also a cap of 20,000 on the number of H-1Bs that can be granted to those with higher degrees such as doctorates and PhDs. The Act would increase the basic cap to 130,000 immediately, with a possibility that it could rise to 180,000 in times of high demand. The cap on those higher degrees would be scrapped altogether.
  • Create a 'w-visa' for low skilled workers in agriculture and construction. About 30,000 w-visas would be issued annually.

Republicans oppose pathway to citizenship

Republicans object in particular to the 'pathway to citizenship'. This provision, they say, would reward those who entered the country illegally for their illegal behaviour and would attract yet more illegal immigrants to the country.

Immigration looks set to stay in the Washington headlines for the rest of this year at least.

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

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

UK immigration announces 'business-friendly' visa changes

The UK's immigration minister, Mark Harper, has announced changes to the UK's immigration rules designed to make the UK more attractive as a destination for international businesses. He also announced measures designed to attract international students to the UK. The changes will come into force on 1st October 2013.

Mr Harper issued a written Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules to parliament on 6th September 2013. It lays out many small changes to the rules. Among these are changes designed to make the UK more attractive to international businesses. These changes affect UK work visas such as Tier 1 visas for 'high value migrants' and Tier 2 visas for 'skilled workers'. These are
  • Removing the English language requirement for intra-company transferees – (At present, workers who come to the UK with a Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) visa must pass an English language test if they are intending to stay in the UK for over three years).
  • Making it easier for those in the UK with Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visas to switch to the Tier 2 skilled worker visa. Up to 2,000 graduate entrepreneur visas are available annually to international graduates of UK universities with attractive business ideas.
  • New provision in Tier 1 to make it easier for 'artists of exceptional promise' to qualify for UK visas. Exceptional Talent visas are granted to people who are 'internationally recognised as world leaders or potential world-leading talent in the fields of science and the arts, and who wish to work in the UK'. At present, it is extremely difficult to qualify for the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa and only about 70 people in total, scientists and artists, qualified in 2012. No details of the changes have been provided.
  • Removing the restrictions on share ownership that apply to high-earning staff. Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) staff are not currently permitted to own more than 10% of the shares in a company which sponsors their Tier 2visa application)

Other changes

Mr Harper also announced several other changes which he hopes will make economic routes 'more attractive and more flexible for businesses'. These are

  • Allowing some students in the UK with Tier 4 student visas to carry out work internships in the UK (They will be able to work with a Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) visas
  • Allowing business visitors to take part in a greater range of activities in the UK. These would include attending training courses
  • Both business visitors and tourists will be allowed to take part in some study 'where is incidental to the main purpose of their visit'.

Mr Harper told journalists that the changes would 'ensure that the UK continues to attract global talent to work for British businesses and study at our world-class universities'.

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

Friday, September 13, 2013

UK immigration has 'stopped trying to catch illegal immigrants'

The UK's opposition Labour Party has accused the government of presiding over an immigration system in chaos. The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, told the House of Commons that the government was complacent and said that the government's 'only answer to illegal immigration is to get a man in a van to drive round in circles with a poster asking if they'd mind going home'.

Ms Cooper was speaking in parliament after the UK's National Audit Office (NAO) released a report into the working of the UK's Border Force; the body with responsibility for policing the UK's 138 ports, airports and international rail termini.

The report stated that the Border Force had had its staff cut by 6% between 2010 and 2013 by the Coalition government. It stated that this had resulted in the Border Force having to make difficult choices in its policing of the border.

Passport queues down

The report stated that a new 'real-time staff deployment model' at Heathrow had allowed staff to be deployed to areas where they were needed quickly. It said that other innovations had also resulted in a significantly reduced the amount of time visitors wait in passport queues at UK rail, air and sea ports.

In 2012, 99% of people arriving at UK ports and airports cleared passport control within the target time of 25 minutes. This had improved from only 81% in the previous year. This improvement was made even though the UK played host to the Olympics and the Paralympic Games in the summer of 2012.

However, the report stated that this had meant that the Border Force had had to cut back on other checks. Louise Bladen, the director of the NAO, told The BBC Radio 4 Today Programme that there was a danger that the country was less safe as a result.

'Secondary controls' compromised

She said 'I think the Border Force may find it hard to say what may be coming into the country as a result of not being able to fully do the duties that they need to do on secondary controls [such as carrying out checks for illegal immigrants and contraband]'.

The report states that, on a visit to Calais to inspect the work of the Border Force post there, 'we observed officers being taken off controls to detect clandestine illegal entrants to the UK concealed in lorries in order to deal with passenger queues'.

Ms Bladen told the BBC that the Border Force had focused on the length of passport queues at the expense of other equally important work because some in the Border Force mistakenly thought that this was what the Home Office wanted.

She said that the Border Force seems to have focused on passport queues as their major priority because they had to report on this subject once a week directly to the Home Secretary. This gave management the impression that passport queues were a higher priority than other duties, such as checking for contraband or illegal stowaways.

Other matters treated as lesser priorities

While Border Force had to report on these matters too, they had to do so less frequently and the figures were given to civil servants, not to the minister. They therefore treated these other matters as lesser priorities.

The report says that the Border Force is suffering from low morale, underfunding and suffers from 'a culture of fear'. It also said that the UK's Warnings Index, the computerised passport database used to trace potentially dangerous arrivals at UK ports, is out of date and 'at risk of collapsing'.

But Immigration Minister Mark Harper said that the UK has one of the safest borders in the world. He said ', Border Force will continue to build on its many areas of excellence. We have recruited more Border Force staff, established command centres to deploy those staff more flexibly and effectively and are reforming working practices'.

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

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Australia issues more working holiday visas

Australian government figures show that there has been a large increase in the number of working holiday visas issued. These visas are for young people from overseas and enables them to live and work and holiday in Australia for one year extendable in some situations for another year. It seems likely that in future years the number of visas issued will increase yet further as citizens of more countries become eligible to apply.

The Working Holiday (Subclass 417) visa program allows people from several countries aged between 18 and 30 to work while travelling in Australia. The Working Holiday visa is valid for 12 months. Visa holders who have worked for at least three months in a designated rural area can apply for a second 417 visa which will also last for 12 months.

417 visa holders can work in any job they can find but must not stay in one job for more than six months.

Three countries eligible since 1975

Australia first issued working holiday visas in 1975. Then, citizens of only three countries were eligible to apply for them;

  • The UK
  • Canada and
  • Ireland

Australia established the working holiday visa programme after signing treaties which created reciprocal rights for young Australians travelling in those countries.

Since then, Australia has signed similar treaties to issue 417 visas to citizens of 16 other countries. These are;

  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Malta
  • Germany
  • Sweden
  • Norway
  • Denmark
  • Hong Kong
  • Finland
  • Cyprus
  • Italy
  • France
  • Taiwan
  • Belgium
  • Estonia and
  • Netherlands

No cap on 417 visas

Citizens of all these countries can now apply for 417 visas. There is no cap on the number of 417 visas that can be issued and the number of people applying has increased in recent years.

The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) says that 210,369 first working holiday visas were issued in 2012/13. The top five countries were

  1. United Kingdom – 38,782 (up 8.6%)
  2. South Korea – 29,614 (up 8.1%)
  3. Taiwan – 28,599 (up 57%)
  4. Germany – 24,687 (up 17%)
  5. France – 22,539 (up 22.6%)

DIAC notes that there were also large increases in the number of working holiday visas granted for Italy (up 64%) and Hong Kong (up 50%).

There were also 38,862 second Working Holiday visas issued in 2012/13 to backpackers who had completed three months working in a designated rural area.

Numbers increased since 2008 financial crisis

The Australian news site News Limited Network suggests that the increase in the number of working holiday makers travelling to Australia can be explained by the financial crisis of 2008 and the lack of jobs for young people in Europe and elsewhere.

Australia also issues 'Work and Holiday Visas' to citizens of ten other countries. These subclass 462 visas are similar to 417 visas but there is often a cap on the number that can be issued to citizens of any one country.

People from the following countries are eligible for 462 visas.

  • Thailand (cap 500)
  • Chile (1500)
  • Turkey (100)
  • USA (No cap)
  • Malaysia (100)
  • Indonesia (1000)
  • Bangladesh (100)
  • Argentina (500)
  • Uruguay (200)
  • Papua New Guinea (not yet in force. 100 visas will be available)

Australia negotiating with 13 more countries

The Australian government is currently in negotiations with 13 more countries and is expected to sign reciprocal treaties with them soon. Citizens of these countries will be able to apply for subclass 417 visas.

Those countries are

  • Andorra
  • The Czech Republic
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Israel
  • Latvia
  • Mexico
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Slovak Republic
  • Spain
  • Vietnam

Working holiday visas provide great opportunities for young people to travel and work in Australia. They also provide great opportunities for young Australians to see the world because Australians have similar rights to travel and work in all countries eligible for 417 and 462 visas.

Not everyone is in favour. Research by The Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University, Melbourne, has found that there are as many backpackers in Australia as school leavers. They say that this is preventing Australian school leavers from getting entry level jobs.

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

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

UK chef says restaurants would close without immigration

A noted UK celebrity chef has said that his restaurants would close immediately if it were not for immigrants coming to the UK from Europe.

Jamie Oliver, perhaps the most famous chef in the world, has made numerous television programmes and sold millions of books. His wealth has been estimated at over £150m. In the UK, he has over 30 restaurants. Most are part of his Jamie's Italian chain. His other chain of restaurants the 'Fifteen' chain has three restaurants that provides training for disadvantaged young people.

Oliver has given an interview to Good Housekeeping Magazine, a UK woman's publication, in which he said that EU immigrants seem to work harder than UK workers.

Without European migrants restaurants would close

He said 'If we didn't have any [European migrants] all of my restaurants would close tomorrow. There wouldn't be any Brits to replace them'.

He said that young Britons no doubt had a good range of skills but said 'long hours in hot restaurants is not one of them'. He complained that British youths seem to be unable to cope with the long hours and hard work. He said 'I have never seen anyone so wet behind the ears. I have mummies phoning up for 23-year-olds saying to me 'my son is too tired' [after a 48-hour week].'

He said 'I think our European friends are much stronger, much tougher'. He said that throughout his 20s, he worked 80 to 100 hours a week. People in restaurants now work much shorter hours. Despite EU law, restricting people to a maximum of 48 hours a week, 'they [Britons] still whinge about it'.

Oliver no stranger to controversy

Mr Oliver has caused considerable controversy before. In 2005, he made a television series about school food in which he highlighted the low cost and poor quality of food given to children in UK state schools. The series prompted a change of policy by the government. The next year, he secured an increase of £280m over three years in the schools food budget.

In his Good Housekeeping interview, he also said that the British poor often eat unhealthy and expensive food.

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

Monday, September 9, 2013

UK seems likely to miss immigration target

The UK's Office for National Statistics has released figures which show that the latest net migration figure has risen by 23,000. In the year to December 2012, the UK net immigration figure stood at 176,000. In the year to September 2012, net immigration was 153,000. This will be an embarrassment for the government which has pledged to reduce the net immigration figure to below 100,000 by 2015.

Net migration is calculated by finding the number of people who immigrated to a country and the number of people who emigrated from it within any period and calculating the difference. The UK has, for many years, experienced net immigration with fewer people leaving than arriving.

During the last years of the previous Labour government, the annual net immigration figure stood at about 260,000. This led to considerable adverse comment in the UK's lively press.

Cameron pledged to reduce immigration to 'tens of thousands'

During the 2010 election campaign, the Conservative leader David Cameron promised to reduce net immigration to 'tens of thousands' a year. Since then, the government has restated its commitment to reducing net immigration to below 100,000 by 2015, the date of the next general election.

David Cameron is now the Prime Minister of the UK, at the head of a Coalition government. His government has taken numerous steps to cut immigration. It has

  • Scrapped two Tier 1 visas for 'high value migrants';
    • the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa which allowed international graduates from UK universities to stay and work in the UK for two years after graduation
    • The Tier 1 (General) visa which allowed foreign graduates to work in the UK
  • Imposed a cap of 20,700 on the number of Tier 2 (General) visas (for 'highly skilled migrants' that can be issued each year
  • Instituted more checks on universities and on international students to prevent abuse of the Tier 4 student visa
  • Removed the licences from more than 500 further education colleges to sponsor international students to come to study in the UK

The net immigration figure has been falling slowly. Figures released in June showed that net immigration was estimated at 153,000 in the year to September 2013. The latest figures show a rise of 23,000 on this figure.

Numbers of 'New Commonwealth' immigrants down

A breakdown of the figure shows

  • 97,000 people came to the UK from 'the New Commonwealth' (The British Commonwealth is an association of 54 countries which were part of the British Empire. It is informally divided into the 'Old Commonwealth' which comprises the former 'Dominions'; countries such as Australia and Canada which were heavily colonised and ruled by the UK, and 'The New Commonwealth' which comprises other countries also ruled by the UK such as India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Sri Lanka). This was down from 151,000 the previous year.
  • 58,000 arrived from the eight eastern European countries which joined the EU in 2004. These countries include Poland and the Baltic States. This was down from 77,000 the previous year.
  • The number of students coming to the UK was 180,000. This was down from 232,000 the previous year.
Critics of the government argue that the steps taken to lower net immigration are damaging the UK's economy and could not be sustained.

Sarah Mulley of the centre left Institute for Public Policy Research said in March 2013 that the main method whereby the government had reduced net immigration was by cutting the number of international students studying in the UK. She said that this was not only extremely damaging to the UK's economy, because international students bring a great deal of income to the UK's education sector, but that it would also be impossible to continue to reduce the figure.

She said that, because most students stay in the UK for three years and then leave, they add to the emigration figure when they leave. If you cut the number of emigrants, then the net immigration figure will rise, because net emigration will fall.

'Radical changes' required if immigration is to be cut further

Ms Mulley has said that the UK government needs to make 'radical changes which go far beyond the student visa regime' if it wants to hit its target.

On hearing of the latest figures she said 'Recent declines have been driven in large part by falling numbers of international students, which has come at a high economic cost, but this trend now appears to be levelling off'. She added that it appears to be 'running out of options' to meet its target.

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

Friday, September 6, 2013

Canadian immigration strike: Visa applicants face delays

A strike by Canadian visa and immigration staff has continued into its fourth month; there is currently no sign of the dispute being resolved. Some overseas students at Canadian universities are facing disruption to their academic studies because of the delays in obtaining visas. This is a particularly bad time for this to happen as the new academic year will start soon.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is taking steps to try and reduce the disruption caused to overseas student by expediting student visa applications and by encouraging students to make online visa applications. Online student visa applications can be dealt with by immigration staff in Canada who are not on strike.

The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) began a series of strikes on June 6th 2013. PAFSO staff work in Canadian embassies and consulates around the world. The strike action began in six particularly busy locations; Shanghai, Beijing, Delhi, Chandigarh, Manila and Mexico City.

Union argues its members are paid less than colleagues

The dispute concerns pay for PAFSO members. PAFSO says that staff in foreign embassies and consulates are paid less than their colleagues in equivalent positions in Canada. The Canadian government rejects PAFSO's claim saying that staff in foreign locations are given a series of allowances which compensate for lower basic pay.

There is no resolution in sight at present. CIC has said that foreign offices are open with limited staff so some applications are being processed but students in particular are concerned about delays to the application process.

Shawn Dearn of the Association of Canadian Community Colleges told the Canadian broadcaster CBC that CIC had been 'prioritising student visa requests'.

Film festivals may suffer

Organisers of the Montreal World Film Festival are also concerned that some prospective attendees may have difficulty obtaining the visas in time. The Festival begins on 26th September. The Vancouver International Film Festival may also be affected.

The opposition parties; the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party, have urged the ruling Conservatives to negotiate with PAFSO to reach a settlement.

Both opposition parties say that the government is to blame for the dispute and should compromise to prevent further damage to Canada's reputation. They say that Canada stands to lose billions of dollars in international revenue.

Government says union demands are 'unjustified'

The Canadian government has refused to compromise. It says that PAFSO's demands are unjustified and it would be unfair to taxpayers to agree to them.

PAFSO is attempting to force the government into arbitration to settle the dispute. A decision from the labour board on this request is expected shortly.

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

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Matt Damon's new film is 'a metaphor for immigration'

American movie star Matt Damon has told the British national broadcaster The BBC that his new film, Elysium, is a metaphor for immigration. Mr Damon was speaking to the BBC television's Breakfast programme.

Elysium is directed by Neill Blomkamp. Mr Blomkamp was born in South Africa but emigrated at the age of 18 to Vancouver on the west coast of Canada. Damon told BBC interviewer Susannah Reid, 'The director didn't want to make a 'message movie [but] he said to me "Look, I grew up in South Africa. I emigrated to Vancouver when I was 18 years' old. The experience of moving from a third world country to a first world country so completely shattered me that, throughout my adult life, I have been expressing that in the films I make."'

Elysium has been controversial in the US since its release. It has been accused by Republican commentators of being a 'socialist' film and Damon has been attacked for being less than frank when he says that the film is not trying to impart a message.

'This is today. This is now'

Indeed, even the film's writer/director seems to believe that the film has a political message. Neill Blomkamp told UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph '"People have asked me if I think this is what will happen in 140 years, but this isn't science fiction. This is today. This is now'

The film, which was written and directed by Blomkamp, is set in 2154. The earth's population lives in a poor, hungry and violent world except for the super-rich who now live on a luxurious space station known as Elysium (the name for paradise in Greek mythology).

The film's plot follows the efforts of a group of 'illegal immigrants', including Max, played by Damon, as they attempt to reach Elysium. Damon and his allies are confronted by the Elysian secretary of defence, played by American actress Jodie Foster, who is prepared to use any means necessary to stop them.

Tijuana trip inspired film

Mr Blomkamp also told Telegraph writer John Hiscock that he had been inspired to write the film by an experience he had in the Mexican border town of Tijuana. He told Mr Hiscock how he had been arrested by police in Mexico while drinking beer in the street, unaware that this was against the law. He and his friend had been driven away from the tourist area by the police.

He explained how he and his friend had given the policemen all their money and had eventually been released. By now, they were in 'a poverty-stricken area with fires and feral dogs' from where they had to walk back to the US border.

Blomkamp recounted how he could see the border which was patrolled by high-tech black hawk helicopters as they walked through the poverty of the Tijuana slums. He recounts 'it was the most insane feeling I've ever had in my life'.

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

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

UK Directors say immigration is good for economy

The director general of the Institute of Directors, Simon Walker, has said that immigrant workers are vital for the UK's economy. Mr Walker was responding to a speech by the opposition Labour Party's immigration spokesman, Chris Bryant.

Mr Bryant made a speech on Tuesday 12th August 2013 in which he bemoaned the fact that over 1m Britons aged under 24 were unemployed. In the original draft of the speech, he criticised large British employers like supermarket Tesco and clothes retailer Next for employing foreign workers to cut costs.

He said that Tesco had staffed a new distribution centre in Kent largely with eastern European labour and claimed that Next employed eastern European workers to save money.

Tesco has no distribution centre in Kent

UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph acquired an advanced copy of the speech before it was given and contacted Next and Tesco. Both issued statements denying Mr Bryant's claims. Tesco said that it does not have a distribution centre in Kent. Next said that it employs eastern European staff in seasonal jobs because UK workers do not apply for them.

By the time the speech was actually given, the criticisms of Tesco and Next had been dropped from the speech.

Nonetheless, the speech caused a small furore. Mr Walker who, as head of the Institute of Directors, represents the interests of about 36,000 directors of UK businesses, warned against any moves to discriminate against legal migrant labour in the UK work force.

Discriminating against migrant labour would be illegal

He said 'Discriminating in any way against EU migrant labour would not only be illegal and entirely contrary to all the principles of the free market, but would damage Britain's growth prospects just as the economy is starting to take off'.

Mr Walker said that there were good reasons why UK businesses employ foreign workers and these did not involve discrimination against UK workers.

He said that foreign workers are more likely to apply for lower paid jobs than British ones. He said that the way that the UK benefits system works means that it is understandable if British workers decide not to take low paid jobs.

He said 'The fact that we [the UK has] a welfare system with marginal deduction rates as high as 90% means that it can be entirely rational for British welfare claimants to resist entering the workforce. It often makes no financial sense for a [benefit] claimant to take a low paid job'.

Foreign workers are better educated

He added that foreign-born workers will often be picked instead of British-educated workers because low standards in the UK educational system mean that foreign workers are better educated.

He said 'The fact that international comparisons suggest British education ranks 25th for reading, 28th for maths and 16th for science, and that the UK is being overtaken by Poland and Estonia, tells its own story'.

He called on the government to reform the welfare and educational systems in the UK so that British workers were more likely to apply for, and to get, jobs in the UK. 'What is needed is continuing urgent reform to Britain's education and welfare systems in order to reverse the decline in the employability of young British workers.'

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

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Senior Republican says no to US illegal immigration reform

A senior Republican Congressman has said that he is opposed to the creation of a 'pathway to citizenship' for all illegal immigrants in the US. This may signal a hardening of attitudes of Republicans in Congress against immigration reform.

The US Senate passed a bill in June 2013 that would, if it became law, create such a pathway for most of the estimated 11.5m illegal immigrants living in the US. For the bill to become law, however, it must also be passed by the lower house of Congress, the House of Representatives (known as The House).

While a clear majority of American citizens support the creation of a pathway to citizenship, the majority of Republican supporters oppose it. And the House is controlled by the Republicans.

Substantial obstacle to bill's passage

Representative Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, who is the chairman of the influential House Judiciary Committee, has said that he opposes the creation of a pathway. The Judiciary Committee would have to debate the bill and make amendments to it if the House voted on the bill so his opposition is a substantial obstacle to the bill passing.

Over the summer recess of Congress, many pro-reform groups are attempting to put pressure on Republican Representatives to support the reform bill but some are implacably opposed to any reform act that includes a clause creating a pathway.

They say that such a provision would amount to an amnesty and would reward illegal immigrants for their illegal behaviour. They may also fear that their Republican Party members may seek to have them replaced as candidates at the next election by anti-reform alternatives if they vote for the bill.

Many Republicans oppose immigration reform

Immigration has been a hot topic in Washington this year and so many Congressmen and women have spoken out on the subject. While most Republicans have voiced opposition to the Senate's reform bill, and in particular to the creation of a 'pathway to citizenship' for illegal immigrants, some less extreme Republicans take a slightly more conciliatory path.

They say that, while they oppose the pathway for most illegal immigrants, they favour the creation of a pathway for illegal immigrants who were brought to the US as children by their parents and have since known no other home. These are the so-called DREAMers.

DREAMers are named after a previous bill aimed at giving this class of illegal resident a pathway to citizenship; the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2001. This bill, had it become law when it was introduced in 2001, would have provided conditional permanent resident status to some illegal immigrants who arrived in the US as children.

Goodlatte opposes 'pathway' for DREAMers

Now, Mr Goodlatte has gone one further than his more moderate colleagues. He has told a right-wing radio host that he opposes the creation of a pathway even for DREAMers.

He told Hugh Hewitt, a radio host whose show is syndicated to more than 120 cities in the US, 'Even for them, I would say that they get a legal status in the US and not a pathway to citizenship that is created especially for them. In other words, they get that legal status if they have an employer who says 'I've got a job which I can't find a US citizen and I went to petition for them…but I wouldn't give them the pathway to a Green Card and ultimately citizenship'.

The Washington commentators Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas, who write the Wonkbook blog for the Washington Post, say that it is likely that Mr Goodlatte has hardened his stance because he is confident that the House Republicans will vote against reform.

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

Monday, September 2, 2013

UK Immigration opportunities as 1.3m graduates emigrate

Figures released by the UK's Office for National Statistics show that there are now 1.3m British graduates living and working overseas. This is more than any other developed country. Germany comes second with a mere 865,000. Only 400,000 US graduates live abroad even though the population of the US is about 5.5 times that of the UK.

The ONS figures show that 10% of graduates from leading British universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and Exeter in 2011 have left the country. 12% of 2011 graduates from St Andrews, the Scottish university where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge studied, are now working abroad.

The ONS figures also show that 154,000 British citizens left the UK in 2012. This figure has risen by 20% over the last three years

'We live in a very mobile global market'

Conservative MP Nick de Bois told UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph 'We live in a very mobile, global market. People can look around and they can judge where they want to go'.

Mr de Bois said that the UK should seek to encourage these people to stay. He said 'We have got to persuade these people that they should stay here. We are losing the professional middle class'.

He said that many of those leaving were going to work in aerospace, engineering, pharmaceuticals and creative industries in developing economies 'because they can get a higher quality of life, a better education for their children and a lower cost of living elsewhere'. He said 'We have to convince these people, who we have invested so much in, to make Britain their first choice. We have to continue to drive lower taxes; we have to keep driving the change and reform in our public services'.

UK attracts more migrants than any other EU state in 2012

Meanwhile, the number of immigrants settling in the UK was the highest in the EU in 2012. The UK's population rose by about 450,000 people and about 40% of this, the statistics say, was down to immigration.

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