Thursday, April 30, 2015

UK Immigration high on agenda during Televised General Election Debate

Alongside healthcare and the economy, immigration was a hotly contested topic during the televised election debate screened live on ITV on April 2. UK immigration is one of the most divisive issues in the election campaign and this was clearly evident during the two hour debate.

The seven party leaders who took part in the debate were Prime Minister, David Cameron, Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, Liberal Democrat Leader, Nick Clegg, Plaid Cymru Leader, Leanne Wood, Scottish National Party Leader, Nicola Sturgeon, Green Party Leader, Natalie Bennett, and UKIP leader Nigel Farage.



UKIP influence on Immigration Debate

Immigration has risen near to the top of the political agenda at least partly because of UKIP's stance on the issue. The party is a strong advocate of Britain leaving the European Union and ending the free movement of EU immigrant workers into the UK.

UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, constantly brought up the issue during the debate, urging the studio audience and TV viewers to support his party and allow them to 'take back control of Britain's borders.'



Farage obsessed with immigration

Farage put his stance on immigration across quite forcefully and was criticised for his views by the other six party leaders who were in agreement that Farage is 'obsessed with immigration' and did not hold back in criticising him, and his party's stance on the issue.

Plaid Cymru Leader, Leanne Wood, was particularly scathing of Farage and received massive applause when she pressed Farage for an answer as to why he'd said that HIV-positive foreigners were a financial drain on the NHS.

She said: "This kind of scaremongering rhetoric is dangerous; I think you should be ashamed of yourself."

Nicola Sturgeon also asked Farage: "Is there anything that you would not blame on immigration?"
Farage's response to Sturgeon was nonchalant, simply laughing off the question.



Housing, health and the economy

As the immigration debate died down, the focus turned to housing, health and the economy, with Green Party Leader, Natalie Bennett and Lib Dem Leader, Nick Clegg finding their voice to cover these issues.



No party leader stood out

Despite opportunities to do so during an intense debate surrounding immigration, health care and the economy the majority of the media reported that no leader stood out during the televised event. There were no glaring gaffes and all the leaders can certainly claim to have put the majority of their points across.

Cameron tended to avoid getting drawn into bickering. However, the Prime Minister was heckled by a member of the studio audience. Victoria Prosser, 33, who was asked to leave.

Outside the ITV Centre in Salford, she said: "My cause is speaking the truth and making sure as many people as possible start questioning people at the top, the 1 percent, who are not working in our best interests."

She added: "I can't vote for anyone who I know is lying or omitting facts. That means I couldn't vote for any of the people that I saw tonight. Even though some of them had good ideas, I know that they are all out for the same cause."

Ed Miliband, often criticised as cerebral and awkward, appeared to fare better and delivered his points eloquently, without an audience hijacking. As expected, Farage was easily the most abrasive and loud participant, making sure his anti-EU views were heard clearly.

Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP and Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru (the Party of Wales) — who are both potential kingmakers if the election result is close which seems likely —aimed their points towards their respective home constituencies.

Natalie Bennett of the Green Party, perhaps surprisingly, outlined a set of alternative-sounding policies on issues other than the environment.

While media outlets did not seem to have much of a view as to who stood out in the debate, a YouGov poll was pretty clear that Nicola Sturgeon leader of the SNP was judged best-performing leader on the night. In a poll of 1,117 viewers, she received 28 percent of the backing.

She was followed by Nigel Farage on 20 percent, David Cameron 18 percent, Ed Miliband 15 per cent, Nick Clegg 10 per cent, Natalie Bennett 5 per cent and Leanne Wood 4 per cent. The general election will take place on May 7, 2015.

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Canadian Immigration's new Express Entry system a slow starter

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) says that less than 50 percent of immigrants coming into the country this year will be selected through its much-anticipated Express Entry system. The new system, introduced by Canada's Conservative government, promised to match skilled economic migrants with the needs of employers.

Since the launch of the Express Entry on January 1, 2015, just over 6,850 prospective or approximately 2,300 immigrants per month, have been invited to lodge an application for permanent residency. It won't be until 2017 that a majority of immigrants are processed through the new system.

Immigration levels plan

As part of its 2015 immigration levels plan, CIC had committed to accepting between 260,000 and 285,000 new permanent residents, around two-thirds of which would be economic migrants.

In order for the government to get anywhere near this target they would need to be admitting close to 22,500 immigrants per month. The majority of new immigrant arrivals this year will have to be chosen through the old system, which has faced criticism because of slow processing times.

CIC spokeswoman, Johanne Nadeau said: "CIC is in a period of transition with recent implementation of Express Entry that will span approximately two years. A majority of economic immigrants arriving in 2015 will be drawn from the pool of people who applied to enter Canada in the years before Express Entry was introduced."

It is expected that the number of permanent residents coming through the system will rise in 2016 to around 50% of admissions. By 2017, CIC expects that the majority, if not all economic immigrant based entry will be via the Express Entry system.



Express Entry immigration requirements

Under the new system, candidates in the economic streams are pooled with other applicants for initial assessment. Each candidate is graded on factors such as age, education and work skills and then given a score out of 1,200 according to Canada's Ranking System formula. The ranking formula scores single candidates and candidates with spouses in the following ways:

Single Candidates
  1. Skills & experience (Maximum 500 points).
  2. Skill transferability (Maximum 100 points).
  3. Additional points (Maximum 600 points).

Maximum points 1,200

Spouses or Common-Law Partners of Candidates
  1. Skills & experience (Maximum 460 points)
  2. Spouse of common-law partner factors (Maximum 40 points)
  3. Skill transferability (Maximum 100 points)
  4. Additional points (Maximum 600 points)

Maximum points 1,200

Every three weeks, a cut-off score is chosen by the CIC and those who are above that score are invited to become permanent residents in Canada.

CIC anticipates that there will be between 15 and 25 of these rounds this year. Candidates with a Canadian employment offer, or those nominated by a provincial government, have a distinct advantage due to the way the criteria is weighted.

The number of points needed for admission has dropped by almost half from 900 in early January to 453 by late March. As the number of points required has decreased the number of invitations issued has increased.

Until recently, all of the applicants chosen for Express Entry had job offers or were nominated by a provincial government. However, the last two rounds have seen candidates selected with neither a job offer nor nomination, which has made it easier for applicants.

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

UK Immigration changes including Tier 2 Visa changes 6 April 2015

The UK Home office announced changes affecting Tier 2 visas and other UK Visas from 6 April 2015. While most of the changes are not significant, a new healthcare surcharge will mean much higher costs for Tier 2 visa applicants and for many other migrants.

Immigration Healthcare Surcharge

Home Office fees increased across the board from 5 April 2015. A new 'health surcharge' will be levied as part of the immigration application for many applicants who intend to stay in the UK for longer than 6 months. The cost imposed on most UK visa applicants will be £200 per year. It will be £150 per year for students. Dependents will also be charged the same amount as applicants.

The healthcare surcharge has to be paid in full to submit an immigration application. So for instance a Tier 2 applicant making a three year visa application has to pay £600 upfront while applying; The spouse and dependents will be charged the same as the principle applicant. This charge will be levied regardless of whether the applicant has private healthcare. Some visa applicants will be exempt from the surcharge such as Tier 2 ICT visa applicants, EU citizens and their dependents and those on visas valid for up to six months.



Tier 2 Visa Minimum Salary Thresholds Increases

The new rules include the following minor changes:

For Minimum Salary thresholds the following amendments have been implemented:
  • The minimum salary threshold for all Tier 2 General employees has been increased from £20,500 to £20,800
  • To seem exemption from the Jobcenter plus advertising requirement the minimum salary has increased from £71,600 to £72,500
  • High earner threshold changed from £153,500 to £155,300. No resident labour market test is required in this situation.
  • For Tier 2 ICT employees whose jobs qualify for Short Term Staff, Skills Transfer or Graduate Training category the minimum salary threshold increased from £24,500 to £24,800
  • For Tier 2 ICT employees under Long Term Staff qualification, the minimum salary threshold increased from £41,000 to £41,500

These changes apply to applications made after 6 April 2015. Additionally, all skilled workers who apply for settlement under Tier 2(General or Sportsperson) after April 6, 2020 will be subject to an increased minimum annual salary requirement of £36,200 when they apply. Currently many Tier 2 visa holders need to show that their salary over the past year has been at £35,000 or higher.



Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List amended slightly

Some minor changes to the Shortage Occupations List were also implemented:
  • Changes to graduate occupations in the health sector for UK and Scotland, including the addition of paramedics to the UK list
  • Other additions in the medical field include consultants in radiology, training roles in emergency medicine, non-consultant non training roles in paediatrics, non-consultant, non training roles in old age psychiatry and core trainees in psychiatry
  • New roles added to the list focusing on digital technology including product manager, data scientist, senior developer and cyber security analyst.



No Cooling off period requirement for short term Tier 2 Visas

This change will benefit companies who wish to transfer employees to the UK for a period of three months or less; Previously, in this situation a migrant working in the UK under a Tier 2 visa had to wait for a 'cooling off 'period of 12 months before they were eligible to apply for a new Tier 2 visa.

This new rule provides companies with more flexibility when employing someone for a short-term assignment in the UK.

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

Monday, April 27, 2015

Passport exit immigration checks now in force at UK borders and ports

A new scheme is being phased in at UK border crossings, so that UK immigration can collect data on all passengers leaving the country. The information is obtained by staff working for airlines, ferry companies, etc who record details of every traveller leaving on a commercial flight, or by sea or by rail. The data collected is then passed on to the Home Office.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The government wants the checks to identify individuals who are in the UK illegally. This means that passport and travel details will be transmitted to the Home Office.

The information will then be collated and added to Home Office data, where it can be accessed if the government needs it. All data will be processed in line with the Data Protection Act 1998, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the common law duty of confidentiality."



Exit checks part of increased UK Immigration enforcement

The government says it has launched the scheme under the 2014 Immigration Act, mainly to monitor immigration and gather data. It's also in place they say to boost national security; ministers say that it enables police and spies to track the activity of known criminals and terrorists across the world.

Security and UK Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire said: "It is important that we have an immigration system that is fair, tackles illegal immigration and cracks down on those who attempt to cheat the system by remaining in the country when they have no right to do so. Exit checks will give us crucial information that confirms a person's exit from the UK."

In an interview with BBC breakfast, former Independent Chief Inspector of UK Borders and Immigration, John Vine, said: "It will allow the government, for the first time in a long time, to obtain information about who is left in Britain."

Up until recently it's not been possible for the government to know who's overstayed their visa and who's remained in the country, and they've not known who's here and who's left."

Mr Vine when Chief Inspector for Immigration was responsible for producing reports which caused a considerable amount of embarrassment to the Home Office and the Government. Many have suggested that he resigned from his position because of disagreements with the Government.



Ferry and Channel Tunnel passengers affected the most

Those travelling by ferry or the Channel Tunnel from Dover will be affected most by the new checks as they have to wait to have their passports scanned before continuing on their journey. Airports will be least affected because airlines will provide information from travel documents in advance, so that hopefully passengers will not notice any increased delay due to the new system of checks.

School coach parties made up of British or European children below the age of 16 will be exempt from the checks. For people travelling between Britain and Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man an alternative system will be put in place.

Alternative arrangements will also be put in place for travellers journeying on small non-scheduled flights or using non-commercial pleasure boats.



Phased introduction of new UK Immigration Exit Check System

For the first month, to minimise disruption, only 25% of passport holders will have their details fully verified in order to ensure they are genuine. After one month, verification checks will rise to 50% and by mid-June it is intended that 100% of those travelling out of the UK will be checked.

Eurotunnel, which is responsible for operating and maintaining the Channel Tunnel, said 100% of travellers would come under the new verification checks system immediately; they feel they are ready to do this having already spent £2.5 million on new systems, and on employing 50 new staff.



UK borders will come to a standstill

John Keefe, Eurotunnel's Public Affairs Directors, warned that UK borders will grind to a halt in the near future because traveller numbers will grow.

He said: "We'll see a 20-25% rise in the number of travellers using the Eurotunnel over the next five years, and a 30% rise in truck traffic. However, the Government's approach to managing the borders will bring them to a standstill - we need smarter technology."

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

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Appeal Date Set for Challenges to Obama's Immigration Reforms

A US appeals court in Washington DC has set a date of May 4 to hear arguments concerning a challenge against President Barack Obama's immigration executive actions.


Lawsuit against Obama Executive Action

In December 2014, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by Joe Arpaio, an Arizona sheriff, who described Obama's sweeping changes as 'unconstitutional'. Apario lodged an appeal with the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The lawsuit filed by Apario said the changes were effectively an amnesty and would encourage more people to enter the US illegally.

However, US District Judge Beryl Howell said: "The sheriff failed to conclusively prove that he would be directly affected due to the unilateral measures. The role of the Judiciary is to resolve cases and controversies properly brought by parties with a concrete and particularized injury — not to engage in policymaking better left to the political branches."

Howell, an Obama-appointee stated: "The plaintiff's case raises important questions regarding the impact of illegal immigration on this nation, but the questions amount to generalized grievances which are not proper for the Judiciary to address."



Ongoing battle

The Obama administration has been battling against actions attempting to stall immigration reforms designed to grant relief from deportation to 4.7 million people currently in the US illegally. Those opposed to the President's plans, including Joe Arpaio, say that the proposed immigration reforms are unconstitutional.

Recently, the US Department of Justice was denied an emergency stay to put on hold a Texas judge's decision that temporarily blocked Obama's executive actions. The Texas Judge had blocked executive actions after 26 states had pursued a lawsuit with the intention of preventing Obama's immigration reforms.




In Congress, the executive orders have also caused tensions, with House Republicans unsuccessfully threatening to withhold funding from the Department of Homeland Security, to try and prevent Obama's immigration reforms.



Coalition of states against Executive Action

The 26 states attempting to prevent Obama's executive action from progressing further asked a federal judge on March 3 not to lift a temporary hold on the immigration reforms. The coalition of 26 states, fronted by Texas, wrote in a 22 page court filing presented to US District Judge Andrew Hanen, in Brownsville Texas, that 'there's no emergency requirement to implement a sweeping new program.'

The document also said: "It is not in the public interest to allow (the U.S. government) to effect a breathtaking expansion of executive power, all before the courts have had a full opportunity to consider its legality."



Obama's orders

The first of Obama's orders – which involved expanding a program to protect young immigrants from deportation if they had arrived in the US illegally as children - Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – was set to go ahead on February 18.

Secondly, Obama's orders would extend deportation amnesty to parents of US citizens and permanent residents who have resided in the US for a number of years - DAPA, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. However, this order was not due to take effect until May 19.

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

Friday, April 24, 2015

"Financially literate" likely to be positive on UK immigration

Research regarding immigration has been conducted by the British Election Study (BES); an academic group that has analysed Britain's electoral behaviour since 1964. In the survey, the BES found that the more "financially literate" a person is, the more positive their views on immigration are likely to be.

The survey was taken by up to 30,000 people. BES discovered that the more people correctly understood inflation, interest rates and risk diversification the more likely they were to have a positive stance on immigration and its cultural and economic benefits.

Dr George Panos and Prof Robert E. Wright undertook the survey to challenge the persistent negative attitude towards immigrants. This followed a recent 2014 study by economists at University College London, which found that immigrants put in more into the economhy through taxes than they take out in benefits and welfare support.

Panos and Wright reasoned that to fully understand the role immigrants play in the modern UK economy, a considerable knowledge of economics, finance, and immigrants' role in the labour market would be necessary. They concluded that the more "financially literate" a person is, the more likely their attitudes towards immigration would be "positive".

Some of the questions asked included, "Do you think that immigration undermines or enriches Britain's cultural life?' and "Do you think immigration is bad or good for the economy?"

Even after factoring in user control variables such as gender, age, political orientation (left-right), income, and education, "financial literacy" was still shown to have the most substantial effect on participants' attitude to immigration.

The survey concluded that not only is financial literacy important, it should also be more widely known that skilled migrants contribute more to the economy than they take out coming up to the 2015 election.

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

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Labour promises to ban indefinite detention of immigrants

The Labour Party has vowed to bring in time limits and ban the indefinite detention of asylum seekers and immigrants in detention centres, if they come into power after the 7 May 2015 General Election. The move will bring the UK into line with other Western nations.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, described the detention system as inefficient and "deeply scarring" for detainees. There have been increasing delays in visa applications being considered leading to more people in detention centres; in 2010 1,757 were detained for three to six months, that number rose to 2,385 last year.

Under current law, an asylum seeker or immigrant waiting to have a visa application considered can be held indefinitely in a detention centre. Recently the home office select committee discovered that two people had been held for more than four years.

Many believe that the current system isn't working. There are increasing delays in dealing with immigration applications. It is also expensive to keep so many people in detention. An all-party parliamentary inquiry has suggested 28 days become the new maximum. Labour have promised to recruit 1,000 additional immigration and border enforcement staff to meet the new time limits, enforce removals where necessary, and speed up the decision making process for considering visa applications.

Cooper said the following in Birmingham on Thursday "Indefinite detention of people who have committed no crime – and without even any independent review – is wrong… And it is extremely expensive for taxpayers. No other western nation does it. We don't need to either."

Detention centre Yarl's Wood came under scrutiny last year when allegations by female detainees of sexual assault came to light. Many of those detained in detention centres are asylum seekers, some of whom are victims of violent and sexual assault in their home countries. Labour have already pledged to ban the detention of pregnant women and victims of sexual assault.

Cooper calls the move to introduce time limits for detention "humane", and has the support of Citizens UK campaign leader Zrinka Bralo. Speaking to the Guardian, Bralo said, "Indefinite detention is a stain on the character of Britain. Detaining people indefinitely in prison-like conditions without judicial oversight is unfair, unjust, ineffective and inhumane."

Labour have stressed that those that have been deported for criminal convictions, or those awaiting trial for criminal offences, will not come under the same time limits as others.

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Controversy over bill to increase number of US H-1B Visas

Speaking at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on March 17, Chairman Chuck Grassley said that a bill, sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch to increase the number of H-1B visas - "does not close the program's loopholes or stop abuse. It does not ensure that American workers are put ahead of foreign workers. It only serves to increase cheap foreign labour."

Speaking at the same hearing, Senator Orrin Hatch, representing Utah, said he would raise the H-1B visa cap from 65,000 to a shifting cap of 115,000 – 300,000.

In addition the proposals would enable corporations to employ an unlimited number of skilled migrants who hold advanced degrees obtained from US institutions in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Under the current H-1B visa system, 20,000 visas are reserved for those with an advanced degree.



Some Claim H-1B visa manipulated to a "huge degree"

Senator Jeff Sessions, representing Alabama, said that the H-1B programme is being manipulated to a "huge degree." He referred to the recent Southern California Edison case, which outsourced to overseas companies and employed H-1B visa holders to replace scores of Americans who were laid off. It is claimed that some of those laid off were threatened with the loss of their pension if they didn't agree to train the workers replacing them.

It's this case that Grassley, Sessions and numerous other critics, have cited in order to demonstrate the abuse of the H-1B visa program. However, supporters of the program say that critics are simply picking out a few businesses who manipulate the program in order to tarnish it as a whole.



Supporters of H-1B Visa Program fight back

The technology industry, however, has voiced its support of the H-1B visa program. The President of, a group created by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to lobby for more foreign guest workers, said: "It's a false choice that we can't protect American workers and create a better system that allows American companies to get access to the best talent in the world."

On 25 March the executive chairman at Google, Edward Schmidt, urged Congress to increase the number of H-1B visas made available. Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute, he said: "In the long list of stupid policies of the US government, I think our attitude toward immigration has got to be near the top."

"We take very, very smart people, bring them into the country, give them a diploma and kick them out where they go on to create companies that compete with us, brilliant strategy."




Hatch's bill is being sponsored by nine senators and while not a co-sponsor, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, representing Texas, said he had been enthused by Hatch's proposal, stating: "Sending foreign students home immediately after graduation strikes me as foolish. I thought we were in agreement that legal immigration is a good thing." He did also mention though that he was keen to see a crackdown on abuse.



Grassely pursuing own visa scheme

Senator Grassley on the other hand is pushing his own agenda. In particular he wants legislation that would require US businesses to try and recruit American workers prior to resorting to the visa program.



Debate continues about benefits of H-1B Visa Scheme

Most of the hearing was about whether there is a shortage of high-skilled workers in the US and whether H-1B visa holders are receiving less pay than their American counterparts. Arguments on immigration reform continue. However, there has been little change to the US visa system for many years. This is not a healthy state of affairs.

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