Tuesday, June 30, 2015

David Cameron outlines crackdown on UK Tier 2 immigration

British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced new plans to 'significantly reduce' immigration to the UK from outside of the European Union. Plans include raising the salary threshold for the Tier 2 (General) visa.



Migration Advisory Committee to consult on anti-immigration measures

Speaking during Prime Minister's questions on June 10th, the prime minister announced that home secretary Theresa May will ask the Migration Advisory Committee – a semi-independent body set up to advise on immigration policy – to consider several new proposals in order to reduce net migration to under 100,000 annually; mentioned in the last two Conservative election manifestos, and repeated recently by the Prime Minister's team.



Visa restrictions announced

EU rules on freedom of movement within the EU means that there is not much that the Government can do to reduce immigration from EU Countries. Therefore in an attempt to reduce immigration the Migration Advisory Committee will focus on immigration from outside of the European Economic Area. Proposals the committee will consider include:
  • Restricting the availability of work visas, such as the Tier 2 for skilled migrants, to only those who come under 'skill shortages and specialists'.
  • Limiting the time 'a sector can claim to have a skills shortage' on the Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List
  • Introducing a 'skills levy on businesses who recruit foreign workers'
  • Increasing the Tier 2 (General) visa salary threshold



Tier 2 visas targeted

The proposals announced focus on the Tier 2 general visa, which enables UK employers holding a Tier 2 sponsorship licence to employ skilled migrants from outside of the European Economic Area.

Current rules say that applicants for Tier 2 visas must normally have been offered a UK job which pays a minimum of £20,800 per year. It is proposed that this figure is increased. By how much we currently do not know. In any event this is only the minimum salary for the Tier 2 visa scheme. It is already the case that for most occupations on the Tier 2 occupation list the minimum salary requirement is much higher than this.

To come under the Tier 2 visa scheme you need to gain 70 points or more under the points test; You gain points for having a Certificate of Sponsorship from a UK employer, having sufficient savings, and for meeting the Tier 2 English language requirements.



Proposals condemned by experts

Speaking to BBC News, Migration Advisory Committee chairman David Metcalf predicted 'unexpected side effects' for the UK economy if the new proposals are implemented.

Katja Hall, director general of the Confederation of British Industry responded to the announcement, saying: "Limiting highly skilled workers from coming to the UK is not the answer.

"They bring their skills and ideas to this country, pay their taxes here and boost growth. We need to keep up-skilling our population, but at the same time as attracting the best and brightest global talent."

Global Visa Support offers a variety of programs in United Kingdom. Please visit our UK page for more information: http://www.globalvisasupport.com/uk.html

Monday, June 15, 2015

2015 Immigration Bill Targets Migrant Workers

The state opening of parliament in the UK last Wednesday saw the Queen deliver a speech prepared by prime minister David Cameron's team, in which she outlined the new Conservative government's agenda for their next five years in office. Among the announcements made in the Queen's Speech was a new immigration bill, which promises tougher measures to 'control immigration' and 'support working people'.

The bill includes several new proposals.



Illegal Working by immigrants

Currently the Immigration Act 1971 means that migrants that have leave to remain but who breach their conditions of leave by working illegally can receive up to 6 months in prison and/or an unlimited fine. However, the law does not presently apply to migrants who entered the country illegally, or visa overstayers.

This year's bill includes plans to create a new criminal offence: 'Illegal Working'. The new law would give the police powers to prosecute all migrants working illegally, as well as their employers, and allows undocumented migrants' earnings to be seized as 'proceeds of crime'.

The law is troubling. Undocumented migrants are already subject to arrest and deportation, so it's unclear what can be gained from impoverishing them further. Secondly, criminalising migrants is likely to make it even harder to tackle bad bosses.

Undocumented workers, and those waiting for asylum claims and visa appeals, are among the most often exploited groups; partly due to their hesitance about bringing attention to themselves by reporting their employers. The threat of loss of earnings and incarceration is likely to make them even more unwilling to come forward.

In effect, the new law means greater security for exploitative bosses, leaving migrants feeling powerless to report on them for fear of repercussions.

As the law will also extend to those who overstay their visas, it's likely that we will see the arrests of charity staff on expired Tier 5 visas for temporary workers, and potentially thousands of pounds seized from skilled professionals whose Tier 2 (General) visas have run out.

Imprisonment is a heavy handed tactic for dealing with overstayers. Given the vital work that these migrants provide for charities, the NHS, and the private sector it seems unwise to threaten them with criminalisation.



New Enforcement Agency

The bill announced plans to create a new enforcement agency to combat employers who are 'luring (migrants) here with the promise of a better life, but delivering the exact opposite'.

On the surface this is a noble project; the Trades Union Congress reports that a significant number of employers 'exploit migrant workers, paying under the minimum wage and housing them in inhuman conditions, in order to get cheap labour'. However, agencies such as HMRC and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) already exist to enforce the minimum wage and prevent the exploitation of workers.

Under the coalition government the GLA's powers to regulate industries, such as cleaning, where migrants commonly work were significantly curtailed. Coupled with the creation of the new 'Illegal Working' offence, this invites speculation about the true purpose of the new enforcement agency.

The agency's stated aim is to crack down on 'the worst cases of exploitation'; the bulk of these involve employers of undocumented migrants and visa overstayers. It seems likely then that the new agency will spend much of its time investigating and prosecuting migrants who entered the UK illegally, and those whose Tier 2 and Tier 5 visas have expired. It's unlikely that these victims of exploitation will be lining up to thank them.

A more effective approach to tackling exploitation would be to support migrants' rights organisations and trade unions; the latter of which also came under heavy fire during the Queen's Speech – with a proposal to outlaw strike actions without the support of at least 40% of union members; The Conservative government was elected on less than 25% of the vote.



Immigration Levy on Employers

Worryingly for employers, the bill also proposed to introduce a financial penalty on companies who recruit migrant workers. It's currently unclear whether the levy will be imposed on employers who recruit from within the European Economic Area, or just those who sponsor non-EU workers on Tier 2 visas for skilled migrants and Tier 5 for certain other types of migrant workers.

Apparently the levy will be used to fund an apprenticeship scheme for British workers. However, employers of migrants already contribute in that area directly by running their own apprenticeship programs, as well as indirectly by bolstering the economy; largely through their employment of skilled migrants on Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visas.

A study released in November last year by the UCL Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration reports that migrants contributed more than £20 billion to the UK economy between 2000 and 2011, and provided the UK with skilled workers that would otherwise have cost the UK £6.8 billion in spending on education.



Other Anti-Immigration Measures

Additional proposals include restricting access to services, such as the NHS, for illegal migrants; electronically tagging all foreign criminals; and extending the 'deport first, appeal later' principle from just criminal offenders to all undocumented migrants, even those at risk of human rights abuses in their home country.

Given the huge boost to the economy due to migrant workers, it's difficult to see these anti-immigration measures as anything more than dishonest political manoeuvring. The Conservatives' track record in immigration is bad; from senseless and counter-productive restrictions on Tier 2 visas for skilled migrants, to the short lived 'racist van' which patrolled London in 2013 encouraging immigrants to 'go home'.

In the face of criticism from both the left and right for presiding over the slowest economic recovery since at least the 1920s, the Conservatives seem keen to shift the focus onto immigration. Pressure from the explicitly anti-immigration United Kingdom Independence Party may also have played a part; four million people voted for UKIP at the recent general election.

It's unfortunate – if unsurprising, given their track record - that a supposedly pro-business party would choose to encourage anti-immigration sentiment, especially in the face of hard evidence showing migration to be a source of economic growth for the UK. Now is the time for employers and migrant groups to lobby against these changes, lest the hard work that migrants have done for this country be undermined.

Global Visa Support offers a variety of programs in United Kingdom. Please visit our UK page for more information: http://www.globalvisasupport.com/uk.html

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

UK Visa applicants incorrectly advised by the Home Office

Criticism has been aimed at the Home Office after they advised two Indian Entrepreneurs, hoping to stay in Scotland, to contact candidates for the UK parliamentary elections rather than their local Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP).

The Scottish National Party (SNP) labelled the advice 'negligent' and 'ridiculous' because unelected parliamentary candidates have no special status when it comes to intervening in UK immigration matters.

The UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) service made the statement after Maneesh Varshney and Vivek Kumar had sought assistance from Nicola Sturgeon and Gordon MacDonald, an SNP MSP.



Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa

Varshney, who holds a postgraduate degree from Edinburgh Napier University in aquatic ecosystems management obtained in 2010, and Kumar, who gained a postgraduate degree in finance from Dundee University in the same year, each lodged an application for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa in 2013 so that they could set up a new business.

The Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa is a visa category that frequently leads to permanent residence in the UK requires applicants who are Tier 4 students in the UK and those in certain other visa categories to have £50,000 in investment funds. Varshney and Kumar are working on a business that transforms food waste into fish food. Others wishing to apply under the Tier 1 Entrepreneur category need to invest £200,000.



Tier 1 Visas rejected

Their applications were rejected and they have exhausted the appeals process, at which point they turned to Gordon MacDonald, the MSP for Edinburgh Pentlands, plus the First Minister for Scotland for help.

They obtained letters of endorsement from Scottish Enterprise for a new visa application; however, UKVI refused to deal with Mr MacDonald because he is in the Scottish Parliamant rather than the UK Parliament.



Pointless asking unelected Candidates

Mr Varshney said: "What's the point in going to an unelected candidate? Even if they give us their support, what guarantee is there the Home Office will listen to them?"

Macdonald said: "This is a ridiculous position for the Home Office to take - advising people to seek advice on immigration from unelected candidates.

It speaks volumes about the total lack of respect that the Westminster system has for the Scottish Parliament that they would rather pass on issues of this nature to unelected people with no jurisdiction over anything, rather than MSPs who have been democratically elected."

The Home Office offered no comment.

Global Visa Support offers a variety of programs in United Kingdom. Please visit our UK page for more information: http://www.globalvisasupport.com/uk.html