UK ‘shooting itself in the foot’ on immigration policy
The UK government is “shooting itself in the foot” and should change its immigration policy to boost economic growth, says Lord O’Donnell, the former head of the British civil service.
Although retired, Lord O’Donnell is still an influential figure. He said the annual limit on skilled workers from outside the EU, which the current coalition introduced in 2011, was a “big barrier to growth” that deprives the UK of talented people.
In an article for The Times on Thursday, he wrote:
“The first thing the government can do to help growth is to stop shooting itself in the foot.”.
The UK government wants to slash net migration from the current level of 240,000 to a figure in the ‘tens of thousands’ by 2015. But this looks increasingly unlikely with EU immigration still growing and UK work restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians set to end in 2014.
Croatia will join the EU on 1 July 2013 and the government is already introducing ‘transitional arrangement’ legislation,‘European Union (Croatian Accession) Bill’, in Parliament to restrict free movement of labour or the right to freely work in the UK.
The cap has faced strong opposition from universities, which believe that non-EU students should be excluded from the net migration targets. Business Secretary Vince Cable says that this restriction is damaging the UK economy.
Britain is a trading nation and London an international city where companies from all over the world have chosen as their base. If these companies cannot recruit the brightest and best to work in their UK offices, they will simply relocate to a more immigration friendly environment.
Lord Gus O’Donnell was appointed as Cabinet Secretary under the Blair government, which expanded immigration and the UK’s international student market. During the Blair years, the UK enjoyed growth and prosperity until the world banking crisis in 2008.
500 private Tier 4 sponsor colleges closed by UK Border Agency
The UK Border Agency has closed down an estimated 500 so called “bogus” colleges in just 18 months, leaving thousands of overseas students stranded, broke and wondering what on earth they have done to deserve this sort of treatment.
If each of those 500 colleges had just 200 students paying fees of around £5000 per head, that means 100,000 innocent students could have lost up to £500 million in fees when the colleges went out of business. Furthermore, Britain loses £500,000,000 of fees the following year, the year after that and for all the subsequent years the colleges would have been trading. Then there’s the cost of thousands of staff losing jobs at a time when the country needs to get people back into work to come out of recession.
The loss of VAT alone amounts to £100 million a year, which could have gone towards paying off Labour’s trillion pound national debt, currently costing the taxpayer millions a day in interest payments. Perhaps we should ask the Home Office, while they pat themselves on the back, who is going to replace the lost tax revenues?
Despite the news, the university sector is insisting that for “genuine and legitimate students”, Britain is still an attractive place to study. Is that strictly correct? A private college owner claims that up to 80% of student visas are being refused in 5 countries: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nigeria. He complained that if their ‘refusal rate’ goes above 20% (something over which they have no control) they could lose their Highly Trusted Status (HTS).
Recently, one of his Pakistani candidates was refused a Tier 4 student visa, following a short interview behind plate glass, on the basis that the Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) was “not satisfied” that his English was good enough to complete the course. The same student has an IELTS certificate with an overall band pass mark of 6.5, which is above the level required for most degree level courses and to satisfy visa requirements!
The right of appeal against a student visa refusal was removed when the points based system was introduced in 2009 because, the Home Office stated, decisions on student visas were going to be made on the basis of a points score and not on the subjective views of ECO’s. Chinese students still make up the largest number of overseas students in Britain. India, which has seen large numbers of students shun British colleges and universities, has the second highest number of non-EU students in the UK.
In spite of the UK Border Agency’s clampdowns on colleges and harsh changes to the Tier 4 student visa rules, the UK has for the moment managed to hang on to its position as a leading study destination, second only to the USA.
Visa overstayers will be refused under new UK Immigration Rules
The UK Border Agency has announced important changes to the way applications from visa over-stayers will be treated.
Starting 1 October 2012, if you have overstayed your leave or permission to stay in the UK by more than 28 days any application for further leave will be automatically refused.
The Government will incorporate this change into the Immigration Rules and will affect applicants applying for further leave or visa extensions under:
· the points-based system;
· all working and student routes;
· visiting routes;
· long residency routes;
· discharged HM Forces; or
· UK ancestry routes.
This change has been incorporated in the new Immigration Rules coming into effect for the family migration route from 9 July 2012.
Last month the Home Office announced that from 9 July 2012, if you want to marry a foreigner (non-EEA European Economic Area nationality) and live in the UK together you must earn £18,600.
The right to appeals against a refusal for a family visit visa will also be abolished this month.
The UK Border Agency has advised applicants with limited leave to remain to ensure that they apply to extend visa in time – before the visa expires.
If you wish to remain in the UK after the 28 day period then UKBA says ‘you should leave the UK and reapply for a visa from your home country’.
Immigration Rules change
The majority of changes in Immigration Rules come into effect on 6 April 2012, however some of the changes to Tier 2 will affect those who were granted leave after 6 April 2011.
The changes include:
Migrants under the points-based system
Tier 1 – high-value migrants
· Closing the Tier 1 (Post-study work) route.
· Introducing the new Tier 1 (Graduate entrepreneur) route.
· Introducing new provisions for switching from Tier 1 (Graduate entrepreneur) or Tier 1 (Post-study work) into Tier 1 (Entrepreneur).
· Renewing the 1000 place limit for Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) for each of the next 2 years.
Tier 2 – skilled workers
· Limiting the total amount of temporary leave that may be granted to a Tier 2 migrant to 6 years (which applies to those who entered after 6 April 2011).
· Introducing a new minimum pay requirement of £35,000 or the appropriate rate for the job, for Tier 2 general and sportsperson migrants who wish to settle here from April 2016 (with exemptions for those in PhD level and shortage occupation categories).
· Introducing a ‘cooling-off period’ across all the Tier 2 routes. Tier 2 migrants will need to wait for 12 months from the expiry of their previous visa before they may apply for a further Tier 2 visa.
· Introducing new post-study arrangements for graduates switching into Tier 2.
Tier 4 – students
Implementing the final set of changes to the student visa system that were announced in March 2011, including:
· Extending the interim limit for sponsors that have applied for educational oversight and Highly Trusted Sponsor status and have not yet been assessed.
· Introducing limits on the time that can be spent studying at degree level.
· Tightening work placement restrictions.
Tier 5 – temporary workers
· Limiting the length of time temporary workers can stay in the UK, under certain Government Authorised Exchange schemes, to a maximum of 12 months. The schemes affected are intern, work experience and youth exchange type programmes.
· Allowing sportspersons who enter under the Tier 5 creative and sporting sub-category to undertake some guest sports broadcasting work where they are not filling a permanent position.
Changes in all tiers of the points-based system
· Making curtailment mandatory where a migrant under Tiers 2, 4, or 5 of the points-based system has failed to start, or has ceased, their work or study with their sponsor. This includes cases where a sponsor notifies us, via the sponsor management system (SMS), that a migrant is no longer pursuing the purpose of their visa. The Rules will also set out the limited exceptions to mandatory curtailment.
· Reducing the curtailment threshold (the level of leave you have left which means that we will not normally pursue curtailment) from 6 months to 60 days.
· Increasing the funds applicants will need to provide evidence of, in order to meet the maintenance requirements for all routes in the points-based system. For Tier 4 and Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme the changes will come into effect on 6 April 2012. For Tier 1, Tier 2 and temporary workers under Tier 5 the changes will come into effect on 14 June 2012.
· The new visitor route will allow a small group of professionals, artists, entertainers and sportspersons who are invited to come to the UK to undertake short-term permitted fee paid engagements for up to 1 month.
Overseas domestic workers
Restricting all overseas domestic workers (ODW) to only work for the employer with whom they entered the UK, or whom they came to join.
The right for all migrants under the ODW category to apply for settlement will be abolished.