Category Archives: General UK Immigration News

New Border Force Cutter the HMC Protector Launched

The latest addition to the Border Force’s fleet, HMC Protector, was officially launched this Monday (17th March) by Home secretary Theresa May at a ceremony at HMS President in London. She said:

‘We are an island and seafaring nation and HM cutters have a proud history of protecting our shores.

‘Today’s vessels include sophisticated surveillance and navigation equipment to locate potential threats at sea.

‘But it is the professionalism and commitment of the crew, who patrol all year round and in all weathers, that is our strongest weapon against organised traffickers.’

HMC Protector is to join four sister cutters, Seeker, Searcher, Vigilant and Valiant, operated by Border Force in their priority function of the protecting and securing UK waters and coastal borders. They operate 24 hours a day throughout the year patrolling high risk areas and responding to risk and intelligence led information, manned by crews highly trained in maritime enforcement.

Last year officers boarded 2000 vessels arriving in UK waters with the primary aim of intercepting and deterring shipments of drugs and other prohibited goods, and people trafficking into the UK. Some of the largest seizures over recent years include:

  • 2013 – 120kg of cocaine worth £20 million was found on a yacht off the Isles of Scilly
  • 2011- 1.2 tonnes of cannabis worth £10 million was discovered on a yacht off the Isle of Wight

The Immigration control remit for Border Force and its fleet of cutters falls under the Home Office Policy of “Securing borders and reducing immigration”.

Another change announced is that in Australia, South Africa, Bangladesh, India, Hong Kong, Italy and Finland there are changes to the UK visa application centres and you can check for details here.

If you need a visa to work in IT, Engineering, or Finance then Commonwealth Contractors may well be able to help.

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The Single Market is Not a Swiss Cheese

“The single market is not a Swiss cheese. You cannot have a single market with holes in it.” said Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European Commission,  when speaking to the FT

An historic vote in the Swiss cantons is sending ripples of surprise throughout the EU. Switzerland is not part of the EU but it has bilateral agreements that give it access to the single European market. The Swiss Peoples Party (SVP) led a campaign where a 50.3% majority of voters agreed with the need for immigration quotas on EU citizens. This directly contravenes their agreement on  one of the four EU fundamental freedoms – free movement. The others are capital and services and all four are part of a package and are not separable.

The Swiss government will now have to enforce the wishes of the electorate within the next three years.The voting reflects a growing hostility to immigrants across Europe’s big economies, with calls for tighter immigration curbs and a repatriation of powers from the EU.  Heinz-Christian Strache, the head of the Austria’s far right freedom Party, welcomed the decision, claiming that citizens in every other west European state would vote the same way if they were given the opportunity.

Net immigration levels in Switzerland have risen between 60,000-80,000 per annum for the last seven years and this equates to roughly 1% of the population. The immigrants hail mainly from Italy and Germany.

The SVP blame a host of ills on this immigration; higher rents, increased levels of crime and overcrowded trains. The election result has been celebrated as a display of Swiss power in the face of over-bearing EU pressure.

“This vote says that Switzerland is a deeply divided country” says Patrick Emmenegger,  Professor of Comparative Political Economy and Public Policy at the School of Economics and Political Science at the University of St. Gallen.

Others feel there will be a real economic cost to this vote. Brussels has already warned Switzerland that its access to the EU’s single market for goods and services could be under threat. The EU is the destination for 56% of Swiss exports and 80% of Swiss imports.

The Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) along with other businesses has been quick to urge the government to act in a concillatory fashion to the EU and so minimise any backlash. As well as the EU being the most important market for Swiss banks the SBA has fears over the supply of qualified staff in Switzerland with 25% currently coming from the EU. Financial services groups are some of their biggest exports and major Swiss outposts in London such as credit Suisse and UBS may be undermined.

Also like any uncertainty it leads to indecision with companies not willing to invest until there is a clearer picture. There are already rumblings in Brussels of cancelled deals with the €80 Billion EU Horizon 2020 research and development programme mentioned. Pia Ahrenkilde-Hansen, a European Commission spokesperson, said Sundays vote had “not set the right tone for the beginning of an institutional agreement governing the relations between the EU and Switzerland”. However, she added, “it’s still too early in the day for Brussels to decide how to respond…. the ball is now in Switzerland’s court”.

This gives hope to the integrationists and some business people who think that with a three year period for implementation into law the quotas can be set at such a level that the EU does not feel compelled to cancel its accords.

Could the Swexit influence the Brexit?

The events in Switzerland are already referred to as the Swexit while the UK coming out of the EU is referred to as the Brexit. Banks, asset managers and insurers have lobbied the UK government over the importance of the single market to the City of London. The EU is the biggest single market for UK exports of financial services and generates a trade surplus of £15.2bn. Watching how Switzerland discusses and manages its situation with the EU may inform people in the UK of the correlation between EU membership and the prosperity of the UK.

If you need a visa to work in IT, Engineering, or Finance then Commonwealth Contractors may well be able to help.

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The Brightest and The Best | The UK Needs You

Business leaders have repeatedly warned of a serious shortage of British graduates qualified to fill key engineering jobs, a position justified by a report authored by Prof. John Perkins and published by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) in November 2013.

The dearth of skilled home grown graduates has led to migrants filling one fifth of jobs in key industries. With migrants accounting for 20% of workers in fields such as oil and gas extraction, aerospace manufacturing and computer, electronics and optical engineering. Such is the scale of the skills deficit, half of the 119 occupations on the Government’s shortage occupation list require engineering qualifications. Firms requiring these skills have a special dispensation to employ staff from overseas.

This situation has long term consequences. One third of university places in engineering and technology subjects are currently filled by non-British students. The turn around in the education system that must happen if British school children are to be encouraged to pursue disciplines leading to jobs in engineering cannot happen quickly enough. The report by Prof. John Perkins outlines the crippling skills shortage amongst British workers while almost 1 million 16 to 24 year olds are classified as not in education, employment, or training (NEET). It is clear migrants will continue to be an important source of engineering skills for some time.

This acute skills deficit poses huge problems for British engineering and technology companies. Difficulties filling engineering vacancies  delays and hampers projects and consequently stalls research and development and economic growth. James Dyson, founder of Dyson, the technology group, believes the solution lies in education. He proposes offering financial incentives to encourage the brightest and the best towards areas of vital national interest, with costs quickly recouped as engineering graduates earn higher salaries and will therefore  pay more taxes throughout their working life.

The Government’s flagship immigration policy, an important election issue, is possibly having a negative impact on non-EU students  and may deter thousands of international students from coming to study in UK universities. BIS claims that overseas students contribute over £13 billion to the UK economy each year and is not just focused on the brighest and the best but sees education as a commodity that can be sold to India which has a huge young population and an under-supply of higher education. As we reported here last February, David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, during his visit to India, emphasised that students from there were welcome in the UK and that there was not a cap on how many could come here as undergraduates.

The Home Office crackdown on “bogus students” is thought to have  affected students from India and Pakistan. Nicola Hart of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said “”The Home Office is cracking down particularly strongly on visas issued in a number of countries including India, which probably accounts for the reported halving of numbers of Indian students coming to the UK in just two years,” she said.

Non EU international students are classified as ‘migrants’ if they stay in the UK for more than one year and the post-study work visa has been abolished which means that many are included in the calculation of figures for net migration which the government promises to reduce before the next election. This is at odds with industry demands. Both BIS and Dyson believe the long term key to the skills deficit, lies in education of both British and international students with Dyson saying “We need to start handing out visas to the brightest students at the graduation hall.”

If you are qualified and one of the brightest and the best then the UK needs you.

If you need a visa to work in IT, Engineering, or Finance then Commonwealth Contractors may well be able to help.

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EU Migration

On January 1st this year people from Romania and Bulgaria gained the same working rights as other European citizens in eight European countries, including the UK, Germany, Austria and France. This has fuelled a widespread perception in the UK that the floodgates would be opened to mass immigration, further pressurising the welfare state.

It has provided the backdrop to an the going debate amongst the three main British parties about the costs and benefits of immigration, and has lead to demands for changes to immigration policy, particularly migrant access to public services, including benefits. It is argued that Britain’s welfare system which is largely non-contributory, is more open that those of many EU countries and is acting as a magnet to welfare tourists.

EU citizens are entitled to free movement within the EU but there are some restrictions on the right to live in the UK. There is an initial right to reside for 3 months but after this period they only have a right to reside if they are exercising their treaty rights as a worker, self-employed person, job seeker, student or self-sufficient person, or if they pass the Habitual Residence Test.

With  European elections looming in 2014 and national elections in 2015, David Cameron’s Conservative Party is under increasing pressure on this issue as they risk sharing the pool of likely voters with the anti-immigration party, UKIP. To fulfil its promises to cut net migration  and bolster support amongst voters they are proposing to change British law for new EU immigrants in an attempt to deter those seeking to take advantage of the UK’s welfare system. Measures proposed include EU migrants having to wait 3 months before they can obtain unemployment benefits; not being eligible to housing benefit; and losing the right to unemployment benefit after 6 months unless they have proof of a realistic chance of finding work. It is envisaged that these changes to protect the benefit system will have widespread support whilst not deterring genuine workers.

There is also a call for the reform of freedom of movement at EU level, a long term overhaul which may require treaty change. Theresa May, home secretary, proposed that accession countries are phased in to full free movement rights when they reach a certain level of income or economic outlook, with opportunities for national government to cap migration if there are economic concerns.

These attempts to curb migration have provoked a  backlash from within Europe, and the European Commission is taking the UK government to court over what it sees as discriminatory practices over the right to reside. Freedom of movement is one of the basic rights of EU citizens, and seen by many as essential to the globalised world of open markets and frontiers. Martin Schulz, the European parliament’s president has said that while he takes the UK demands for reform within the EU very seriously, there was no question of parliament agreeing to reopen the rule book on free movement.

Many believe that immigration has, on balance been good for Britain’s economy. A belief borne out by most academic research, with the 2011 study, Unemployment Benefits and Immigration: Evidence from the EU, finding no statistically significant causal effect between social welfare spending and immigration. Robert Chote, head of Office for Budget Responsibility, told MPs at a Treasury select committee last Tuesday(14/01/14) that the country’s fiscal position would be “somewhat worse” if net migration was lower, because immigrants are more likely to be of working age. They also arrive when another country has already picked up the tab for educating them, and will leave before they reach a point at which they’re most expensive in terms of pensions and healthcare.

The Conservative’s target to cut net immigration to below 100,000 per year by 2015 looks increasingly unlikely to be met. One option that could be taken to reach the bar would be to exit from the EU, a move that may be popular with sections of the electorate and the referendum on that is not due to happen till after the election in 2015. Vince Cable, business secretary, believes uncertainty over whether the UK will leave the European Union – dubbed the “Brexit” – is spooking investors and is holding back a full economic recovery.

Meanwhile the Immigration Bill 2013-14 is due to have its report stage and third reading on Thursday the 30 January 2014. The summary of the Bill is:

To make provision about immigration law; to limit, or otherwise make provision about, access to services, facilities and employment by reference to immigration status; to make provision about marriage and civil partnership involving certain foreign nationals; and for connected purposes.

Regardless of the progress of this bill, the UK still needs to attract highly qualified and talented people in order to compete on a global scale.

If you need a visa to work in IT, Engineering, or Finance then Commonwealth Contractors may well be able to help.

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Pilot Plan for £3,000 Visa Bonds Scrapped

The pilot plan for the Home Office to introduce £3,000 visa bonds on visitors from countries in Africa and Asia has been scrapped according to a report published today in The Sunday Times. Nick Clegg threatened to block the policy and David Cameron backed off from a full-scale confrontation with the Liberal Democrat leader.

The countries labelled “high risk” were India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Ghana. From this month visitors from these countries would have had to pay a £3,000 cash bond before arrival in the UK. The cash bond would have been forfeited if they failed make the return trip home on time. If there had not been a U turn, India, Nigeria and Ghana, countries with some of the fastest growing economies, might well have retaliated with their own visa bonds for visitors from the UK. The £3,000 bonds would also have had social implications for those already living in the UK.

Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, raised his concerns on the BBC Today Programme in mid-September when he said “I mean certainly the reaction to it from our friends in India and elsewhere, where we’re trying to build up a lot of trade and have very good relationships is one of outrage and I think we’re going to have to do this in a much more sensible way.”

The official line is that Theresa May’s immigration bill is already introducing measures to tackle illegal immigrants e.g changes to the appeal rights of foreign criminals; requiring landlords to check the immigration status of tenants; and preventing illegal migrants from getting access to driving licences and bank accounts. Plans too for a nationwide deployment of vans emblazoned with the message “go home or face arrest” were condemned as racist and unworkable and were cancelled last month.

If you need a visa to work in IT, Engineering, Actuary or Finance then Commonwealth Contractors may well be able to help.

To find out more about our solutions call now on 0800 294 4388 or contact_us_tinyractors.com/contact-us/”>Send us some details now and we will get right back to you!

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Joint European Visas for Chinese Tourists a Possibility

At 8.59pm today the FT reported that Theresa May, home secretary, has bowed to pressure to streamline the process for Chinese tourists to Britain. As we are not part of the EU Schengen visa system this results in many high spending Chinese visitors bypassing our country. With their spend of $102bn on global travel in 2012 competition in Europe to attract Chinese shoppers is fierce.

David Cameron, the prime minister, and George Osborne, chancellor, have a visit to Beijing planned for this autumn and are concerned about Britain’s openness to Chinese visitors ahead of this trip. Vince Cable recently stated that these visitors and businessmen are fed up with the hassle and humiliation of trying to come here that they are opting to go to France and Germany instead. Even Willie Walsh, chief executive of IAG, which owns British Airways and Iberia, piled on the pressure saying ” There is a perception in China that the UK does not want to see Chineses tourists and businesses.” There is pressure too from retailers and businesses to make these upwardly mobile Asian travellers welcome as they typically spend £1,676 per visit to the UK which is nearly three times the global average. They think that the cumbersome visa bureaucracy is at the root of the problem.

Theresa May states that the Home Office is looking at the visa application process and that of the Schengen country visas in China to see what possibilities there are for streamlining. However, she was clear that this should not be mistaken for closer integration into the Schengen system.

VIP business applicants have seen improvments with a 40% increase in applications between April and June 2013. Mobile teams now collect their biometric data from them at their offices.

If you need a Tier 1 Investment visa or a Tier 2 visa to work in IT, Engineering, Actuary or Finance then Commonwealth Contractors may well be able to help.

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Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa | London Visa

Last Sunday evening the FT reported on the London mayor, Boris Johnson’s idea for a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa /“London Visa”. If adopted would make it easier for talented technologists from around the world to get jobs in tech start ups and fashion studios. The plan to provide City Hall with a yearly allocation of 100 of the government’s existing exceptional talent visas has already been submitted to the Home Office. If granted the mayor’s office in collaboration with Tech City, the Fashion Council and London Design Festival would pick the best applicants, officially endorse them and speed their entry.

Mr Johnson said “It is a clear message to the elite of Silicon Valley or the fashionistas of Beijing that London is the place they should come to in order to develop ideas, build new businnnesses and be part of an epicentre for global talent.”

Kit Malthouse, deputy mayor for business and enterprise thought the 100 visas a year was fairly modest and stated that in the fields of technology and design, individual talent really matters. He said ” We only need to find one Steve Jobs and we have an Apple on our hands.”

Fledgling businesses cannot cope with the complications and expense of sponsoring foreign workers. According to an article in Computer Weekly Eric van der Kleij, previously CEO of Tech City, suggested the government could invest money into creating experts to teach young companies how to hire people from outside the UK. He said “You can’t change the robustness of the system or it will be abused, but you should spend the money on helping younger companies use the system.”

A report in today’s Daily Telegraph highlights that the Development Economics study estimated that the technology industry, which employs two million people, needs an extra 750,000 workers by 2017 to ubnlock a £12bn windfall. Britain, especially London, is poised on the brink of becoming one of the power houses of the global dogital economy and a genuine rival to Silicon Valley. According to Jonas Almgren, a Silicon Valley veteran, Britain needs more talent to fuel the latest dotcom boom and that means looking further afield. Like football’s Premier league we need to employ the best the world has to offer if we want to be a global player.

We need Boris Johnson’s idea for a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent “London Visa” and more. The scheme has been designed in a way that would not antagonise the government and as a Conservative politician he is under pressure to toe the party line to stem the flow of immigrants. While walking the tightrope he works hard to keep people focused on the fact that we need to keep the door open for business people and students in the long term interests of the economy.

If you need a visa to work in IT, Engineering or Finance Commonwealth Contractors may well be able to help.

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UK Eases Visa Rules – 1st October 2013

Last Friday, Mark Harper, the immigration minister, announced changes which generally ease visa rules from 1st October 2013. Some of the key changes are:

  • Removal of the English language requirement for intra-company transferees.
  • Tourists and business visitors are allowed to do some study where it is not the main purpose of their visit.
  • Share ownership restrictions waived for senior staff earning £152,100 or more.
  • Artists of exceptional promise enabled to apply under Tier 1.
  • Graduate entrepreneurs will find it easier to switch into Tier 2.
  • New youth mobility scheme quotas set for 2014
  • Hong Kong will be added to the list of participating countries and territories on the UK’s Youth Mobility Scheme in order to further strenghten business, trade and cultural ties.
  • Some students will be allowed to work as interns under the Tier 5 government authorised exchange scheme.
  • The removal of the prospective student route.
  • The expansion of checks to ensure applicants for work and student visas are genuine, and that they intend to meet the conditions of leave they apply for.
  • The introducion of  powers to refuse Tier 4 extension applications where the applicant cannot speak English.
  • Dependants in the Points Based System and other work routes will be allowed to apply from within the UK, providing they are not here illegally, as visitors, or on temporary admission or temporary release. They will still need to satisfy all other existing requirements.
  • Special rules for overseas visitors to the Commonwealth Games 2014 were included.
  • With effect from the 28th October 2013 there will be changes to how applicants for indefinite leave to remain are required to demonstrate their knowledge of the English language and of life in the UK.

If you need a visa to work in IT, Engineering, Actuary or Finance Commonwealth Contractors may well be able to help.

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UKBA Online Booking Service Closed on 18th July 2013 in UK

UKBA online service for booking appointments in the UK will be unavailable between 20:00 Thursday 18 July to 23:00 on Thursday 18 July 2013 while they do essential maintenance.

This service is for applicants in the UK wishing to book an appointment for a premium application at one of the public enquiry offices, or to give their biometric information. Applicants in the UK will not be able to book appointments online during that time.

There will be no disruption for applicants in other countries and they can continue to book appointments in the usual way.

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Got non-EEA Dependents? Money & Not Love Will Conquer All

On 11 June 2012 the Government announced changes to the Immigration Rules for non-European Economic Area (non-EEA) nationals applying to enter or remain in the UK on the family migration route. The changes came into effect for new applicants from the 9th July 2012 and were a response to the pressure on the government to reduce the number of immigrants. The expectation of the Home Office was that the changes would significantly reduce the number of family visas. The full details of the changes are available on UKBA’s website.

An All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Family Migration enquiry was launched on 20 November 2012 to explore the impact of the new rules and their report was released yesterday. The main focus of the enquiry was on the following point:

The new minimum income requirement of £18,600 for British nationals and permanent residents (‘UK sponsors’) seeking to sponsor a non-EEA spouse or partner, rising to £22,400 to sponsor a child in addition and a further £2,400 for each further child included in the application; and the new rules on sponsorship of non-EEA adult dependents applying to come to the UK.

Over 280 submissions were received by the inquiry committee, including over 175 submissions from families who had been adversly affected by the rules. Charities, lawyers, local authorities, businesses and MPs submitted written evidence.
The key official findings are:

  1. Some British citizens and permanent residents in the UK, including people in full-time employment, have been separated from a non-EEA partner and in some cases their children as a result of the income requirement.
  2. Some British citizens and permanent residents have been prevented from returning to
    the UK with their non-EEA partner and any children as a result of the income requirement.
  3. Some children, including British children, have been indefinitely separated from a non-EEA parent as a result of the income requirement.
  4. The current permitted sources in order to meet the income requirement may not fully
    reflect the resources available to some families.
  5. The adult dependent relative visa category appears in effect to have been closed.

In general it is the rigid enforcement of the rules that is the problem. The proposed migrant’s salary cannot be taken into account when calculating the £18,600 even if they have a high salary. In practical terms it means that people with a right to live here cannot bring their high earning partner to live with them if they themselves are not working. They may be looking after their children and have no plans to work or to become a drain on the public purse. If their children were born in a non-EEA country and require a visa the bar to entry is set even higher. The UK misses out on the skills of the ‘dependent’ migrant and the income tax revenue from their high salary. Some people have had to claim benefits when that was never their plan and their children are then growing up in a low income one parent family. In parts of the UK average income levels are well below £18,600 and so that level of income is then not achievable.

The APPG Migration Group had this to say

We urge Government to consider the emerging evidence about what must be the unintended consequences of these rules, and hope they will agree the need fully to review whether, one year on from their introduction, these rules have struck the right balance between different interests.

Increasingly young people are working abroad as part of their career development and when starting a personal relationship are probably not thinking about the complexities of immigrations systems. It would be odd if they were. In the first flush of romance they are more likely to believe that love conquers all.

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