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Tier 4: Changes Expected Following Review

by Marek 26/11/2010 15:37:00

Changes to the UK Student Visa system
is expected in the near future.

Tightening of the ‘economic immigration routes’ is but one part of a package of measures being made across the UK immigration system in an effort to achieve the coalition government’s goal of reducing overall net migration.

The Home Office confirmed that an 8-week consultation will be initiated before the end of 2010 focussing on Tier 4 of the points-based system – the UK Student Visa category – which makes up two-thirds of migrants entering the UK annually.

Feedback will be sought on a range of prospective measures, including:

  • For adult students, focusing Tier 4 on higher-level courses and those offered by Highly Trusted sponsors;
  • Introducing tougher entry criteria such as English language competence for students;
  • Ensuring that students wishing to extend their studies show evidence of academic progression;
  • Limiting the student's entitlements to work and to sponsor dependants in the UK; AND
  • Improving the accreditation process for education providers, alongside more rigorous inspections.

Theresa May added: "I want to ensure that students and education providers are of a high quality.

"People imagine students to be those who come here for a few years to study at university and then go home - that is not always the case. We estimate that nearly half of all students coming here from abroad are coming to study a course below degree level where levels of compliance with immigration requirements are not high enough.

"While we will protect our world-class universities, we want suitably qualified students with the genuine desire to study to come to our country. We must also have a more robust system to ensure that students leave the country at the end of their legitimate stay."

- Marek Starke is a member of the UK Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

UKBA Announces Annual Limit for Non-European Workers

by Marek 26/11/2010 15:23:00

The Home Secretary has announced a number
of changes to the immigration system

On 23 November the UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced several new measures that will assist in strictly controlling the number of non-European workers that can come to the United Kingdom.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, said: "Today's announcement has set out a clear, rational approach to which workers we will allow into the UK job market. We have set out an approach which will not only get immigration down to sustainable levels but at the same time protects those businesses and institutions which are vital to our economy.

"We will take action on all routes into the UK, and these changes are crucial if we are to limit the numbers coming here to work while still attracting the brightest and the best to the UK.

"We have worked closely with businesses while designing this system, and listened to their feedback, but we have also made clear that, as the recovery continues, we need employers to look first to people who are out of work and who are already in this country.'

New Rules Taking Effect from April 2011

Tier 1 Changes
  • The Tier 1 (General) route will be closed and a Tier 1 route for ‘persons of exceptional talent’ will be introduced. This will cover migrants who have won international recognition in scientific and cultural fields, or who show sufficient exceptional promise to be awarded such recognition in the future. Applications by those with exceptional promise will be endorsed by a competent body in the relevant field. The 'exceptional talent' category will be subject to an annual limit of 1,000 places. Tier 2 will continue to be open to migrants working in these fields.
  • The Tier 1 (Investor) route will be reformed to offer an accelerated route to settlement, depending on the level of investment.
  • The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route will be reformed to make it more attractive. The UK Border Agency (UKBA) will introduce flexible criteria and a new avenue for promising start-up companies which do not meet the investment threshold.
  • The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Investor) routes will not be subject to a limit on numbers.

More information will be published by the UKBA as soon as possible.

Tier 2 Changes
  •  The Tier 2 (General) route will be subject to an annual limit of 20,700 places for the 2011/12 migration year. This limit will not apply to:
    o In-country applications from those already in the UK;
    o Dependants of Tier 2 migrants;
    Tier 2 (General) applicants who are filling a vacancy with a salary of more than £150,000;
    Tier 2 (Sportsperson) applicants;
    Tier 2 (Minister of religion) applicants; and
    Tier 2 (Intra company transfer) applicants.
  • Tier 2 (Intra company transfer) applicants in the Established staff sub-category will be able to stay in the UK for up to five years if they are paid more than £40,000 per year. Those paid between £24,000 and £40,000 will be able to enter for up to 12 months within a specified period. The current rules will continue to apply to Tier 2 (Intra company transfer) migrants in the Graduate trainee and Skills transfer sub-categories.
  • Tier 2 (General) applications will be restricted to graduate-level vacancies. Following consultation with the Migration Advisory Committee, the UKBA will amend the shortage occupation list accordingly. Existing Tier 2 (General) migrants in jobs below graduate level will be able to extend their permission to stay if they meet current requirements.
  • The minimum level of English language competency for Tier 2 (General) applications will be increased from basic to intermediate level (B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference).
  • Applications for certificates of sponsorship will, where the limit applies, be considered on a monthly basis. If the monthly allocation is oversubscribed, applications will be ranked according to:
    o Shortage occupations in the first instance;
    o Whether the post requires higher academic qualifications; AND
    o Salary.

Potential Tier 2 workers who are granted a certificate of sponsorship will have three months in which to apply for a UK Visa.

Settlement Applications

The UKBA also announced that there will be a new threshold regarding criminal convictions, requiring all those applying for settlement to be clear of unspent convictions.

Tier 1 and Tier 2 migrants applying for settlement will need to meet the salary criteria that applied when they last extended their permission to stay. If an applicant fails to pass the minimum English language requirement, their application for settlement will be refused.

- Marek Starke is a member of the UK Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Australian Visa Update: Northern Territory State Migration Plan announced

by Lauren 23/11/2010 14:57:00

The Northern Territory has announced its state
migration plan and sponsorship occupation list.

Today, the Northern Territory (NT) has released its approved State Migration Plan and the list of occupations that the NT Government is offering to sponsor along with the eligibility requirements.

The Northern Territory is the third State/Territory to reveal their approved State Migration Plan following the announcements made by both Victorian and ACT earlier this month. 

What are State Migration Plans?

State Migration Plans (or SMPs) are set to play a critical part in the future of the Australian General Skilled Migration (GSM) program, as they have been developed by State/Territory governments to determine the occupations in which applicants will be eligible for state sponsored visas.

The Northern Territory State Migration Plan is intended to improve the targeting of skills that are relevant and in demand in the region. Migrants who qualify under the plan can be sponsored for an Australian Visa by the Northern Territory.

How many sponsorship places will be available under the NT State Migration Plan?

There are a limited number of visa places available for sponsorship, and therefore some occupations are likely to be oversubscribed.  It is expected there will be periodic changes to the Northern Territory State Migration Plan Skilled Occupations List to reflect the number of nominations that have been made in a specific occupation.  The changes will also indicate if the Northern Territory Government is accepting nominations in specific occupations, or if there are limited places available.

What will the benefits be to being sponsored under a State Migration Plan?

One of the main benefits of being sponsored under a State Migration Plan is how it will affect Australian visa processing timeframes. Applicants who appear on the NT new list of occupations will be moved to Priority Group 2, according to the current processing directive. This means that these applicants should see their applications finalised within 12 months.

When can applications for sponsorship under the NT State Migration Plan be made?

Applications for sponsorship with the NT will be accepted immediately, except for occupations where the NT has indicated it will not be taking nominations at the present time.

- Lauren Mennie is Casework Department Manager for the Australian Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Australian Visas: full disclosure and false declarations

by Stephanie 22/11/2010 14:52:00

If you have not made a full declaration of
prior offences it may still be possible to
amend your application.

The Australian Government has a number of processes to promote visa integrity, so it is important that when making an Australian Visa application that you make full disclosure of all your circumstances.

False declarations or partial declarations may result in your visa being denied or cancelled, and the Australian Immigration department can check your application using a number of methods.

Of course, the visa process and the level of checking carried out varies depending on the country of origin, the visa class and conditions and the intended length of stay and purpose of the applicant’s stay in Australia. 

For example, your marital or relationship status declared in a spouse visa application may be checked against Facebook or MySpace profile, or if you live in a country with high incidences of fraud local embassy staff may make a house visit to confirm your address. 

Continued false declarations may be seen as an issue of poor character 

A series of false declarations may be viewed more harshly by the Australian Immigration department than the full declaration of a minor offence.

This may be particularly important to Britons who have a relatively minor offence on their record, but who declare they do not when making an Australian Working Holiday Visa or tourist visa application. 

If they later decide to emigrate to Australia permanently they will be required to submit a UK police report, and the immigration officer in charge of the case will compare this with previous applications and will be able to see that they have falsely declared or partially declared offences on previous occasions. This then becomes no longer an issue about the offence but a character issue and the series of lies that they proffered in their declarations.

If DIAC have concerns they can refer your case to the Character Unit, who may forewarn that your application maybe refused and give you the chance to prove you are rehabilitated and provide more information about the offences.

Recent Australian immigration court cases

There have been recent court cases that have highlighted the issue of making a false or partial declaration to the Australian Immigration Department.

In the case Hikawai vs Minister for Immigration in the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia (25 August 2010), the issue of the lack of full disclosure of a criminal record was considered.

The applicant Mr Karaitiana Hikawai, a New Zealand Citizen, sought to stop his deportation from Australia, to overturn the decision made by immigration to refuse him a visa, and be allowed to stay as a permanent resident and settle with family in Perth.

He arrived in Australia in August 2010 to make a new life for himself and his young family in Perth. On his incoming passenger card he declared that he had criminal convictions relating to one event and had spent three years in prison. He then made a criminal history declaration to Australian Immigration Officers and gave permission for the department to check these details.

When the department requested the New Zealand Police provide full details of Mr Hikawai’s criminal record in New Zealand they found it included three alcohol related offences – offences which he did not declare on his passenger card or in the full declaration to immigration officers. 

The department refused his visa, and this decision was upheld by the Court. Mr Hikawai was returned to New Zealand.   

The Court noted that these offences would not have meant he would have been seen as a behaviour concern under the Migration Act 1958, and the positive parole assessment in 2008 that indicated Mr Hikawai had left offending behind him was also in his favour, however the Court found that there was no error of law made by Minister’s delegate in refusing Mr Hikawai a visa.

Advice for Australian Visa applicants

It is always advisable to make a full disclosure of your circumstances and history, even if you think this may not be favourable to your application. As previously stated, offences may be considered minor issues to an application whereas making a false or partial declaration could be seen as a more serious issue of character.

If you believe you have failed to mention your circumstances or past offences accurately, for example if your offence was committed years ago and you forgot it when making your application, it is advisable to talk with your migration agent as soon as possible.   It’s advised to discuss issues even if they’re embarrassing or they occurred many years ago - many people have the false impression that their offences are spent if they occurred a long time ago.

Migration agents are experienced in addressing various types of character issues, and their advice can be sought regarding offences no matter at what stage of the visa process you are in, before or during, as well as if offences occur during the processing period.

- Stephanie Bradley is Content and Communications Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

New Australian visa points test to be introduced on 1 July, 2011

by Lauren 11/11/2010 16:09:00

DIAC have set a date for the
introduction of the new Australian
skilled migration points test.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has released preliminary information of the new points test which is currently scheduled to be implemented on 1 July, 2011.

The points test is a critical part of the Australian General Skilled Migration (GSM) process, as in order to lodge an Australian visa application, applicants must be able to demonstrate that they both meet the basic requirements and are able to pass the points test at the time of lodging their visa.

Please note: If you have already lodged your Australian visa application, the introduction of a new points test will not affect your application whatsoever.

What does this mean for Australian visa applicants?

You can see the introduction of the new points test PDF on the DIAC site by clicking here. Our initial impression is that while many professionals stand a good chance of meeting the new points test criteria, it will be less favourable for certain tradespeople (e.g. individuals who haven't completed a formal apprenticeship).

It's important to understand that there is still some degree of uncertainty attached to this announcement, as DIAC have yet to commit to certain aspects of the points test. For example, they say that "it is expected that the pass mark will be set at 65 points" but have not committed to this as the pass mark.

Addtionally, they say that applicants with a Bachelor's degree will be awarded a specific number of points, but it isn't yet clear whether individuals with equivalent professional membership qualifications will also be awarded these points (as they are currently deemed comparable to a Bachelor's according to the country education profiles) or if it will be very strict that only applicants with a Bachelor's degree will be eligible to receive these points.

Therefore, without having these and other aspects of the new points test clarified, we are unable to definitively say what the exact rules will be and who will qualify upon its implementation on 1 July, 2011.

What other options are available to visa applicants?

As we still need to confirm who will still be able to lodge after 1 July, 2010, we are taking the precautionary measure of advising that all applicants ensure they are aware of any current state sponsored, family sponsored or independent migration options that they are eligible for.

In terms of available state sponsored options, these are dependent on the State Migration Plans (or SMPs). These been developed by State/Territory governments to essentially determine which applicants will be eligible for state sponsorship on the basis of their occupation. However, the only states and territories to have released their State Migration Plans (SMPs) are Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

There is no set timeframe for the other states and territories to release their plans, but DIAC have expressed that they should be finalised by the end of the year. This was reinforced by the Minister of Immigration, who confirmed in a speech yesterday that he has signed the SMPs for Western Australia and the Northern Territory, so hopefully these will be released shortly.

What should visa applicants do now?

Without knowing a visa applicant's specific details, it's very difficult to provide any guidance as what the best steps to take will be. For the timebeing though, we are advising that visa applicants continue to work on their application as normal, taking into consideration that all applications lodged before 1 July, 2011 will be accepted under the current points test.

To help applicants get a better understanding of the potential impact of the new points test though, I'll look at it in greater depth in an upcoming blog and provide some examples of how it could affect applicants in specific occupations and situations.

- Lauren Mennie is Casework Department Manager for the Australian Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Australian Visa Update: Australian Capital Territory (ACT) reveals State Migration Plan

by Lauren 08/11/2010 11:35:00

The ACT, home of Australian
Parliament, have revealed their 
approved State Migration Plan.
 

Today, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) became the second Australian state to reveal their approved State Migration Plan. The ACT website has been updated with their Skilled Migration page confirming the SMP has been signed, along with a new list of occupations the ACT government is offering to sponsor.

What are State Migration Plans?

State Migration Plans (or SMPs) are set to play a critical part in the future of the Australian General Skilled Migration (GSM) program, as they have been developed by State/Territory governments to essentially determine which applicants will be eligible for state sponsored visas on the basis of their occupation.

What will the benefits be to being sponsored under a State Migration Plan?

One of the main benefits of being sponsored under a State Migration Plan is how it will affect Australian visa processing timeframes. Applicants who appear on the ACT's new list of occupations will be moved to Priority Group 2, according to the current processing directive. This means that these applicants should see their applications finalised within 12 months.

When can applications for sponsorship under the ACT's State Migration Plan be made?

Applications for sponsorship with the ACT will be accepted immediately.

- Lauren Mennie is Casework Department Manager for the Australian Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

UK Tier 2 Interim Limit: Clarification of Certificate of Sponsorship Requests

by Marek 03/11/2010 15:22:00

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has published refined criteria applicable to Tier 2 (General) sponsors' requests for additional certificates of sponsorship. 

Until now there has been very little clarification of the criteria against which the UKBA considers sponsorship requests. The guidance has now been refined to give sponsors greater certainty and the UKBA claim the newly-refined criteria will also help to meet the ongoing recruitment needs of sponsors while maintaining the overall interim UK Visa cap introduced in July 2010.

What do the refined criteria mean? 

New  Employer Sponsorship Licence applicants must now submit a completed Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) Request form together with their initial licence application. The UKBA have recently published a new form to replace the previous version.

Due to the introduction of the refined criteria - and the additional information the UKBA now needs to obtain for shortage occupation sponsorship requests already submitted - the November panel will be delayed until 12 November. Where further information is needed, sponsors will receive a letter detailing the information that they should supply.

The UKBA panel of managers will continue to meet on a monthly basis, normally on the first working day of the month. All requests received by the 25th of the month onwards will not be considered at the panel but will be rolled over to the following month. For example, if the request is received by the UKBA on or before 24th November, it will be considered in the December panel meeting; all requests received on or after the 25th of November will be considered by the panel in January.

Each month, the total number of CoS available will be split between extension applications and applications for new hires. The UKBA will grant all requests for applications for extensions where an extension application meets the relevant criteria (see below). After all extension applications have been granted, the remaining CoS will be split into two categories: one category for applications for new hires into shortage occupations and another category for applications for new hires into non-shortage occupations.

Please note that with regard to shortage occupations the UKBA will assess requests based on whether the job is in a shortage occupation on the day of the panel meeting.

In what order will sponsorship requests be considered? 

While the Interim Limit is in place until 31 March 2011, sponsorship requests will each be considered on a monthly basis and ranked against the following criteria, starting with the highest ranking:

  1.  Requests for applications for extensions - where the extension is required for an existing migrant worker who is (a) currently employed by the sponsor requesting extension, (b) who currently has valid leave as a Work Permit holder or under Tier 2 (General) and (c) where the migrant worker’s leave is due to expire within the next 60 days – all requests in this category will be approved;
  2. Requests for applications for new hires in shortage occupations – the occupation must be listed on the shortage occupation list on the day of the panel meeting and these requests will then be considered in the following order of priority:
    a. Salary is at or above £40,000;
    b. Salary is between £36,000 and £39,999.99;
    c. Salary is between £32,000 and £35,999.99;
    d. Salary is between £28,000 and £31,999.99;
    e. Salary is between £24,000 and £27,999.99;
    f. Salary is between £20,000 and £23,999.99;
    g. Salary is under £20,000 (shortage occupations only, non-shortage occupations with a salary under £20,000 do not score enough points to qualify under Tier 2 General).
  3. Requests for applications for new hires in non-shortage occupations – a suitable Resident Labour Market Test must have been completed before submitting the COS request and these requests will then be considered in order of priority of salary, as outlined in the point above.

When will sponsors be notified about the result of their request?

The UKBA have again iterated that only a limited number of CoS’ are available and they cannot guarantee that any application will be successful. Sponsors will be notified of the result of their request within five working days of the panel meeting. Where the request for a CoS has been successful the licence-holder’s Sponsor Management System Account will be updated.

There is a procedure in place for urgent CoS requests where there is a compelling reason to request urgent treatment, such as where a newly licensed sponsor needs a CoS for a migrant worker whose leave is due to expire before the next panel meeting. Previously refused requests are not considered to be grounds for exceptional consideration. Where an urgent decision is required before a panel a decision will be made by the Deputy Director for Sponsorship or a nominated deputy.

It goes without saying that any CoS’ allocated to sponsors following a request must be used for the role for which it was requested. Failure to do so may result in future requests being refused and compliance action being undertaken by the UKBA as appropriate.

- Marek Starke is a member of the UK Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Australian Visa Update: Victoria reveals State Migration Plan

by Lauren 01/11/2010 17:09:00

Victoria has become the first Australian
state / territory to reveal their approved
State Migration Plan.
 

Today, Victoria became the first Australian state to reveal their approved State Migration Plan. The Victorian state government website was updated this morning with an announcement regarding the State Migration Plan being signed, along with a new list of occupations the Victorian government is offering to sponsor along with associated eligibility requirements.

What are State Migration Plans?

State Migration Plans (or SMPs) are set to play a critical part in the future of the Australian General Skilled Migration (GSM) program, as they have been developed by State/Territory governments to essentially determine which applicants will be eligible for state sponsored visas on the basis of their occupation.

However, as each SMP has been needed to be approved by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship before it can be implemented, there has been a considerable wait for them to come into action, and as of 1 November, 2010, Victoria's is the only one to have been announced as approved. 

How many sponsorship places will be available under Victoria's State Migration Plan?

Details of Victoria’s cap of allocated sponsorship places have been made public, with the state allocated a total of 4,500 sponsored visa grants by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). The state government has also indicated that within this cap is a quota limiting the number of sponsorship grants to be given to each occupation on their occupation list. However, there are already certain occupations for which the planning level has been already reached for the 2010/11 program year.

What will the benefits be to being sponsored under a State Migration Plan?

One of the main benefits of being sponsored under a State Migration Plan is how it will affect Australian visa processing timeframes. Applicants who appear on Victoria's new list of occupations will be moved to Priority Group 2, according to the current processing directive. This means that these applicants should see their applications finalised within 12 months.

However, we are currently in contact with the Victorian government to ascertain whether existing sponsorship holders in an occupation for which the state quota has already been reached, are to be included in the migration plan and attain greater priority.

When can applications for sponsorship under Victoria's State Migration Plan be made?

Applications for sponsorship will be accepted from 3 November, which could be taken as an indication that other SMPs may be revealed on or before that date. Further updates will be covered on the Visa Bureau blog.

- Lauren Mennie is Casework Department Manager for the Australian Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.