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Australian Immigration Update - 23 July, 2012

by Dominic 23/07/2012 10:48:00
Sri Lankan High Commissioner denies Australian immigration comments

The Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia, Thisara Samarasinghe, has said he was misquoted in reports claiming he endorsed the controversial Australian immigration tactic of escorting asylum seeking boats out of Australia...read more.

Indonesia arrests five soldiers for people smuggling

Indonesian authorities have arrested five soldiers for their alleged involvement with people smuggling...read more.

Almost half of all migrants Asian as India tops Australian immigration table

India has become the most popular source of migrants moving to Australia as the Asian continent contributes over 50% of the total number and the UK drops to third...read more.

Australian immigration record nears after 12 boats in a week

Australian immigration authorities intercepted two more asylum seeking boats over the weekend, bringing the week's total to 12 and the year's total within record levels...read more.




Sri Lankan High Commissioner denies Australian immigration comments

The Sri Lankan High Commissioner
says the asylum seeking problem
in Australia is not for him to judge.

The Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia, Thisara Samarasinghe, has said he was misquoted in reports claiming he endorsed the controversial Australian immigration tactic of escorting asylum seeking boats out of Australia.

While most of the asylum seekers arriving in Australia are of Afghan, Iraqi and Iranian origin, a sharp increase in Sri Lankan asylum seekers has prompted the Sri Lankan government to take action; 130 asylum seekers were intercepted off the country's shores and returned.

The tactic was hailed by Mr Samarasinghe, who said the policy was a suitable deterrent.

"Turning the boats around will deter people," the high commissioner was quoted as saying.

"I mean that is a physical barrier, they know that they can't leave Sri Lankan shores."

The high commissioner's comments were seen as an endorsement of Australian Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott's promises to turn Australia-bound asylum seeking boats around if his party is elected.

However, Mr Samarasinghe, a former navy admiral, has rejected this assumption, saying that the Sri Lankan navy returning boats to Sri Lanka was entirely different from escorting boats out of Australian waters and that it was not his place to comment on the extremely divisive issue.

"That is a factor for the Australian government and the navy to decide," he told Australia's Sky News, adding that all decisions regarding any asylum seeking boats would need to be taken with the conditions of the sea in mind.

"They are the best judge of the situation."

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Indonesia arrests five soldiers for people smuggling

The vast majority of Australia
bound asylum seeking boats set
off from Indonesia.

Indonesian authorities have arrested five soldiers for their alleged involvement with people smuggling.

The five soldiers were arrested as they were apparently escorting 41 asylum seekers from Iran and Syria to an Australia bound boat.

Indoneia is the most cmmon transit country for asylum seekers headed for Australia yet while the issue continues to rock Australian politicis, relatively little is done about it in Indonesia.

The latest spat of arrests mirrors that of another set made last year when another five members of the Indonesian military were arrested for their suspected involvement in shepherding 250 people onto an asylum seeking boat which later capsized, killing as many as 200.

And with more disasters last month, the need for a suitable deterrent both in Australia and Indonesia has been highlighted.

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Almost half of all migrants Asian as India tops Australian immigration table

The number of Indians in Australia
has increased dramatically.

India has become the most popular source of migrants moving to Australia as the Asian continent contributes over 50% of the total number and the UK drops to third.

Almost 185,000 people from across the globe chose to move to Australia between 2011 and 2012, the latest Australian immigration figures show, with over 88,000 alone coming from Asia.

The UK has traditionally been the largest source of Australia visa applicants but has dropped from second last year, to third this year with 25,274 Britons moving to Australia behind China (25,509) and India (29,018).

The majority of migrants heading to Australia did so as part of the skilled migration program, with accountants, chefs and software engineers being the most popular occupations for migrants.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said Australia's continued economic growth was dependent on the skilled migration program.

"While the government's first priority is always jobs for Australians," said the minister, "skilled migration is essential to support our economy and help overcome the challenges of an ageing population."

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Australian immigration record nears after 12 boats in a week

The number of boats interecepted
by Australian immigration
authorities looks almost certain to
break records.

Australian immigration authorities intercepted two more asylum seeking boats over the weekend, bringing the week's total to 12 and the year's total within record levels.

The ongoing asylum seeking situation has dominating Australian politics in the past month since 94 people died when two asylum seeking boats capsized in Indonesian waters. The argument reached new heights in the aftermath of the tragedy and it isn't out of the realm of possibility that her inability to find a solution could cost Prime Minister Julia Gillard her job.

Politicians have fought desperately to find a solution and while one is still seemingly out of reach for partisan politicians to agree on, people smugglers have had their eye on developments and have ramped up their activities while politicians squabble.

The latest arrivals bring the total for 2012 to 91 boats carrying 6,410 people to Australia. With four months of the year remaining, the prospect of surpassing 2010's 6,555 arrivals looks certain.

Ms Gillard has appointed an expert panel headed by former Defence Chief Angus Houston to find a bipartisan solution to the issue and submit it to the parliament when it reconvenes in August.

Whether or not any solution the panel recommends is adopted by politicians remains to be seen but with opposition policies having proved to reduce boat arrivals during the previous Howard government, the opposing Coalition is unlikely to shift their position. 

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online 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.

UK Immigration Update - 20 July, 2012

by Dominic 20/07/2012 10:22:00
UK immigration fuels biggest population growth in centuries

The first reports from last year's census has shown the biggest increase in population over the last 10 years since records began in the early 19th century...read more.

Stranded students complain of UK visa issues

Foreign students in Britain are complaining that UK visa delays leave them stranded in the country, unable to leave and not allowed to stay...read more.

Supreme Court decision threatens to force UK immigration overhaul

A Supreme Court decision centred on a Pakistani citizen's bid to remain in the UK has threatened to force a complete readdress of the coalition Government's substantial changes to the UK immigration system...read more.

UK immigration staff threaten Olympic strike

UK immigration staff at the country's borders have threatened to strike during the upcoming Games in a worrying development which threatens to further derail the Games' reputation...read more.




UK immigration fuels biggest population growth in centuries

The population of England and 
Wales has topped 56 million.
 

The first reports from last year's census has shown the biggest increase in population over the last 10 years since records began in the early 19th century.

Data from the 2011 census shows the population of England and Wales rose by 7.1% to 56.1 million people in the decade to 2011, an increase of 3.7 million people and making the UK the third most densely populated country in Europe after the Netherlands and Malta.

The increase is in part due to a higher birth rate and higher life expectancy but UK immigration has been shown to account for 56%, over 2 million people, of the increase.

The report has caused concern for some who fear that social services due to an aging population will be overburdened if current trends continue but once again it is immigration that proved the most contentious.

"Official numbers understated the scale of net migration by 14%, not accounting for illegal immigrants who did not complete the census," said Sir Andrew Green of Migration Watch UK.

"Immigration will account for two thirds of our population increase in the next 15 years - 5 million."

Simon Ross of Population Matters agrees with Sir Andrew, claiming 'prospects for prosperity and quality of life do not improve with more people'.

However, Matt Cavanagh of the left leaning think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research says the trend isn't particularly unexpected compared to similar countries and claims that Germany's declining population is worse.

"The rate of increase is above the EU average, slightly above France and Italy, but half that of Spain," said Mr Cavanagh.

"Germany has a shrinking population, a cause for concern."

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Stranded students complain of UK visa issues

Foreign students are complaining
about the lack of progress in 
processing UK visa applications.
 

Foreign students in Britain are complaining that UK visa delays leave them stranded in the country, unable to leave and not allowed to stay.

A petition to the Home Office has received hundreds of signatures from foreign students, some who claim to have gone without their passports for as long as five months, who claim their 'basic rights' are being denied while they await their UK visa decisions.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has labelled the delay a 'complete outrage' that is quickly becoming a 'serious problem' which is further affecting the country's ability to attract overseas students.

The UK is a world leader in the international education industry and provides billions of pounds a year to the British economy but concerned voices claiming new stringent UK immigration policies are damaging the industry are beginning to grow.

The removal of post study work rights for international students has sparked an ongoing row over the damage to the industry while the inclusion of international student numbers to net migration figures pushed a coalition of British universities to write to David Cameron, imploring him to remove the figures.

Meanwhile, 600 foreign students who have finished courses and are awaiting permission to remain in the UK have signed a petition which claims 'the deplorable quality of service provided by the [UK Border Agency] ill befits a nation like the United Kingdom'.

Many have paid the £500 processing fees and been required to submit their passports. The UKBA says the backlog will be addressed by the end of the summer but told any disgruntled students they were free to remove their applications.

"The remaining applications will be worked through by the end of the summer and applicants will be contacted once a decision is made," said a UKBA spokesperson.

"Anyone who wishes to withdraw their application and have their documents retuned can do so by contacting the immigration inquiry bureau."

However, an NUS spokesperson said this promise wasn't good enough.

"It is clear that delays to the processing of visa applications is becoming a serious problem," said the spokesperson.

"International students are facing the direct financial and emotional costs of an under-resourced UKBA.

"Having paid thousands of pounds in visa application fees and after facing a raft of bureaucratic procedures, their applications have now been put in put in a pile with little hope of being processed in a timely manner.

"As a result, vulnerable students are now stuck in the UK unable to work, unable to go home to their families and unable to get on with their lives." 

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Supreme Court decision threatens to force UK immigration overhaul

The Supreme Court's ruling could
have far reaching consequences.

A Supreme Court decision centred on a Pakistani citizen's bid to remain in the UK has threatened to force a complete readdress of the coalition Government's substantial changes to the UK immigration system.

A cornerstone of the Conservatives' election manifesto in 2010 was to reduce net migration to the UK from the 250,000 levels left by the previous Labour government to the 'tens of thousands' by the end of the next election.

In line with that aim, the Home Secretary Theresa May and Immigration Minister Damian Green have made substantial changes to UK visa and immigration policy which have included changes to student visa policy and the introduction of salary thresholds for migrants to either enter, remain or bring relatives, to the UK.

However, the salary threshold, which requires a foreign citizen to be earning at least £18,600 a year to be allowed to bring a partner to the country, more if the couple has children, has been found to fall short of the court's requirements to pass a law.

Parliamentary law dictates that any immigration law be presented before the parliament to be proper debated and agreed upon by members of the house yet Mrs May's changes, which came into effect in April, were detailed in a code of practice that was not presented to the parliament.

This, in effect, renders the rules redundant and Mrs May has been forced to urgently present the rules to parliament to ensure they are properly approved.

The case was presented when Hussain Zulfiquar Alvi, a 34 year old Pakistani citizen, was refused leave to remain in the UK for failing to meet Mrs May's new salary standards.

The court's ruling is likely to have far reaching effects and the Home Office is expecting a barrage of new legal challenges from people in a similar position to Mr Alvi.

"This decision will no doubt reverberate loudly and widely, given the sheer number of cases on related matters winding their way through the courts at present," said Mr Alvi's solicitor.

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UK immigration staff threaten Olympic strike

A strike which could threaten the
Games could prove to be 
extremely damaging.
 

UK immigration staff at the country's borders have threatened to strike during the upcoming Games in a worrying development which threatens to further derail the Games' reputation.

The Home Office has been embroiled in an ongoing battle with UK immigration staff since last summer when it emerged security checks had been relaxed for expediency's sake. Since then, the head of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has resigned, the UK Border Force has split from the UKBA, numerous staff cuts have been announced and the Government has been plagued by reports of extensive queues.

With the Olympics less than a week away, the Home Office has been scrambling to assure that immigration desks at British airports, particularly Heathrow, will be fully staffed during the Games but reports that staff are planning to strike could throw the whole process into turmoil.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which represents many border agency staff, said it had voted in favour of strike action to protest staff cuts.

"Ministers have known about [staffing] issues for a very long time but have chosen not to act," said a PCS statement.

"We believe they have acted recklessly and irresponsibly in cutting so many jobs."

While only 20% of PCS took part in the vote, 57% of those approved strike action while 75% backed other forms of industrial action.

Immigration Minister Damian Green has slammed the threat as 'completely unacceptable'.

"A decision to strike is completely unacceptable and we believe the public will have no sympathy with the union's decision," said Mr Green.

"Any action that disrupts the Olympics will be completely unacceptable and the public will not support it."

Prime Minister David Cameron has agreed with his immigration minister, saying any action which threatened to disrupt the Games would not be 'right or justified'.

The strike has since been confirmed for the day before the Olympics open.

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for 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.

Canada Immigration Update - 19 July, 2012

by Dominic 19/07/2012 10:14:00
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has been promising to bring the Canadian immigration system under greater control for months and while many of the minister's changes have attracted significant criticism, Mr Kenney is able to begin making the system more responsive. 

While the decision to simply cancel almost 300,000 Canada visa applications hardly proved popular, Mr Kenney's inherited backlog needed addressing and while legal challenges continue, Mr Kenney says the new system will help Canada and new visa applicants. 

Government ordered to process cancelled Canada visa applications

The Federal Court has ordered Canadian immigration authorities to process 165 Canada visa applications which were cancelled as part of an effort to legislate away an extensive backlog away...read more.

Canada visa requirements relaxed in six occupations

Ottawa has announced its plan to remove an employer's requirement to recruit from the domestic labour force before being allowed to hire foreign labour in six occupations...read more.




Government ordered to process cancelled Canada visa applications

A court has ordered 165
Canada visa applications
to be processed.

The Federal Court has ordered Canadian immigration authorities to process 165 Canada visa applications which were cancelled as part of an effort to legislate away an extensive backlog away.

As part of the federal budget released in March, the government said almost 300,000 Canada visa applications would be refunded and returned in the hope that this would allow for the comprehensive and responsive immigration system ministers have been hoping for.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has previously stated his intention to bring the Canadian immigration system under greater control; as Canada's economy struggles to shake off the effects of the global financial crisis, Mr Kenney maintains that the immigration system needs to serve the changing needs of the Canadian labour market.

However, the move, which returned applications from as far back as nine years, proved extremely divisive and was the subject of legal challenges almost immediately. While some were quashed, the Federal Court has ruled that 165 applications, of a total of 670, have to be processed.

The government has since been ordered to process the applications by mid-October.

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Canada visa requirements relaxed in six occupations

Canada is in need of skilled
labour.

Ottawa has announced its plan to remove an employer's requirement to recruit from the domestic labour force before being allowed to hire foreign labour in six occupations.

Under current Canada visa policy, employers are required to complete a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) for almost all occupations but with demand for certain occupations rising dramatically, Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has agreed to remove the LMO requirement in the following occupations:

  • Welder
  • Ironworker
  • Carpenter
  • Estimator
  • Millwright
  • Heavy duty equipment mechanic

Mr Kenney has made several changes to the Canadian immigration system in recent months in order to allow the system to better respond to changes in the country's labour needs and with the oilsands in Edmonton resulting in just 4.4% unemployment rate in Alberta, skilled workers are desperately needed.

The minister also said foreign workers would be able to change employers under the new policy.

The move has attracted some criticism from workers' unions who claim foreign workers willing to work for lower wages would price Canadian workers out of jobs but Mr Kenney has rejected the criticism, claiming the demand is too large to rely on Canadian workers but promising to monitor the trends to ensure a shortage does not become an oversupply. 

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the Canada 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 Zealand Immigration Update - 18 July, 2012

by Dominic 18/07/2012 10:25:00
Immigration New Zealand's woes have continued for another week this week with yet more scandals and allegations surfacing.

Fresh off the back of scandals targeting Tongan citizens and asylum seeker measurse which have have been widely criticised as cruel, expensive and above all unnecessary, New Zealand's conservative National government are struggling for good news to focus on.

Despite easing the work restrictions for foreign workers on ski resorts to obtain a New Zealand visa last week, the news was quickly overshadowed by the unearthing of a major visa scam originating in the Beijing visa office.

And unfortunately for the government, this week has been no different with progress on the Chinese visa scam quickly deflated by fresh accusations regarding New Zealand immigration staff:

Arrests made in New Zealand visa probe

New Zealand immigration officials have confirmed that five Chinese nationals have been arrested and detained for their part in a New Zealand visa scam which was uncovered last week...read more.

New Zealand immigration staff accused of abusing client data

Over 50 Immigration New Zealand (INZ) staff have been accused of accessing confidential client information without permission since 2004...read more.




Arrests made in New Zealand visa probe

So far 36 people have been 
detained with five being 
prepared for deportation to China.
 

New Zealand immigration officials have confirmed that five Chinese nationals have been arrested and detained for their part in a New Zealand visa scam which was uncovered last week.

A routine investigation at the Immigration New Zealand (INZ) office in Beijing last week unearthed almost 300 international students who had either entered the country, or applied to enter the country, on a falsified New Zealand visa.

While it was unclear how many of the 279 remained in the country, INZ began searching for as many as possible immediately.

So far, 36 have been detained with five being prepared for deportation; INZ suspect as many as 246, including 74 who have overstayed their visas, could be liable for deportation.

Of the number detained, eight were found to be working in a vineyard, confirming the suspicion that the visas were falsified so Chinese nationals could pose as students to find work and also putting the employer at risk of prosecution for hiring illegal immigrants.

"We will be investigating any employer implicated in employing student visa holders not entitled to work and will take legal action if appropriate," said INZ General Manager Peter Elms. 

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New Zealand immigration staff accused of abusing client data

There are allegations that
Immigration New Zealand staff
inappropriately discussed client
details.

Over 50 Immigration New Zealand (INZ) staff have been accused of accessing confidential client information without permission since 2004.

A total of 51 staff have been implicated in an internal investigation into New Zealand immigration processes in the past nine years, in a practice one complainant, who accused his ex-wife of accessing his details, said was rife.

"When we were still together, I used to accompany her to immigration functions, where one of the most frequent things they talked about was new information they have found in client files," said the complainant.

"Privacy breaches have been going on for years and what we're seeing is that nothing's changed."

The latest investigation is just the most recent in a line of scandals concerning INZ, who have claimed the 51 staff members represent a rare occurrence.

"It's a very small group of people who, on occasion, breach our guidelines," said INZ head Steve Stuart.

"But where we find evidence of inappropriate use of any of our official information, we move on this quickly, both to protect the integrity of the information we hold in trust and the reputation of our people and organisation."

INZ said disciplinary actions taken include formal warnings, counselling and even dismissal yet records uncovered by the New Zealand Herald showed that the majority of actions taken consisted of mere warnings while one staff member who was accused of improperly accessed client files resigned and took a job at the Ministry of Justice, where she was accused of the same breach of trust. 

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the New Zealand 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.

US Immigration Update - 17 July, 2012

by Dominic 17/07/2012 10:09:00
No US visa for tattooed applicants

In an effort to clampdown on gang culture in America, US immigration authorities are reportedly rejecting or delaying US visa applications if applicants have tattoos...read more.

US visa application rate soars in China

The American State Department has confirmed that over one million US visa applications from China have been processed so far in the current fiscal year, a 43% increase on last year...read more.

Republicans ready to sue president over US immigration law

Republican Congressman Steve King says he is ready to move forward with his lawsuit against Barack Obama over the president's US immigration directive...read more.




No US visa for tattooed applicants

Tattoos staff suspect could
have gang links are putting
US visa applications at risk.
 

In an effort to clampdown on gang culture in America, US immigration authorities are reportedly rejecting or delaying US visa applications if applicants have tattoos.

The Wall Street Journal has reported the case of Hector Villalobos, a Colorado-based Mexican, who travelled to his native country to apply through the proper channels for a permanent US visa.

However, his application was denied on the basis he has tattoos, some associated with Mexican gangs, and as a result, Mr Villalobos has been stuck in Mexico for seven months, away from his American wife and children.

"He likes tattoos, just like many Americans like tattoos," said Mr Villalobos' American wife, Veronica, adding that he had gotten his tattoos because he 'thought they were cool'.

Tattoos are often used by criminals to signify their affiliation to a particular gang or sub culture and US immigration advisers have reported increased rates of rejections for green card, visa and permanent residency applications in recent years because of tattoos. Just two people were rejected on such grounds in 2006; this had increased to 82 last year.

A US State Department spokesperson said the presence of a tattoo wouldn't be sufficient evidence to deny an application but any that had known connotations to gang culture could be subject to further investigation; Mr Villalobos' tattoo which reads 'smile now, cry later' has been associated with gangs in the past.

"If you are sporting a gang tattoo, it is reasonable for a consular officer to investigate if you have gang affiliations," said a spokesperson for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates tougher US immigration measures.

However, Denver based immigration lawyer Jeff Joseph says the measures are hyper vigilant and even encroach on a person's individual rights to free speech.

"They cast too wide a net and border dangerously on violating first amendment freedom of speech and expression."

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US visa application rate soars in China

America's efforts to appeal
to Chinese tourists are
beginning to be felt.

The American State Department has confirmed that over one million US visa applications from China have been processed so far in the current fiscal year, a 43% increase on last year.

America has been trying to increase tourism revenue nationwide recently after reports emerged that showed almost no growth in the country's tourism industry over the last decade, despite an almost worldwide increase.

The US remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world but difficulties in applying for a US visa were shown to be one of the main obstructions in tourists, particularly from Brazil and China, visiting the country.

In January, President Barack Obama gave his State Department 60 days to investigate ways of decreasing extensive waiting periods which included adding more consular staff with foreign language skills and removing the necessity for interviews for repeat visitors.

The measures were topped off in June when Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs reopened an annex at the US embassy in Beijing to vastly increase interview capacity for Chinese visa applicants and the changes are now being shown to work.

"We are implementing permanent solutions to keep us ahead of the growing visa demand for years to come," read a State Department statement which was released with the improved figures.

Chinese tourists have consistently been shown to spend the most of any nationality while on holiday and both the UK and Australia have highlighted the need to make it easy for Chinese tourists to visit the country but the US has been the first to act.

"The accomplishments announced today reflect the Obama Administration's commitment towards increasing US jobs by encouraging more people to visit our country," concluded the statement. 

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Republicans ready to sue president over US immigration law

Representative Steve King
says his suit will be ready in
weeks.

Republican Congressman Steve King says he is ready to move forward with his lawsuit against Barack Obama over the president's US immigration directive.

President Obama issued an executive order back in June which put a stop to the deportation of all illegal immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought to the country by their parents if they had graduated high school or served in the military and have no criminal record.

The move, which is thought to directly affect as many as 1.4 million people, was hailed by US immigration advocates but has met fierce opposition among critics, many of whom are Republicans

Iowa Representative Steve King has claimed the move, which bypassed both Houses of Congress, surpassed the president's authority and is taking moves to prevent its implementation. Mr King said his team was now just weeks away to filing the suit.

"If the case is heard on the merits, we're in an excellent position to succeed," said Representative King, adding that there are at least four legal arguments which could prevent the president's directive from being enforced.

"There is an effort that might simply invalidate his executive edit and there's also a federal statute that requires [immigration law enforcement] to place illegals into deportation proceedings.

"Another component of it is the violation of the administrative procedures that the president appears to have ordered [law enforcement officials] to engage in."

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the American 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 Immigration Update - 16 July, 2012

by Dominic 16/07/2012 15:44:00
While much of the rest of the world struggles to get their economies under control, Australia's continues to grow. However, a booming economy has its own problems to address, namely finding the people needed to fill the jobs which are being created.

Fuelled by Chinese demand, the resources boom in Australia goes from strength to strength but unlike China, Australia does not have hundreds of millions of people to fill the demand. The country has therefore looked to its Australia visa policy for ways to address the growing shortages.

Australia considering Working Holiday Visa holders to address staff shortages

The Australian government is reportedly considering increasing annual Working Holiday Visa numbers in order to address widening labour gaps...read more.

Industry calls for Australia visa relaxations to address labour gaps

Tourism industry operators have called for relaxations in Australia visa policy in order to address widening labour gaps...read more.

Sri Lankan official recommends risky Australian immigration policy

The Sri Lankan High Commission to Australia has put his backing behind the opposing Coalition's controversial Australian immigration policy which would involve escorting asylum seeking boats out of Australian waters...read more.



Australia considering Working Holiday Visa holders to address staff shortages

Australia is considering allowing
Working Holiday Visa holders to
address staff shortages.

The Australian government is reportedly considering increasing annual Working Holiday Visa numbers in order to address widening labour gaps.

The booming Australian economy may be in stark contrast with much of the rest of the world, including the UK, but it has its downsides too.

The continually expanding resources sector which is fuelling the growing economy is in perpetual need of workers and, while plenty of foreign workers are being drafted in under the 457 visa program to take advantage of the great opportunities, so too are many Australians, leaving gaps in other industries, particularly tourism and hospitality.

Some studies predict that the Australian tourism and hospitality industries could be in need of as many as 35,000 workers within the next few years and Julia Gillard's government is reportedly considering using the Working Holiday Visa program to address the shortage.

"We are in the process of negotiating a range of other bilateral agreements with different countries to also enter into similar opportunities to bring additional holiday visa workers to Australia to assist, especially in the tourism industry," said Federal Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson.

Mr Ferguson said the government was committed to addressing the issue of any shortages or potential shortages and confirmed that Immigration Minister Chris Bowen was also considering extending the visas of foreign nationals already in the country working in the tourism industry.

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Industry calls for Australia visa relaxations to address labour gaps

The gaps in Australia's labour
market are widening.

Tourism industry operators have called for relaxations in Australia visa policy in order to address widening labour gaps.

In a formal request to the government, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) says that foreign workers holding an Australia visa will be needed to prevent serious damage to the country's tourism industry if labour gaps continue to widen as predicted.

The ACTU estimates the current shortages in occupations such as bar tending, tour bus driving and catering to be as high as 36,000 positions now, rising to over 55,000 within four years.

The shortage is due to the expanding mining industry centred in Western Australia which is enticing people away from jobs in other regions in search of higher paying work.

The ACTU says the government should consider lowering the current salary threshold of AU$49,300 (£32,420) for the 457 visa to the average waiter's wage of AU$33,800 (£22,225) and easing English language requirements.

"Given the profile of the available jobs, immigration may be a better longer-term source of labour," said a statement from Restaurant and Catering Australia (RCA).

Both the mining industry and the tourism industry have faced opposition to their pleas for foreign labour to address gaps with critics saying Australians can meet the need for workers. While Australians may be keen for the high paying jobs in the mining industry, the ACTU said Australians didn't want to do many of the jobs in the labour gap.

"Employers will undoubtedly argue that they can't find Australians to do these jobs," read their submission.

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Sri Lankan official recommends risky Australian immigration policy

The Coalition wants to use the
Australian navy to turn asylum
seeking boats around.

The Sri Lankan High Commission to Australia has put his backing behind the opposing Coalition's controversial Australian immigration policy which would involve escorting asylum seeking boats out of Australian waters.

Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott has previously said he would make turning the boats around a 'core policy' of his Australian immigration portfolio, a statement which has been roundly criticised by the government and refugee advocates as dangerous and putting lives at risk.

However, High Commissioner Thisara Samarasinghe has endorsed Mr Abbott's policies, despite many asylum seekers heading to Australia coming from Sri Lanka. The high commissioner said turning the boats back is a suitable deterrent.

"Turning the boats around will deter people," said the high commissioner, a former navy admiral.

Admiral Samarasinghe said the people fleeing Sri Lanka 'are not well educated' and 'don't have any money', therefore by escorting them back to Sri Lanka exhausts their options.

"I mean that is a physical barrier, they know that they can't leave Sri Lankan shores."

While the high commissioner's endorsement may be welcome news to Mr Abbott, his comments have been widely criticised by Tamil leaders in Australia. Australian Congresswoman Varuni Bala, herself a Tamil, says turning boats around would be cruel.

"To address these issues, they should come to a genuine political solution," Ms Bala said.

"If you put people out of the fear of persecution then no one will want to flee their homeland.

"Turning the boats is just putting those people in more danger of being persecuted."

The Tamil ethnic group consists of an estimated 3 million people in Sri Lanka but have faced extensive troubles since the 1983 civil war. 

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online 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.

Moving your money to Australia - advice from Halo Financial

by Dominic 13/07/2012 16:36:00

If you’re moving to Australia soon, sorting your finances out is one of the most important steps in the process. Getting used to a new currency is never easy but transferring your financial commitments can be.

We spoke to James at Halo Financial for his advice on how best to arrange your move.

Here is what he had to say:

Economies

“The Australian Dollar is very strong at the minute, which is great for when you’re already there but it also means you have to be careful to make sure you get the most for your money when you’re transferring between the two. With the right strategy and forethought and the assistance of some foreign exchange expertise, it’s possible to make the most of the exchange rate volatility and save yourself some money as you transfer your funds into Aussie Dollars.”

On the current condition of the Australian Dollar in comparison to both the Pound and the Euro, James was critical of the European currencies:

“Shall we deal with the bad news first? The Sterling – Australian Dollar exchange rate is within 7 cents of the lowest level it has ever been and the Euro – Aussie rate is actually at its lowest ever level as we speak.”

Making the most

It wasn’t all bad though with James saying anyone can make the most of their money with a little patience:

“The good news is that the Australian Dollar is one of the most volatile currencies in the foreign exchange market, in an average month, we will see something like 6 cents of movement in the Euro – AUD exchange rate and around 9 cents of movement in the Sterling – AUD exchange rate. So with good planning anyone with a month of time on their hands before they have to move their funds can be 5% better off through little more than good timing.”

In terms of how to make the most, James says professional advice can make the world of difference:

“You can enhance that advantage by using automated market orders to capture the best exchange rate throughout the 24 hour day. The foreign exchange markets trade around the clock and, as I am sure you can appreciate, some of the most volatile times for the Australian Dollar happen when the northern hemisphere is closed for business.

“So if you rely on a high street bank with the 9.30 to 4.30 trading hours to buy your currency, you will miss out on 17 hours of volatility. Instead, you can place an automated order into the foreign exchange market to target a specific exchange rate. If that rate is available then on the Martini basis of ‘anytime, anyplace, anywhere’, your order will be triggered and you will have bought your Australian Dollars at your preferred level. “

The future

The strong Australian Dollar has been fuelled by the resources market, which in turn has been fuelled by Chinese demand but James says this has started to slow which means good news for everyone heading Down Under:

“The other good news is that having strengthened so far and so fast, the Australian Dollar is set for a correction. We saw some of that after Australia’s June employment report showed a decline of 27,000 jobs and the Aussie Dollar weakened immediately. We are also seeing the Chinese economy slow and that impacts demand for Australian exports and, consequently, weakens the Aussie Dollar. There is a sad irony in the fact that negative data and news in your chosen destination is precisely what you need in order to make the migration more affordable but that is the situation.”

In terms of the British and Irish economies, James was equally hopeful that new migrants will be able to maximise their money:

“Of course the flip side of that is also true: if we get good news on the European debt debacle or UK economic growth, that news will push the Sterling – Aussie Dollar and Euro – Aussie Dollar exchange rates in the right direction for people heading to Australia. So you really need the country you are departing from to be doing well and the country you are migrating to to be struggling in order for you to gain an exchange rate advantage.“

While financial matters can be a little daunting for a lot of people, James summed it up for us nicely to put the whole situation into perspective:

“As bizarre as that may seem, there is no doubt that a well planned and executed exchange rate strategy will ensure you arrive in Australia with more money than you expected and allow you to start your new life Down Under with a spring in your step. “


- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online 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.

UK Immigration Update - 13 July, 2012

by Dominic 13/07/2012 11:19:00
With the London Olympic Games fast approaching, the capital is expecting a massive wave of international visitors eager to see not just the best athletes in the world but some of the country's best sites and attractions. While the cost of the Games has been a controversial subject since winning the bid, the influx of tourists will provide a welcome boost to the British economy.

The Olympics are expected to provide a much-needed injection to the economy but several people have raised concerns that there are significant obstructions in UK visa application processes which prevent more visitors from coming during normal periods.

Complicated UK visa application costing almost £3 billion

The national tourist board has said that the complicated UK visa application encourages tourists to visit elsewhere and is costing Britain £2.8 billion a year in lost tourism revenue...read more.

Passport prices cut

The Home Office has said that the price of a British passport will fall by £5 later this year...read more.

UK visa staff told to stick to English

Staff members at the British High Commission in Pretoria have been told to stick to English when talking to each other...read more.

Vince cable weighs into student numbers row

Business Secretary Vince Cable has said limiting the numbers of international students as part of the coalition Government's efforts to reduce net migration to the country is damaging the UK's international reputation...read more.




Complicated UK visa application costing almost £3 billion

The UK is one of the most popular
tourist destinations in the world 
but critics say it is hampered by
a complicated visa application.
 

The national tourist board has said that the complicated UK visa application encourages tourists to visit elsewhere and is costing Britain £2.8 billion a year in lost tourism revenue.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Face the Facts, Visit Britain said a revamp of the UK visa application 'could deliver £2.8 billion extra from tourism'.

The UK is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world with plenty of iconic sites and tourism is worth £18 billion a year to the British economy. However, Visit Britain, along with many others, claims that a complicated visa application process dissuades tourists from coming to the UK.

The UK visa application is currently eight pages long and only allows tourists to visit the UK and Ireland. In contrast, critics say, the European Schengen visa application is only three pages long and allows holders to visit 26 countries.

As a result, France currently welcomes eight times as many Chinese tourists, who have consistently been shown to spend more on average than any other nationality, despite many listing the UK as their preferred destination.

Prime Minister David Cameron in 2010 said he wanted the UK to be among 'the top five destinations in the world' and promised that the visa application system would be simpler and more efficient by 2014.

While, the tourism industry may be encouraged by Mr Cameron's pledge, albeit eager for the changes, some have claimed the visa application process needs further restrictions.

Alp Mehmet, of immigration watchdog MigrationWatch UK, says the system needs to be policed better to combat foreign citizens overstaying their tourist visas.

"The visa process is all about ensuring that people not only come here to enjoy themselves but leave as well," Mr Mehmet told the same radio programme.

"Unfortunately, there is still a lot of evidence to suggest that many people don't go back."

Some may feel Migration Watch's concerns are justified yet there is currently no data available from either current sources or independent which collect data on tourist visa overstays.
 

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Passport prices cut

An adult UK Passport will cost
£72.50 in the autumn.

The Home Office has said that the price of a British passport will fall by £5 later this year.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said that as a result of 'efficiency' cuts made to UK visa and passport processing offices and staff, the price of an adult British passport will fall from £77.50 to £72.50 in the autumn.

A child passport will decrease from £49 to £46 and a fast-track passport will decrease from £112.50 to £103.

"The Identity and Passport Services [IPS] has worked hard to provide value for money in the vital service it provides," said the immigration minister, referring to 22 office closures and staff cuts.

"It is only right that these savings are passed on to customers and fee-payers.

"Not only has IPS made the efficiency savings to make this possible, but it has done whilst continuing to provide a very high standard of service to customers."

Sarah Rapson, IPS chief executive, welcomed the price cut:

"The UK passport remains one of the most trusted and secure documents of its kind in the world. I am very pleased that we are able to provide it in ever more efficient ways, whilst maintaining our high standard of service and rigorous security checks.

"I am proud of the way that IPS has risen to the challenge of providing even more value for money in these tough times."

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UK visa staff told to stick to English

Dispersion of languages in South
Africa (English shown in yellow).
 

Staff members at the British High Commission in Pretoria have been told to stick to English when talking to each other.

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has reportedly issued written warnings to staff within the High Commission, threatening disciplinary measures to UK visa staff if they converse in any other language.

"If they find you speaking in your own language, a manager will come to you and you to please stop speaking that language," said one staff member.

South Africa has 11 official languages, seven unofficial languages and countless numbers of dialects, making speaking English casually an uncomfortable task for many. However, the British High Commission in Pretoria Head of Communications Gary Benham maintains its necessity.

"For many members of staff, English is not the first language, but at the same time the working language in the office is English and should be used at all times," said Mr Benham.

"If another member of staff joins the conversation, or is in the same room as you but does not speak that language, then there is a danger of making that person feel excluded and it is polite to switch to a common language of those present." 

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Vince cable weighs into student numbers row

Dr Cable is the latest in a long
line of critics.

Business Secretary Vince Cable has said limiting the numbers of international students as part of the coalition Government's efforts to reduce net migration to the country is damaging the UK's international reputation.

The Government are trying to bring levels of net migration down to the 'tens of thousands' and have made stark changes to UK visa and immigration policy. The changes, which include the removal of post study work rights and introducing interviews for applicants, are intended to tackle abuse of the system by immigrants falsely claiming to be students.

However, the changes have attracted significant criticism from university chiefs and migration groups who claim the changes damage the country's world leading and multi-billion pound international education industry.

And now Dr Cable has ostensibly joined the dissenting parties. In a speech to a group of scientists, Dr Cable said that there is a 'powerful constituency' to suggest the changes were 'damaging' the country's reputation as a great place to come and study.

The business secretary said the coalition's immigration policies were 'damaging to the perception of how we welcome talent from overseas'.

Criticism mainly focuses on the inclusion of student numbers in net migration figures, a practice the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the UK's main competitors in the international education market, do not do.

The Government has been urged to remove students from the figures; a suggestion which Immigration Minister Damian Green dismissed as 'silly'.

However, Home Office figures which appear to concur with university estimates that the changes are costing the British economy over £2.5 billion a year have led to some reports that Prime Minister David Cameron is considering removing students.

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for 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.

Canada Immigration Update - 12 July, 2012

by Dominic 12/07/2012 10:19:00
Canada's tourism industry received some good news this week when record numbers of tourism visas were confirmed for the year to date. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has asked for some appreciation for his efforts, but not for his work in boosting tourism.

Approximately half a million tourists have entered the country on a Canada visa so far this year, and only 10% of the total number of tourists even need a visa yet Mr Kenney feels he deserves the people's gratitude for his work in clamping down on refugees' rights.

Tourism boom as Canada visa numbers break records

Canadian immigration figures have shown a marked increase in the number of tourists visiting the country compared to last year...read more.

Canadian immigration minister asks for pat on the back

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has set up an online petition asking for signatures to thank him for his work limiting health care benefits to refugees...read more.




Tourism boom as Canada visa numbers break records

Canadian beauty

Canada is experiencing a surge in
popularity.

Canada visa figures have shown a marked increase in the number of tourists visiting the country compared to last year.

The latest figures show as many as 500,000 people Canada visa approvals so far this year, up from 450,000 to the same period last year and the country is aiming to break a million by the end of the year.

Tourism in Canada is driven by its large, attractive and crime free cities and its abundant natural beauty; Immigration Minister Jason says it is therefore no surprise that so many people are choosing to visit.

"Canada is the best country in the world, so it not surprising that so many people want to visit our country," said Mr Kenney.

"Our country’s vibrant cities and remote wilderness are a draw for Canadians and international travellers alike."

Canadian immigration authorities were quick to point out that while the 500,000 visas granted so far this year represent a welcome boost to the tourism industry, the figures do not include more than 50 countries, or 90% of the total number of visitors, who can visit Canada for tourism purposes without a visa.

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Canadian immigration minister asks for pat on the back

Mr Kenney has started a
petition for himself.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has set up an online petition asking for signatures to thank him for his work limiting health care benefits to refugees.

Mr Kenney has made radical changes to the Canadian immigration system including putting a hold on new Canada visa applications and limiting the ability for refugee applicants to claim healthcare benefits.

The minister claims that his changes are necessary to reduce the burden on the Canadian taxpayer and implement a Canadian immigration system which is capable of responding to the changing needs of the country; he also maintains the changes made to refugee status only bring the healthcare options available to refugee applicants in line with what Canadian citizens are entitled to.

While the moves have invited significant criticism from plenty of corners, Mr Kenney feels he deserves thanking for his hard work and a petition has been set up on his personal website inviting people to sign and praise the minister.

"We, the undersigned, thank Jason Kenney for his efforts to streamline benefits afforded to refugees [sic] claimants under the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) and bring them in line with the benefits received by tax-paying Canadians, including new Canadians," reads the petition.

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the Canadian 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 Zealand Immigration Update - 11 July, 2012

by Dominic 11/07/2012 12:39:00
New Zealand's immigration system continues to be harangued by scams this week as yet another scam was uncovered less than a week after the second scam targeting the Tongan community was uncovered.

While immigration authorities address certain technicalities in the New Zealand visa system this week, a large scam which has unearthed almost 300 international students in the country without a valid visa threatens to overshadow positive moves in policy.

Model student refused New Zealand visa over technicality

A model student at Wellington's Victoria University has had his New Zealand visa application rejected over a technicality in his application...read more.

NZ visa rules relaxed for winter sports

New Zealand Immigration Minister Nathan Guy has agreed to a pilot scheme which will see winter sports operators be able to hire foreign staff much easier...read more.

Investigation reveals hundreds of students using fraudulent New Zealand visa

An investigation led by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has uncovered almost 300 Chinese students who obtained a New Zealand visa by fraudulent means...read more.




Model student refused New Zealand visa over technicality

Chinese student Jack Du
now faces the prospect
of leaving New Zealand.

A model student at Wellington's Victoria University has had his New Zealand visa application rejected over a technicality in his application.

Chinese student Xinkang 'Jack' Du now faces being expelled from the country after his New Zealand visa application was rejected because he did not supply a criminal record certificate with his application.

Mr Du applied for an extension to his student visa in May but was rejected for not supplying a valid criminal record check from China. Mr Du then graduated with his first class honours degree in biomedical science and marine biology and reapplied for another visa, this time for a graduate job search visa.

However, Mr Du's application was rejected again, despite submitting a clean criminal record check, for being in the country for a month without a valid visa.

Mr Du maintains that he could not supply the criminal record check in his initial application as he hadn't received it at the time of his application and submitted it as soon as he received it himself.

The exceptional student, who graduated first in his class and was featured on the university's website advertising the establishment to other international students, now faces expulsion from the country, despite having paid NZ$25,000 (£13,000) a year for his studies and having the qualifications listed on New Zealand immigration authorities' shortlist.

"It's very sudden, it just feels like it's out of nowhere and obviously I've had plans, I'm quite keen to use my skills to make a difference here," said Mr Du.

"It seems quite harsh for someone who has been studying here; I was hoping to make a difference."

Victoria University have written letters of support for Mr Du's application and the case has been referred to the association immigration minister, Kate Wilkinson.

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NZ visa rules relaxed for winter sports

Foreign workers on NZ slopes
will no longer have to work
30 hours a week.

New Zealand Immigration Minister Nathan Guy has agreed to a pilot scheme which will see winter sports operators be able to hire foreign staff much easier.

Under current New Zealand visa rules, employers must guarantee that staff will work at least 30 hours a week to be eligible for a visa. However, certain aspects of the tourism industry, particularly snow sports operators wanting to employ overseas staff for skiing and snowboarding instructors, have long since complained about the difficulty of meeting the requirements.

"Some operators were having difficulties meeting Immigration NZ's requirement for 30 hours work weekly in highly weather-depedent activities," said a Tourism Industry Association (TIA) newsletter.

However, after the TIA lobbied the NZ government, Immigration Minister Nathan Guy agreed to waive the 30 hour requirement in a pilot scheme which will run until September 2013.

"This is a big win for operators who can't find skilled New Zealand staff to do the job and have to recruit competent overseas-based individuals," said the TIA newsletter.

Mr Guy's pilot scheme requires applicants to have at least three years' experience in a similar capacity overseas and to have a guaranteed job offer paying at least NZ$20 (£10.34) an hour.

The move has been welcomed by tour operators in Queensland, one of New Zealand's premier winter sports locations, who claim the scheme will allow for a much greater degree of flexibility in hiring qualified staff.

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Investigation reveals hundreds of students using fraudulent New Zealand visa

There could be as many as 231
students without a valid New
Zealand visa still in the country.
 

An investigation led by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has uncovered almost 300 Chinese students who obtained a New Zealand visa by fraudulent means.

Investigators are now trying to determine whether any INZ staff were involved in the scam and attempting to track down 231 students who are still in New Zealand.

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce, who detailed the depth of the investigation, said questions had been raised over the integrity of staff members.

"There are investigations as to whether perhaps one or two Chinese nationals who were working for Immigration New Zealand may be involved," said Mr Joyce, adding that INZ suspected that many of the colleges teaching the students might not be aware their visas are invalid.

"They are probably in the situation where they have been the unwitting recipient of students that don't have the correct information.

"In terms of international education there is always a challenge with some people who are attempting to use any country's international education system as a way of entering the country."

The latest scandal comes on the heels of several other scams that have plagued New Zealand immigration authorities in recent months including two separate scams targeted at the Tongan community in New Zealand.

However, Acting Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson says New Zealand receives as many as 25,000 student visa applications from China every year and while the number of fraudulent visas uncovered was 'significant', the fact it was uncovered showed the system was working.

Ms Wilkinson said that some of the students could face deportation but depending on circumstances, this might not be the case for all:

"Natural justice says that they're all entitled to give their side of the story."

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the New Zealand 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.