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Minister defends UK immigration changes as better for taxpayers

by Dominic 30/10/2012 13:12:00

Immigration Minister Mark Harper
said the changes the Government
have made to UK immigration
policy are 'a very reasonable
position to take'.

Mark Harper, the recently appointed immigration minister, has defended the Government's changes to UK visa and immigration policy as beneficial to the taxpayer.

The coalition Government has made sweeping changes to UK visa and immigration policy in recent months in line with the Conservative Party's pre-election pledge to bring down net migration from levels of approximately 250,000 to the 'tens of thousands' by the next election.

Changes include introducing a salary threshold at which an applicant must earn in order to bring a partner to the UK, the removal of post study work rights for international students and visa caps on certain routes.

Debate over the changes' effectiveness and fairness has rarely abated since their introductions earleir this year but Mr Harper, who succeeded Damien Green as immigration minister in Prime Minister David Cameron's first Cabinet reshuffle in September, maintains that the changes are necessary and unbiased.

Lowest possible threshold

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's World at One, Mr Harper said the £18,600 was the lowest possible figure from the recommendations made:

"We asked the Migration Advisory Committee what the [threshold] should be, they gave us a range between £18,600 and £25,000, we actually chose the lower number," said the minister.

"There's logic behind it: it's the amount that a couple will be unable to claim income related benefits. So what we're basically saying to people is that you can bring to the UK as part of your family but we expect you to be able to pay for them.

"We don't expect you to basically say to the taxpayer 'you need to foot the bill' and that's all we're asking.

"Most people will think that's a very reasonable position to take."

The argument against the threshold has largely centred on the ability for some people, particularly migrant groups as well as minority groups and women, to earn £18,600 but Mr Harper disagrees.

"I don't accept that, I think people who bring a family member to the UK have one of two choices: they can live in one of the two locations that the people from, if they want to come to the UK all we're asking is that they should have to pay for their family rather than expecting the taxpayer to pay for their family for them.

"I don't think if you it that way round most people would think it was an unreasonable thing to do.

"Families that are working very hard in the UK in a difficult economic environment to pay for their own families shouldn't be paying for people to come from outside the UK and claim welfare payments."

Election promises

When Mr Harper was asked whether he felt the Government was still in line to reach the stated target of reducing net migration to the 'tens of thousands' by the next election, the minister remained confident, although he denied the introduction of the salary cap was associated with that goal.

"Just to be clear, the changes made to the family route were to clampdown on the abuse of the system, they weren't specifically to hit the net migration target.

"The first set of figures that were published just after I started this job showed that we're moving in the right direction - a 15% fall. The changes my predecessor put in place are going to start having an effect now and will kick in over the next couple of years so we're very confident that we'll hit out target by the election - that's what we promised."

Visa Bureau

Marissa Murdock, casework manager at the UK Visa Bureau, says while the income threshold is clearly well intended, it impacts on certain groups who would have been eligible to move to the UK without threatening the integrity of the welfare system.

"Under old policy we used to see quite a lot of instances of young couples - either just out of university or still living at home - who relied on family support while finding their feet once they were married," said Ms Murdock.

"This kind of third party support has been disallowed under the policy changes and such couples have somewhat harshly found themselves the victims of the changes.

"While there is no doubt that there are some unscrupulous or inconsiderate people who are comfortable exploiting the system, many young couples do not want to claim benefits and should be allowed to move to the UK legally."


- 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.

New South Wales expands Skilled Occupation List

by Dominic 23/10/2012 12:52:00

New South Wales has added a
substantial number of occupations
to its Skilled Occupations List.

New South Wales has extensively expanded the number of occupations which qualify for state sponsorship.

Until now, only highly skilled occupations such as accountants, lawyers, certain science specialists and just two educational professionals were eligible for an Australia visa with sponsorship from NSW.

The list, which originally contained just a couple of dozen separate occupations, has now been expanded to over 100 separate occupations including 52 separate health and medical care occupations, 16 individual engineering fields, eight teaching fields and 24 metal, building or trade occupations.

"New South Wales previously prioritised highly skilled migrants for its migration program," said Leonie Cotton, casework manager at the Australian Visa Bureau.

"Due to the state's popularity - its location, home to the country's largest city and economic hub - it could be argued that New South Wales had a right to be more selective than other states.

"However, with the Australian economy beginning to adjust to the slowdown in the mining industry, the Australian government, and certainly the NSW government, know that in order to continue such a healthy economic outlook, the workforce needs to be diverse and adaptable.

As part of the changes to the Skilled Occupations List, the English language requirements - which were as high as 8 for some occupations - have been lowered to 6, although the work experience for other occupations, such as cookery, have been increased.

British, New Zealand, Canadian, American and Irish passport holders are also exempt from providing an IELTS certificate with their NSW applications, however some applicants may still need to take the test to reach the pass mark for a General Skilled Migration visa

"Lowering the IELTS pass mark and widening the State Migration Plan so substantially suggests emigrating to Australia is becoming incredibly more accessibly for those with their hearts set on New South Wales," said Ms Cotton.

"New South Wales has traditionally been one of the toughest states to receive sponsorship from but the new list is great news for trades workers and medical professionals."

The full Skilled Occupations List can be read here.


- 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.

SkillSelect - Australian immigration concerns answered

by Dominic 18/10/2012 16:49:00

SkillSelect is beginning to issue
more invitations.

In July the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) launched a new online service to allow Australia visa applications to be processed in a new, more responsive way.

We have written extensively in the past about the introduction and implementation of SkillSelect but with the system still being steadily rolled out, there is still some uncertainty regarding how the system works.

How does SkillSelect work?

In short, SkillSelect allows a person considering moving to Australia to register their interest on the system using an Expression of Interest (EOI); this typically includes personal details and professional experience as well as details about a positive Skills Assessment.

Their EOI is then ranked alongside other EOIs in similar occupations. Employers and state and territory governments can then access the EOIs and invite people to apply for an Australian visa.

What determines a state or territory government's choice typically depends upon what labour needs are most in demand.

Each category of occupation is subject to a cap or limit, once that cap is reached, all EOIs are deferred to the following year; an applicant's EOI remains on the system for two years, during which time they can be edited, updated or removed.

How many invitations have been issued via SkillSelect so far?

In a Facebook live chat event, Kruno Kukoc, First Assistant Secretary of the Migration and Visa Policy Division, confirmed that since SkillSelect first went live in July of this year, over 3,500 people have been invited to apply for an Australia visa through the system, with plans to issue a further 1,000 invitations this month.

"The department is moving quickly to secure significant numbers of skilled migrants through SkillSelect," said Mr Kukoc.

Due to the nature of the system and its ranking processes, Mr Kukoc said the system can be competitive.

"For points tested visas, the invitation date to apply for a visa will depend on the potential skilled migrant's attributes, for example skills, age IELTS score and occupation compared to other candidates.

"A client who has submitted an EOI needs to be invited to apply for a visa. SkillSelect is a competitive process and there are no guarantees than an invitation will be issued." 

Leonie Cotton, casework department manager at the Australian Visa Bureau, says it's pleasing to see such good progress being made with the new system. 

"The number of invitations initially issued by the DIAC was relatively low while they tested the system, but now the system has been in place for a few months, it’s great to see the DIAC reacting quickly and issuing invitations to applicants with scores of 65 or more on a regular basis," said Ms Cotton

"The DIAC are also issuing invitations bi-monthly which is another indication of their commitment to moving quickly to issue invitations to apply."           


- 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.

South Carolina town ranked top tourist town in the world

by Dominic 18/10/2012 11:44:00

 

Charleston, South Carolina has
been named the top tourist
town in the world.

Influential magazine publisher Condé Nast has ranked Charleston, South Carolina as the top tourist town in the world.

Beating out contenders like New York, San Francisco, the Grand Canyon and Disney World, Charleston was also ranked the top tourist destination in the United States.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley celebrated the news by announcing that the state's $15 billion (£9.3 billion) tourism industry was recovering to levels not seen since prior to the global financial crisis.

Charleston has also previously been named 'America's Most Friendly' city as well 'America's Sexiest City' and is home to a great number of historical and architectural buildings and museums dedicated to the town's past.

Last year the city hosted the PGA Championship which Governor Haley said brought in more international travellers choosing to visit the historical town on a US visa.

"We got to see a $92 million [£57 million] economic impact from the PGA and continue to see benefits said Governor Haley.

The governor said Condé Nast's announcement put the town firmly on the global map as a tourist destination.

"What it should tell people across South Carolina is that you don't need to go anywhere. It's all right here.

"And what it tells everybody across the world is you haven't been here, get here quickly and if you have, get back."


- 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.

Canadian immigration officials urged to fast-track Olympian's citizenship

by Dominic 15/10/2012 12:40:00

Canada was eliminated in the first round
at the 2012 London Olympics.

Recently released documents show that Canadian immigration officials were urged to expedite an athlete's citizenship application in order for him to compete at the London Olympic Games.

In a letter sent to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's office some time before the August Games, the Canadian Olympic Committee urged the minister to grant Chinese-born table tennis player Eugene Zhen Wang, then-top ranked player in North America, his citizenship 'exceptionally early'.

“I am writing to you regarding Mr. Zhen Wang’s request for an exceptional early granting of Canadian citizenship,” reads the letter.

“The Canadian Olympic Committee supports Mr. Wang’s request and I am writing to confirm that Mr. Wang would be eligible to compete for Canada at the 2012 London Olympic Games if he is granted Canadian citizenship by July 4.”

Mr Wang had already competed as part of the Canadian national team at several competitions while he was in the country on a Canadian visa but had to sit out the Olympic trials while he awaited the outcome of his citizenship application.

The player was eventually granted citizenship on 4, July and managed to celebrate the event by playing Prime Minister Stephen Harper during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Alexis Pavlich, spokesperson for Mr Kenney, confirmed that the player's application was fast-tracked under a category known as 'five-four citizenship' which can be used 'to alleviate cases of special and unusual hardship or to reward services of an exceptional value to Canada.

"Many athletes have been granted this exemption because their intense, international training and competition schedules may preclude them from fulfilling certain requirements," said Ms Pavlich.

Canada was eventually knocked out of the London Games in the first round by Japan.


- 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.

Record fine for New Zealand visa cheat reveals need for migration agent research

by Dominic 12/10/2012 13:24:00

Choosing a New Zealand
immigration adviser should not
be a quick process.

An unscrupulous New Zealand-based immigration adviser has been handed a record fine this week, highlighting the need for prospective migrants to find certified and trustworthy assistance.

The New Zealand Immigration Advisers Complains and Disciplinary Tribunal this week upheld 19 complaints against Glen William Standing and ordered him to pay out almost NZ$300,000 (£153,000) in refunds, the highest penalty ever handed out.

Standing was reportedly involved in a scheme of 'systematic dishonesty' which included charging 'excessive' fees to clients, falsely guaranteeing to secure them permanent New Zealand residency and even threatening clients with prosecution if they did not secure a New Zealand visa.

The Golden Bay-based adviser has maintained his innocence throughout the tribunal but his company, Living New Zealand Ltd, has been struck off the Companies Office register.

The Immigration Advisers Authority said Standing advertised his services for prices ranging between NZ$3,000 and NZ$4,000 (£1,500 and £2,000) but in reality was charging clients as much as NZ$8,000 (£4,000).

One of Standing's clients, a Japanese woman, reportedly resigned from her job in Osaka, cancelled her tenancy agreement and even started having a home in New Zealand built. Only for her to be held at the border and told she was attempting to enter the country illegally.

Barry Smedts, authority registrar of immigration advisers, said he was 'appalled at the shameless deceit perpetrated by Glen Standing'.

Jenny Espiner, casework manager at the New Zealand Visa Bureau, says thoroughly researching any organisation or company before entering into any contracts or handing money over.

"It's unlikely that the average person's level of knowledge about complex immigration processes and requirements extends beyond the fact that it is complex," said Ms Espiner.

"Therefore it's very easy to be misinformed and, ultimately scammed of thousands of pounds.

"Any genuine New Zealand immigration adviser should be registered with the New Zealand Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA) and adhere to the IAA's Code of Conduct.

"Make sure any adviser you are considering is IAA registered and then double check this against online reviews on sites such as migrationagentreviews.com.

"Moving to New Zealand should be a great, exciting process, don't risking ruining it and losing lots of money by putting your trust in the wrong place."


- 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.

Rio Tinto reveals more bad news but not for work in Australia

by Dominic 10/10/2012 13:10:00

Rio Tinto has confirmed more
cuts will be made to its global
operations.

One of Australia's biggest multi-national mining companies, Rio Tinto, has continued the recent slew of bad news in the country's mining boom by confirming that further cuts are planned, but it wasn't all bad news, especially where potential migrants to Australia are concerned.

We have written over the past couple of months what these changes mean for people considering an Australia visa application, particularly those who intended on taking advantage of the opportunities the mining industry affords.

Whether the mining boom which has sustained Australia throughout the global financial crisis is truly over has become a debatable topic in Australia over recent weeks. Despite Prime Minister Julia Gillard assuring people that 'reports of the mining boom's death are exaggerated', it cannot be denied that changes are taking place.

Mining cuts deep

The first reports of the end of the mining boom emerged when several of the country's largest mining companies, including Rio Tinto, began to scale back investment in the country in the wake of a slowing of demand from China.

Chinese demand has fuelled Australia's mining boom in recent years but its rapid rates of construction - said to be the equivalent of building Rome every two months - have begun to slow, and with it, demand for Australia's abundant resources.

And now Rio Tinto chief executive Tom Albanese has said that, despite the US$500 million (£310 million) of cuts already made, further cuts are expected.

"So far we've already hit US$500 million of annualised savings, and are planning further significant reductions in operating, evaluation and sustaining capital spend" said Mr Albanese.

"That will involve reductions in employment levels."

Mr Albanese did not elaborate where, or how many, jobs could be at stake but explained that many of the projects and mines in line for cuts are not in Australia.

Rio Tinto is a truly global conglomerate and the plans to scale back investment and increase savings do not necessarily reflect tough times for Australia in the near future. Mr Albanese said coal exports in Mozambique, copper mining in Mongolia and energy deals between Mongolia and China were expected to be the toughest hit.

Mr Albanese confirmed that the planned expansion to the company's flagship iron ore mine in Western Australia were to go ahead.

What opportunities are available in Australia?

Much of the intra-country migration and international immigration in Australia in recent years has been fuelled, or at least heavily influenced by the mining industry; some Australian workers with skills in demand have left old positions and industries for the more lucrative opportunities in the mining industry, thousands of foreign labourers have also been brought in to augment the growing workforce.

The movement of workers already in Australia, combined with the growing infrastructure around the mining centres - particularly Western Australia - caused labour needs in other industries such as hospitality and tourism.

With the mining industry beginning to stabilise and periods of rapid growth seemingly behind the industry, what does that mean for Australian workers and those wanting to move to Australia?

The mining industry may have proved to sustain Australia during tough economic times but even at its peak, its contribution to Australia's total economic output was still dwarfed by the services sector.

The services sector, centred on the opposite side of the country from the mining industry, contributes 70% of Australia's total GDP and Australia is still in need of workers in plenty of industries.

Leonie Cotton, casework manager at the Australian Visa Bureau, says the impact of the mining boom was so sensationalised that other industries were neglected despite also being in need of workers.

"As so many of the mining projects are in remote locations, the salaries needed to draw in workers were much higher than average and, as the industry was booming, the companies could afford to pay them," said Ms Cotton.

"It's understandable that offers of high wages will always grab the headlines and skilled workers will still be needed on the continuing mining projects, of which there are many even if investment in new projects is beginning to slow.

"However, Australia is still in need of skilled workers in plenty of other industries including IT, medicine, engineering and teaching.

"The mining boom may be beginning to slow but opportunities to move to Australia most certainly aren't."


- 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.

Visa Bureau Testimonial - The Lipcar Family

by Dominic 08/10/2012 15:05:00

Emigrating, moving abroad and leaving all your troubles behind to live in the sun is hardly an original daydream but despite thousands and thousands of Brits choosing to move to Australia every year, they are still firmly in the minority.

While the realities of moving to Australia might not quite be word for word the typical desert island fantasy, it isn't that far off in this day and age. That's why when we at the Visa Bureau help someone make the move Down Under, we like to hear how close to their daydream they've gotten.

The Lipcar family took the plunge in May 2012 by appling for their Australia visa, Robert, Eleni, Phoebe and Anthony were granted their Subclass 176 State Sponsored Visa in July.

The Lipcar family will be living their daydreams
in Perth, Western Australia!
Jodie List was their caseworker and we caught up with them just before they got ready for their move to Perth!

We chose to move to Australia because of its great climate, multicultural society and its friendly people - all elements we're looking for!

We started planning the move before my husband - who is the main applicant - turned 43 as we didn't want to risk not having it complete before he became ineligible.

The Visa Bureau were recommended to us by friends who had used them six years ago. We have been very fortunate to have our application handled by Visa Bureau as all the staff worked extremely hard and delivered results within our time limit and were to our complete satisfaction.

Visa Bureau have been a 'dream come true'. They have supported and worked in our favour and with our wishes and expectations in mind.

Thank you so very, very much for your astonishing commitment!

The Lipcar family are now in the final stages of preparing for the move but have some sage advice for fellow Brits and their daydreams.

Anyone who may be interested in moving to Australia would be advised by us to definitely do it!

- 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.

Chinese change and moving your money to Australia - advice from Halo Financial

by Dominic 05/10/2012 09:24:00

Moving to Australia is a long process and it can be easy to let the whole prospect become stressful. While we at the Visa Bureau do all we can to help you obtain your Australia visa to allow you to move in the first place, we have plenty of friends and partners to help you in other ways.

Once you've got your visa, the logistics of the move can begin: where to live, schools for the kids, cars to drive, getting your stuff to Australia... the list can become overwhelming, if you let it.

One of the areas however that is often overlooked, misunderstood, or both, is dealing with a new currency.

While the Pound Sterling and the Euro have been wallowing in depressing lows for a considerable amount of time, the Australian Dollar has soared, fuelled by the country's mining boom.

This has been great for Australians but has made moving to Australia, that little more expensive.

But things are changing now, the once so powerful mining boom is beginning to slow and there may be opportunities in the near future for the soon-to-be-mover to capitalise.

We spoke to David Johnson, director of Halo Financial, for his views on getting the most for your money during your move to Australia.

Chinese change.

China's economy has undergone one of the biggest and quickest economic surges in history in the past few decades and the benefits have been widespread. Australia's own economy has thrived thanks to ongoing Chinese demand for Australia's abundant natural resources.

However, the boom-bust nature of economics means high demand won't last forever and Mr Johnson says there has been change in Chinese policy in recent months and potential migrants would be wise to keep their eye on Asia in the coming months.

It may seem odd to suggest someone migrating to Australia should keep an eye on China but it is worth doing. China’s economic growth or contraction has a direct impact on the Australian economy. To give some measure of that importance, China takes 28% of all Australia’s exports and the percentage of iron ore, gas and coal is greater still so a slowdown in China is a very big deal indeed for Australian business.

A slowing economy causes concerns over the future demand within China for Australian goods and that weakens the Australian Dollar due to the impact that falling demand would have on Australia’s industry; especially the mining sector.

This past week has brought data showing slowing growth and retail activity in China and news that 40% of China’s steel and iron factories are closed due to low prices in the commodity markets. As a comparison, iron ore prices hit an all-time high of $200 per tonne in early 2011 but hit a fresh 3 year low of just $89 per tonne in September 2012. That obviously puts a huge hole in the income of iron ore producers in Australia and elsewhere; hence the pressure it puts on their currencies. 

Within the financial markets, there is increased speculation that Chinese authorities will have to take action to boost growth and stabilise the economy before it shrinks further.  If the data for the 3rd quarter of 2012 reflects further decline, they may not have a choice.

How does China's economy affect my move to Australia?

China's economy is currently on track to surpass even the United States' in the relative near future and usher in the start of the Asian Century. While it may not seem as though what happens in Asia can impact the transferring of money between two entirely separate countries, Mr Johnson says that is clearly not the case.

However, by the use of clever financial planning and some of the services on offer at Halo Financial, any changes on the national or even international scale in China can work to benefit you.

In essence, what happens in China will directly impact how wealthy you are when you arrive in Australia. More importantly - and less passively - if you are aware of how China is influencing the value of the Australian Dollar, you can use that knowledge to help time your Sterling to Australian Dollar transactions to ensure you capture the best exchange rate the market has to offer in the timescale that suits your plans.  The availability of forward contracts and automated market orders through Halo Financial means that even if the exchange rate is exceptional but your funds aren’t all available yet, you can still take advantage of the opportunity. It also means you can protect yourself against the worst rigours of the market.

For example, those who waited when the market bottomed out at A$1.46 in March will have been grateful they did so in May when the Pound reached A$ 1.651 and those who bought forward contracts when the market was up at A$1.61 in May would have every right to feel smug when the market fell to A$1.47 in August.

In the next few months, the target at the top of the range is still just above A$ 1.60 but the trend is still on a downward trajectory and the bottom of that range can be found at A$1.44.

With all the uncertainty in the global economy and the nervousness over China’s plans, we are likely to visit both ends of that range before 2012 is over. All I would hope is that with your plans, your time frame and our market expertise, you would allow Halo Financial to help you to make the most of your currency conversion you arrive as an affluent Aussie and not a poverty pom. 


- 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.