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UK immigration figures fall

by Dominic 30/11/2012 12:08:00

The latest UK immigration figures
show the lowest net migration
level in four years.

The latest UK immigration figures from the Office of National Statistics show a decline in net migration, suggesting the Government's controversial measures are finally starting to take effect, but is the news it as positive as it sounds?

The Conservative-led coalition Government has made cutting net migration to the UK one its primary indicators of success since being elected in 2010 after the previous Labour government allowed figures to reach record highs by not preventing UK immigration from the European Union. The Conservative Party made reducing net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the 'tens of thousands' by the end of the current parliament.

Labour has since admitted that they were too lax on immigration policies and have promised a tougher stance should they manage to oust the coalition in 2015. In the meantime, the coalition has made significant changes to UK visa and immigration policy.

However, as the UK is a member of the European Union, the coalition's only option to reduce net migration has been to target non-EU migrants and international students. Post study work rights have been removed this year and salary thresholds and application limits have been introduced.

The Government has repeatedly claimed their changes come as part of efforts to clampdown on abuse of the student visa system, preventing migrants from entering the country on student visas and working instead of studying.

The changes have had their critics, especially those affecting international students; critics argue international students eventually leave and should therefore not be included in net migration figures. The UK is also a world leader in the international education industry contributing billions each year to the British economy.

The critics' cause has only been strengthened as successive ONS reports have revealed only negligible drops in net migration figures despite falls in student visa applications. However, the most recent report has become the first to buck that trend, suggesting the changes are finally starting to take effect.

Four year low and tough policies

The latest figures, released this week, have shown a drop in net migration from 242,000 to 183,000 in the year to March 2012, marking the first time net migration has fallen below 200,00 since 2008-09 and the lowest level of people moving to the UK since 2004.

The reduction has largely been attributed to a combination of a fall in international students and a rise in people leaving the UK - from 108,000 to 127,000.

The figures have been welcomed by Immigration Mark Harper who said the figures proved the Government was bringing immigration 'back under control'.

"Our tough policies are taking effect and this marks a significant step towards bringing net migration down from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands by the end of this Parliament," the minister said.

"At the same time, we continue to attract the brightest and best: these figures show that there has been a small increase in the number of sponsored student visa applications for the university sector."

Anti-immigration advocate Migration Watch UK also welcomed the figures.

"We can now see the first effects of the Government's measures to reduce immigration," said Chairman Sir Andrew Green.

"There is a distance to go but they are on the right track."

Counter-productive changes?

While most commentators agree that net migration to the UK needs to be reduced, the most recent figures have only served to fuel critics’ argument that the British Government cannot afford to make it harder for international students to study in the UK given their huge contribution to the British economy.

Earlier this week, Mayor of London Boris Johnson said the Government was 'sending out the wrong signal' to prospective students and has since written to the Home Secretary Theresa May and Business Secretary Vince Cable to urge them to remove international students from net migration figures.

A spokesperson for left-leaning think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) said the changes would come at a 'significant economic cost'.

"Steps to reduce abuse of the student visa system are welcome but if the government's net migration target is to be met, they also need there to be a dramatic fall in the numbers of genuine students," said the IPPR's Associate Director Sarah Mulley.

"The irony is that the impacts on net migration will only be short-lived because most students stay only for a short time. Reduced immigration today means reduced emigration in a year or two's time, which could see net migration rise again."


- 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 Australia visa category - is it a good thing?

by Dominic 27/11/2012 11:24:00

The new Australia visa
program is intended to attract
foreign investment - but is it
a good thing?

The Australian government began taking applications for its latest visa category this weekend - the Significant Investor Visa. For AU$5 million, wealthy investors can get almost immediate access to an Australia visa and, if they like, permanent residency a few years down the line leading some to label the new category as the 'Golden Visa' but is it as bad as it sounds?

The new Australia visa program was first announced by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen in May of this year but the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) were not forthcoming on further details until October when the criteria were outlined by the minister.

Significant Investor Visa

In order to be eligible for the Significant Investor Visa, an applicant must invest AU$5 million (£3.2 million) in Australia's economy over a period of four years; this can be done in any of the following ways:

  • Commonwealth, state or territory government bonds
  • Managed funds regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission
  • Direct investment into proprietary Australian businesses

Applicants do not need to meet points test requirements and there is no age limit to apply.

Furthermore, holders of the Significant Investor Visa need only to reside in Australia for 160 days over the four years, after which period they will be eligible to apply for permanent residency.

Why has it been criticised?

Critics argue that the program essentially allows wealthy foreigners to buy their way into Australia, bypassing waiting times and the rigorous checks other applicants are required to go through.

Philip Huggins, the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, claims the lack of checks threatens to damage the character of Australia.

"What tests are made on how applicants have made their money?" said the bishop. "Have Fair Trade principles or the conventions of the International Labour Organisation been honoured? What character references are required in their application?"

The criticism is particularly harsh given Australia's ongoing asylum seeker problem; record numbers of asylum seekers have arrived in Australian waters by boat in 2012 and even a reinstatement of controversial policies to process arrivals offshore haven't dented arrival numbers.

Bishop Huggins contrasted the harsh policies implemented by the Australian government for asylum seekers with the new visa category.

"Such people, grateful for a fair go and hard-working, now strengthen the character of our nation, without question," said the archbishop, adding that he doubted whether investors would arrive in Australia with a similar sense of gratitude.

The realities of the program

As Australia's mining boom begins to wind down and the frenzied investment from China begins to slow, Australia is looking for other ways to attract investment from overseas - in particular from China.

As China's economy continues on track to overtake the US as the largest economy in the world, western nations are scrambling to attract Chinese investment; both the UK and the US have made it easier in recent months for Chinese tourists to visit.

Australia's geographical location means it is in prime position to benefit from Chinese tourists and investment; indeed, the Significant Investor Visa is even categorised as the subclass 888 - traditionally a very significant and important number in Chinese culture.

On announcing the program's opening for applications, Minister Bowen said interest in applying - especially from Chinese investors - had been extremely positive.

"Since I announced the new Significant Investor visa in May, there has been substantial interest from potential migrant investors and the financial services sector so I expect many people to apply," said the minster.

What does this mean for regular applicants?

Prime Minister Julia Gillard's government has made several changes to the Australian immigration system this year with the most stand out change being the introduction of the SkillSelect system as part of the Australia visa application.

The system allows the Australian government to prioritise certain skills and occupations which are in need across Australia; during the mining boom, these priorities were centred on engineering and construction occupations but are now expected to shift towards the health and social services industry.

The intention of the system is to allow Australia to attract the 'brightest and best' from around the world and it is in keeping with this that the Significant Investor Visa program has been introduced.

"The Significant Investor visa is an important new tool in the armoury of Australia's financial services sector as Australia looks to compete in our region for high wealth and high skilled migrants and the capital that comes with them," said Mr Bowen. 

Leonie Cotton, casework manager at the Australian Visa Bureau, says the program is essential to Australia's economic future.

"Asian investment has proved crucial to western economies and Australia joins the UK, New Zealand and Canada in having programs which prioritise wealthy investors," said Ms Cotton. 

"The criticism being levelled at DIAC has not been unexpected and while critics may feel they have some justification, it's certain that the program will yield both immediate and long term benefits for the Australian economy, particularly should the applicants choose to become permanent residents."


- 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.

Kidnapped explorer returns to New Zealand

by Dominic 15/11/2012 14:41:00

Kiwi Busby Nobel accidentally
ended up travelling to one of the
most dangeorous places on Earth

Earlier this year we covered the story of a Kiwi man apparently accidently abducted by the notoriously reckless Norwegian explorer Jarle Andhoy on his way to the Antarctic.

Back in January, Jarle Andhoy, famed for his ill equipped and overly ambitious treks to some of the most uninhabitable places on Earth, was about to embark on his latest trip to the Antarctic. However, when government officials discovered Andhoy had recently been deported from Canada, they cancelled the Norwegian national's New Zealand visa.

On hearing New Zealand immigration officials were on their way, Andhoy rushed to the harbour and set off out on his exhibition early, clearly thinking he had escaped punishment. However, it transpired 52-year-old yacht mechanic and local resident Busby Noble was still on board.

Andhoy, already known to the authorities for his blatant disregard for international laws, was monitored even more closely when it transpired a New Zealander with no proper winter clothing was on board and heading for the South Pole.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said at the time "the Southern Ocean is one of the most remote and inhospitable areas in the world. New Zealand government agencies are obviously concerned".

However, Andhoy insisted that having the Kiwi on board was "a somewhat tricky situation" but that "everything is on schedule and the atmosphere is good on board" and that he planned to continue his trek.

Ten months on following a turbulent trip around the Southern Ocean and a visit to Antarctica, Mr Noble returned to Norway with Andhoy to become an overnight celebrity. Eventually even Mr Noble's partner TP Teiho flew to be with him as he appeared on chat shows and gave interviews about the ad hoc adventure.

Mr Noble has since returned to New Zealand this week and, despite saying he 'expected a grilling' from New Zealand immigration authorities, wrote on his Facebook page 'Home again! Safe and sound. Aotearoa.' having apparently passed through Immigration New Zealand checks without a problem.

While Mr Noble did not state whether he planned for any more immediate adventures, it's likely he's just glad to be home.


- 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.

Asylum seeker's cricket skills earns an Australia visa

by Dominic 15/11/2012 13:31:00

Fawad Ahmed has been granted
an Australia visa thanks to his
bowling skills.

A Pakistani asylum seeker who fled his home country fearing persecution after advocating Western values has been granted an Australian visa due to his prodigious cricket skills.

Fawad Ahmed fled Pakistan after allegedly receiving death threats due to his love of cricket and association with groups promoting Western values, including the education of women and girls. After arriving in Australia as an asylum seeker, his original Australia visa application was rejected by the Refugee Review Tribunal.

However, while his case was appealed, the Australian national cricket team flew Mr Ahmed to Brisbane to utilise his leg-spinner skills as the team prepared for their first Test match against South Africa.

And now Mr Ahmed has been personally granted an Australia visa providing him with permanent residency after Immigration Minister Chris Bowen intervened in the case.

"The Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has personally considered Mr Ahmed's case and decided to grant a permanent visa for him to be able to stay, work and play cricket in Australia, subject to the normal health and security checks which he'll now undertake," said a spokesperson for the minister.

Mr Ahmed's future now looks a lot brighter with the prospect of playing in Cricket Australia's Big Bash League; Mr Ahmed celebrated by taking five wickets in a match for Melbourne University.

"This is such a special moment in my life," said Mr Ahmed. "I'm hopeful I can play the highest level cricket as well. I'm really grateful to the government and all the people in cricket who helped me, and thanks be to almighty God because I have waited for a long time.

"The last three years was a very hard time, I couldn't sleep at night times because it was very stressful. I was so anxious I couldn't perform well [at cricket]. I'm pretty happy because I can all that behind me and look forward to my future and start a new life here in Melbourne."

The asylum seeking issue has divided Australia all year, record numbers of asylum seekers have arrived month on month despite the re-implementation of controversial offshore processing measures in September. While the processing of asylum seekers away from the Australian mainland was hoped to provide a suitable deterrent, in reality all that has happened is reports of hunger strikes and poor conditions in temporary camps have emerged.

However, Leonie Cotton, casework manager at the Australian Visa Bureau, says despite all this, it's a promising sign that talent can emerge through the struggles of asylum seeking and provide an inspiration to others:

"While not every asylum seeker can be blessed with the talent to put Australia's best batsmen to the test, Mr Ahmed's rags-to-riches story casts an inspirational light on a very controversial and difficult issue."


- 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.

Work in Australia: The quiet boom of health and social care

by Dominic 14/11/2012 16:00:00

Health and social care jobs in Australia

As many as one in seven workers in some
Australian states work in the health and
social care industries.

While the mining and resources sector which has fuelled economic growth in the country over the past two years continues to make headlines, the latest census data shows jobs in healthcare and social assistance now account for more work in Australia than any other occupation category.

The data shows that one in nine workers - rising to one in seven in some states - is employed in health and social assistance, compared to just one in 50 for the mining and resources industry. The health and social assistance categories include hospital workers, aged care and child care, medical and allied health services as well as community health centre workers.

Unlike other dominant categories such as the services and manufacturing sectors, the census data shows the majority - almost 75% - of the 1.2 million people employed in the health and social services sector were educated beyond high school level.

The rise in the health and social services industry is a result of the governing Labor Party policies combined with an aging population, increasing national income averages and a better quality of life.

Since Kevin Rudd's Labor Party won election in 2007, approximately 300,000 jobs in the healthcare sector alone have been created with the census showing the two fastest growing occupations as personal carers and assistants and child carers, up 33% and 32% respectively.

Health expenditure in Australia has risen from 4.5% of gross domestic product in 1971 to 10% today and with an ageing population as the baby boomer generation approaches retirement age combined with an ever extending life expectancy - currently increase at a rate of three weeks per year - governmental research expected healthcare expenditure to reach almost 20% of GDP by the middle of this century, yielding even more jobs in health and social care occupations.

So what does this mean for people wanting to move to Australia?

Leonie Cotton, casework manager at the Australian Visa Bureau, says the rising trends in the healthcare and associated industries are unsurprising given certain characteristics of Australia as a nation:

"The rise in the healthcare industry, although typically underrepresented in the media, is an expected trend in a country renowned for having a high quality of life and a relatively active population," said Ms Cotton.

Ms Cotton says it's an unfortunate reality that the mining and resources industry have dominated headlines so thoroughly as much of the opportunities advertised for people wanting to move to Australia is skewed towards a misrepresentation.

"At the height of the mining boom a couple of years ago, sheer manpower, let alone skilled workers, was in such demand that truck drivers in some remote areas could command six figure salaries.

"Yet despite the well publicised stabilising of the mining and resources industries, we have found job advertisements and curious clients still intent on finding work for these industries while skills shortages grow in bigger, and wider spread industries.

"The mining boom was centred in Western Australia with many projects in remote, rural areas whereas the healthcare and social care industries are spread evenly throughout the country and will present much more preferable conditions for Australia visa applicants in the future."


- 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.