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Sri Lanka opens for business with the ETA visa

by Aleksandar 11/10/2011 2:30:00 PM

 
To meet the increasing demand
for tourism to Sri Lanka, its
government has launched a
trial of an ETA visa.  

In May 2009 the civil war that plagued Sri Lanka for 26 years came to an ubrupt end with the defeat of the Tamil Tiger insurgency by the Sri Lankan army. As the country turns to reconciliation and stability, people around the world are taking notice.
Sri Lanka is back and open for business!

Situated off the south-eastern coast of India, Sri Lanka is an island of whitesand beaches, tranquil tea fields, wild elephants and buddhist temples. It is a land where ancient traditions and spiritualities meet modern test cricket and a burdgeoning film industry.

Now that the country has reverted to a peaceful situation, Sri Lanka offers unlimited tourism and business opportunities. The Sri Lankan Government is starting to catch on and has recently launched a trial of a Sri Lanka Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) visa, which from January 1 2012 all short-stay visitors to Sri Lanka will be required to possess.

That means if you're thinking of heading to Sri Lanka for the English Cricket Team's tour in March 2012, the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in September 2012, or are planning to visit Sri Lanka for business or pleasure anytime after January 1 2012, you will need an ETA visa.

Luckily the Sri Lankan Department of Immigration and Emigration (DoIE) has released detailed information about applying for an ETA visa, and Visa Bureau is here to make the process as easy as possible!

Visitors will have a choice of three ETA visa options, depending on their length of stay and purpose of travel:

  • ETA for Tourist purpose with double entry for 30 (Thirty) days;
  • ETA for Business purpose with multiple entry for 30 (Thirty) days; and
  • ETA for Transit for 07 (seven) days.

The simplest and quickest way to apply for an ETA Visa is to make an application to DoIE online.  

But applications will also be accepted by a third party on an applicant's behalf, including a registered agent or Sri Lanka Overseas Mission. Visitors may also apply for an ETA visa at the point of entry into Sri Lanka, where they will be expected to make on-site payment of visa fees.

ETA visa fees range between US$25 and $75 depending on the purpose of travel and length of stay. Extensions will be granted in some cases but must be applied for formally.

- Aleks Vickovich is Online Editor for the Worldwide 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 Report 2011: Student, tourist and working holiday visas

by Aleksandar 11/8/2011 6:07:00 PM

Offshore student visa applications
to Australia are down in 2010-11

In 2010-11 the Department of Immigration and Citizenship issued 3,543,883 temporary visitor visas, including a 3% increase in total offshore visitor Australia visa grants.

Visa compliance by holders of Working Holiday and ETA visas is up to 99 per cent, up from 95.3 per cent in 2009-10. The report said this increase is largely due to its own actions. The report states the following:

"In 2010-11 the department used a range of tools to minimise the potential for non-genuine visitors to enter or remain in Australia or to contravene their visa conditions."

"These tools include the no further stay condition, security bonds, sponsor sanctions and Safeguards profiles".

In fairness, as well as these positive outcomes that are in line with the Government's underlying temporary immigration goals, there were also a number of setbacks in 2010-11, particularly with regard to its lucrative international student market.

Demand for a student Australia visa has fallen sharply, with the department awarding 126,186 student visa grants over the year, down from 158,240 in 2009-10, representing a 20.3 per cent decrease. Similarly, student visa finalisations fell 26.6 per cent to 143,127.

The department attributes the decline to a number of factors beyond its control, such as "the strength of the Australian dollar over this period, increased marketing activity by competitor countries, college closures creating uncertainty about the stability of Australian education providers, and the decoupling of education and general skilled migration".

The demand can also be attributed to a substantial decline in the number of Indian students, with enrolments down 36.5 per cent. The official response to the diminishing Indian demand contained in the annual report is that it is "the result of a high concentration of students with the vocational education and training (VET) sector which was most affected by measures to de-couple study in Australia from permanent residence".

But while factors may have played a part, the drop in Indian demand is also undeniably related to a negative perception of Australia that has persisted in Indian politics and its media over the past year following a spate of violent and possibly racially-motivated attacks against Indian students in 2010.

Tourism Australia has launched a campaign in conjunction with the Australian immigration department to try and repair the Australian national image in India. This is likely to remain a key challenge and area of priority for DIAC in the coming year.

- Aleks Vickovich is 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.

Australian Immigration Report 2011: Skilled Migration

by Aleksandar 11/8/2011 6:06:00 PM


The Australian skilled migration intake has
increased in 2010-11 but fallen short of its
departmental planning level.

Of the total Australian immigration intake in 2010-11, 113,725 places were allocated to the Skill Stream, indicating a 5.6 per cent increase from 2009-10 and making up 67.5 per cent of total Migration program grants.

The rise in skilled migrant visa grants suggests a return to business as usual after a deliberate drop in numbers in 2009-10 due to the global recession, as was commented on by Australian Visa Bureau Managing Director Guy Bradley:

"The percentage increase revealed in the Annual Report 2010-11 suggests that the decrease in visa grants in 2009-10 was a temporary aberration based on global economic circumstances rather than a change in long-term immigration policy direction.

"It seems the Australian Government’s commitment to skilled migration remains strong".

The report explains that skilled migration is a key priority for the Australian Government as Australia visa holders of this kind are more likely to "contribute to the Australian economy through their skills, qualifications, entrepreneurialism and future employment potential". 

However, the number of granted visas actually fell just short of the 113,850 departmental planning level 2010-11, meaning that 125 prospective skilled migrants missed out on a visa despite the stipulated quota and high demand.

 

The report also found that the department has achieved its objective in boosting the state-specific and regional migration (SSRM) programs, which attempt to alleviate skills shortages in the regions by offering location-specific visas to skilled foreign workers.

"The SSRM programs continue to be a priority for the government and these programs accounted for 32.9 per cent of the Skill Stream of the 2010-11 Migration Program," the report states.

"A total of 37,410 visas were granted under the SSRM programs in 2010-11, representing an increase of more than 2.3 per cent over the previous year".

Most Australian states and territories saw a significant increase in the receipt of SSRM visa grants in 2010-11, including the Australian Capital Territory (up 48.5%), Tasmania (up 22.8%) and New South Wales (up 14.3%). Only South Australia saw a decline in regional skilled migration, down 21.8% to 7460.

These figures show firstly that the Government is interested in extracting maximum economic benefit from its skilled migration program, tailoring the system to patch up any skills shortage tears in the immigration quilt.

Secondly, this move towards regional targeted migration is the product of the Government's more general commitment to regional Australia and its current political siuation. The current Labor Government does not hold a majority in the Parliament and is reliant on the votes of 1 Green MP and 4 Independents, 3 of which are from rural and regional seats, which has meant regional issues like skills shortages have attracted much more attention over the last year.

Whatever the reasons, it is likely the move towards location-targeted migration will continue, as will many opportunities for skilled workers to emigrate to Australia.

Read Part Two of our Australian Immigration Report 2011 blog series on Student, Tourist and Working Holiday Visas.

- Aleks Vickovich is 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.

Australian Immigration Report 2011: The Year That Was

by Aleksandar 11/8/2011 6:04:00 PM

As the perennially hot topics of boat arrivals and mandatory detention of asylum seekers continued to dominate news coverage of Australian immigration issues in 2010-11, many of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship's other policies, programs and achievements were often swept under the carpet of national political discourse. While DIAC makes full acknowledgement of the challenges it faces in the difficult area of humanitarian migration, the department gives its Migration Program an overall positive assessment in its Annual Report 2010-11.

In his review, DIAC Secretary Andrew Metcalfe highlighted his department's successes over the past financial year:

"During 2010-11 we made significant improvements to our programs supported by engagement with our partners and the evidence of our research and evaluation programs."

The report states that the department's policy direction and implementation has been consistent with its "social and economic aims" in 2010-11.

Australia recorded a total migration intake of 168,700 over the year, a figure unchanged from 2009-10. When you look more closely at the figures, the Australian immigration priorities become clear.

The following blogs summarise some of the reports key findings and offers some Australian Visa Bureau analysis.

- Aleks Vickovich is 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.

Painters, teachers and construction professionals get the state sponsorship nod from NSW

by Aleksandar 10/12/2011 5:31:00 PM

NSW has added occupations to its
State 
Migration Plan (SMP). 

NSW is one of the most popular migration destinations in Australia and from the world class city of Sydney to the snowfields of Thredbo and Perisher to the almost 2000 kilometres coastline, it's not hard to see why.

The NSW Government has just added a number of new occupations to its State Migration Plan, which means it will sponsor workers in these fields to obtain an Australia visa and emigrate to NSW. The new occupations on the NSW SMP list are:

  • Financial investment advisor;
  • Chief information officer;
  • Systems administrator;
  • Construction project manager;
  • University lecturer in nursing;
  • Early childhood (pre-primary school) teacher; and
  • Painting trades worker

It is expected that applicants for financial investment advisor, early childhood teacher and painter sponsorships have at least three years experience in the occupation. To be eligible for any of the other new additions to the occupation list, you must have at least five years experience.

The addition of the teacher, painter and construction project manager roles are especially significant as they suggest a change in pattern of skills demand in NSW.

"In the past the NSW Government has largely focused on pharmaceutical,  finance and IT professionals with certain specialisations," said Australian Visa Bureau spokesperson Leonie Cotton.

However, it is unclear whether painters have to have an AQF certificate IV or whether an equivalent will be sufficient, in demonstrating qualification.

NSW has also announced that it will sponsor metallurgists and electricians (special class) under the Skilled Regional migration (475) program, whereby migration is conditional upon relocating to regional areas where specific skills are required. The government is currently inviting applications to settle in the state's Northern Inland, Riverina, Orana and Murray regions. Under the 475 program, you must first be sponsored by a regional certifying body before applying to the NSW Government.

Applicants for NSW state sponsorship must first meet the following criteria:

  • Under 50 years of age;
  • Competent English language skills;
  • 65 points in the Australian immigration department skills test; and
  • Have skills assessed by the relevant Australian assessment body.

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

One of the main benefits of being sponsored under a State Migration Plan is how it will affect visa processing timeframes. Applicants whose occupations appear on this list will be assigned, or re-assigned, into Priority Group 3, according to the current processing directive. This means that these applicants should see their applications finalised in approx. 12 months after lodgement, or as soon as possible if their existing application has already be lodged longer than that.

- Aleks Vickovich is 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.

Green card lottery opens but US immigration policy still anyone's bet

by Aleksandar 10/11/2011 5:18:00 PM

Immigration policy is likely to be a key 
issue of contention in the upcoming
Presidential election.  

As the United States prepares for another year-long Presidential election campaign, the direction of federal and state immigration policy is becoming an increasingly contentious issue. The next President, whether it is Barack Obama or a Republican challenger, will have to find a policy platform that reconciles the wishes of industry to import skilled labour in a failing economy, with the passionate fervour and electoral appeal of the anti-immigration lobby.

Like Fort Knox itself, America has always been notoriously difficult to get into. For those that seek a life in the states beyond a 90-day tourist trip along route 66, the only real options are very limited places for family members, skilled workers and occasional lucky winners of the US visa or 'green card' lottery.

The Green Card or 'diversity visa' lottery opened last week and will give as many as 50,000 people from eligible countries a chance to live and work in the US. The number may seem generous but the odds are not good. Last year more than 14 million applications were received by the US Department of State for the 2012 intake.

Meanwhile, as lottery entrants around the world bite their nails and wait for their numbers to come up, debates about American immigration policy are raging domestically on a number of fronts.

On one hand, we have seen a growing popularity for the theory that skilled migration will benefit the struggling economy and labour market. The Council of Jobs and Competitiveness - made up of leading American businesspeople including General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt, AOL co-founder Steve Case and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg - will hand a report to President Obama at a council meeting in Pittsburgh today, recommending a number of policy changes aimed at creating jobs and increasing global competitiveness.  Among the findings is a recommendation to liberalise the visa system to allow foreign graduates of US science and engineering degrees to stay and work in the country.

"When it comes to driving job creation and increasing American competitiveness, separating the highly skilled worker component is critical. We therefore call upon congress to pass reforms aimed directly at allowing the most promising foreign-born entrepreneurs to remain in or relocate to the United States," the council report states.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg - who is also a multi-billionaire businessman - also recently called publicly for immigration reform, describing an increased skilled migration intake as "the solution to unemployment".

So key figures in American business and economics are praising the benefits of more immigration. But somehow their calls are being stifled.

This is because on the other hand the perennially hot topic of illegal immigration has once again reared its head just in time for election season. In June, Republican Governor of Alabama Robert Bentley signed a bill that forces educational authorities to check the immigration status of students and parents regularly and to prohibit those without valid papers from attending class. The law also makes it a criminal offence to knowingly harbour illegal immigrants, and imposes large financial penalties on businesses that hire workers that are in the US illegally.

A similar tough stance on illegal immigrants was legislated in Arizona in April 2010, and many other states with large Hispanic populations are following suit. Critics have been quick to condemn the trajectory of immigration policy in the Southern states, claiming that laws like these set a precedent for racial discrimination.

"You cannot tell if a person walking on a sidewalk is undocumented or not, so this is a mandate for racial profiling," said Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

The Obama Administration has also weighed in on the debate, with the Justice Department seeking to challenge the Alabama immigration law in the federal Court of Appeals, thereby opening up a whole other can of worms over state sovereignty and federal powers. The Federal Government also brought legal action against the state of Arizona.  

"To the extent we find state laws that interfere with the federal government's enforcement of immigration law, we are prepared to bring suit, as we did in Arizona," US Attorney General Eric Holder said in warning to Alabama legislators and other states considering harsh laws on illegal aliens.

This hardline approach to migrants that do not have a valid US visa is also gaining traction in the Republican presidential candidate race. One of the front-runners to challenge the incumbent Obama, Governor Rick Perry of Texas has recently dropped dramatically in the polls over comments he made on the Alabama law. Governor Perry argued that denying children an education, regardless of US visa status, will have a negative impact on the long-term economy. Perry's supporters felt this position was soft and he has since revised his stance.

Perry's poll movements over recent weeks show that immigration could well be a deciding policy issue not just in the Republican primaries, but in determining who the next President is.

The issues of monitoring illegal immigration and determining the intake of skilled foreign labour are very different and require different policy responses. However, in the frenzy and noise of an American election campaign, complex policies and ideas can be reduced to stereotypes and sound-bites.

The Obama Administration has been making positive noises on support for skilled migration. If the Democrats secure a second term, there is a chance they will heed the call of business and increase the skilled migrant intake, which could mean more opportunities to live and work in the States.

But if you find yourself working in Arizona or Alabama, just make sure you have your papers.

- Aleks Vickovich is Online Editor for the American Visa Bureau, an independent consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications for an ESTA visa.

 

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 study shows Aussies embracing immigration

by Aleksandar 9/27/2011 6:10:00 PM

A study by Monash University has found an increase
in support for immigration in Australia in 2011

Half a century on from the fall of the White Australia Policy, which created obstacles for non-European people trying to emigrate to Australia, support for immigration is on the increase Down Under.

The findings of a nationwide study were released today by the Scanlon Foundation at Monash University in Victoria. The study investigated attitudes among the Australian public about immigration, racial tolerance and prejudice, government trust and national pride, in order to gauge the level of social harmony and cohesion in Oz.

The study's author, Professor Andrew Markus, said the study has shown significant short and long-term trends in public thinking, particularly in relation to the often controversial issue of Australian immigration.

"Questions related to the immigration intake have been a staple of public opinion polling for over 50 years.  Responses indicate considerable shift in opinion over time, with negative view of the level of intake in the range 36%-73% since 1990," Prof Markus explained.

But while considerable trends over a decade are expected, the study also found an increase in support for immigration from last year's results.

In response to the question: "what do you think of the number of immigrants accepted into Australia at present?", 55% answered "about right/too few" as opposed to 46% in 2010.  At the same time, 39% answered that the intake is "too high" down from 47% last year. 

Similarly, in response to the statement that "accepting immigrants from many different countries makes Australia stronger", 24% strongly agreed (up from 19% in 2010) and 16% disagreed (down from 19%) while the number that strongly disagreed remained stagnant at 11%.

The change may not seem all that great, particularly when you consider that the results for 2011 are a return to the pattern of results from 2007 to 2009.  However, as Prof Markus points out, the result for this year is significant as it "was obtained despite a widespread perception that immigration had increased over the last 12 months".

So, in other words, more than half of the Aussie public is happy with the immigration intake despite the fact they think it is increasing. That's a far cry from the Pauline Hanson era!

The study also looked at various perceptions of specific national and ethnic migrant groups, and how these perceptions may be changing.  Despite the endless Aussie jokes at the expense of Kiwis, Poms and Seppos (Septic tank...yank...full of...you make the connection) "negative sentiment" towards migrants English-speaking countries like New Zealand, the UK and the US was found to be less than 5%. 

However, this number is expected to rise if the All Blacks or English win the Rugby World Cup (not stipulated in the study).

Traditional negative perceptions of some migrant groups are also on the decline, the study has found.

"It is notable that some 95% of respondents are positive or neutral towards immigrants from Italy and Greece, almost 90% positive or neutral towards Vietnam and over 85% towards China.  These findings point to a substantial change in Australian attitudes in a relatively short period of time," Professor Markus wrote in the report.

Negative sentiment towards Middle-Eastern and or Islamic immigrants has increased. But at the same time, the study found that "even with regard to immigrants from Lebanon, who recorded the highest level of negative response (24%), those with positive (32%) and neutral (41%) feelings, a combined 73%, formed a large majority".

 Immigration is often a controversial issue, overlapping with other debates on population, sustainability and racial predjudice. As Professor Markus explains, "in all countries of immigration there is a hierarchy of ethnic preference, which influences attitudes to newcomers, at times determining categories of admission and exclusion".

The Scanlon Foundation study gives a realistic account of the attitudes and sentiments a new migrant to Australia might encounter.

But if the Wallabies win the cup, you can expect a warm embrace!

- Aleks Vickovich is 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.

New occupations added to Victorian State Migration Plan

by Aleksandar 9/21/2011 5:36:00 PM

Victoria has added occupations to its
State 
Migration Plan (SMP). 

Victoria has jumped on the State Migration Plan update bandwagon, releasing the highly anticipated changes to its state sponsorship occupation list today

The new list indicates that the Victorian Government will offer Australian visa sponsorship for a number of new occupations, including:

  • Ships Engineer (Marine Engineer);
  • Surveyor; and
  • Computer Network and Systems Engineer.

It is expected that applicants for the Ships Engineer sponsorship have 2 years experience in the field and are class one or two engineers. Surveyors must also have 2 years experience while Computer Network and Systems Engineers must have 3 years experience and an IT specialisation.

A number of other ICT occupations have retained their position on the list, including 'ICT business analyst', 'systems analyst', 'analyst programmer', 'development programmer', 'software engineer' and 'software tester'.

The inclusion of these ICT roles is significant considering that Victoria ceased processing applicants from these occupations in January 2011. The re-emergence of ICT occupations on the list indicates a long-term demand. 

The release of the updated list follows a statement released by Workforce Victoria yesterday, which stated that the state "is seeking to attract up to 6000 skilled migrants and dependants in a range of priority industries".

Beyond ICT occupations, applications will be sought from people with work experience as cooks, pastry cooks, welders and air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics. No occupations were removed from the previous list.

The Victorian Government has also made a notable change to financial criteria, explicitly outlining the amount of funds needed in order to secure sponsorship. In the past, financial assessments were made on a case-by-case basis and the list only stipulated that "sufficient funds" were required in order to settle. 

While the updated list is good news for many potential applicants, the Victorian Government has stressed the competitiveness of the sponsorship program.  "There is very strong competition for Victorian sponsorship.  Meeting the minimum eligibility requirements will not guarantee you an offer of sponsorship,” the document states.

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

One of the main benefits of being sponsored under a State Migration Plan is how it will affect visa processing timeframes. Applicants whose occupations appear on this list will be assigned, or re-assigned, into Priority Group 3, according to the current processing directive. This means that these applicants should see their applications finalised in approx. 12 months after lodgement, or as soon as possible if their existing application has already be lodged longer than that.

- Aleks Vickovich is 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.