visabureau.com > blogs > official blog

News, commentary & perspective from Visa Bureau

UK immigration mix up puts marriage in jeopardy

by Dominic 21/03/2013 12:23:00

The Colvilles could be faced with
the prospect of leaving the UK
following a series of blunders.

A married couple from Chester's life has been turned upside down following a mix-up by UK immigration authorities, threatening to either force them apart or to leave the UK.

When Briton Craig Colville, 31, married his Canadian wife Crystal, 29, in July last year, the couple pictured little other than a straight forward UK visa application for married partners.

The couple earned enough to meet the £18,600 salary requirement required to be eligible for a UK visa and had enough evidence to prove their marriage was genuine; they had little reason to think their application would be anything but straightforward.

First bad news

"You have to change your visa if you are a married couple so Crystal applied because she was now married to a British citizen," said Craig.

"We applied in September and then got a letter on February 4. You have to sign for it so they know you've received it. Crystal was at work so I asked her permission to open it.

"I was expecting it to be a happy result and that we'd all go out for a drink later, but the first I saw was 'REFUSED' in big black letter.

"It was a shock."

While UK visa applications can often be a complicated process and, particularly in the case of partner visas - which are open to abuse due to the subjective nature of a 'genuine relationship' - the Colvilles could not have expected to be rejected in this manner.

Mistakes

The letter did not so much concentrate on Crystal's application but on Craig, going so far as to claim he is not a British Citizen:

'You [Crystal] have not demonstrated any insurmountable obstacles that would prevent you from continuing your family life outside the UK, given that your spouse [Craig] does not hold settled status, is not a British Citizen and is not a person with refugee leave/humanitarian protection,' read the letter.

Craig was born and has lived most of his life in Wales, before moving to Chester a year ago.

"That was when I knew they had made a mistake, I just stood there reading it over and over for about 15 minutes in the post office not understanding how it had happened," he said.

"It was utter disbelief. I have deep family roots in the area. I have an identical twin brother whose citizenship has never been questioned. He was born nine minutes before me...that wouldn't have given my mother any time to cross a national border!"

A worsening situation

To make matters worse, the couple were given a deadline to appeal the decision and resubmit their documents, including the required financial evidence which was missing in the original application but mistook the stated deadline.

"Between us we earn well in excess of [the £18,600 threshold], we provided our employer details but didn't send them any bank statements or pay slips," Craig said.

"So we appealed and sent them the information. We were given a deadline of 10 working days by a letter signed on behalf of Theresa May, the Home Secretary. It arrived on February 4, so we had until February 18. It said so in black and white!

"We put everything together carefully and double checked it and then we sent it off."

However, the reply was further bad news, with the Home Office informing the couple the 10 working days had included weekends - putting the deadline at 14 February.

"The whole situation is extremely stressful," said Craig. "It goes from being ridiculous, hilarious, a big joke, to really upsetting.

"If we could have a chat with someone for just 10 minutes it would save time, effort and public money."

The UKBA has retained Crystal's passport, preventing her from leaving the country and the couple now fear the UKBA will revoke her right to work in the UK.

Should this happen, the couple will fall below the £18,600 threshold, making them ineligible for a UK visa in any fresh application.

"The Border Agency are still holding Crystal's passport, which means she can't return home to see her family. She can't leave the country, she can't update her name on her bank account, she can't sign up for a doctor though she's been working here and paying tax."

Crystal Colville shared her husband's frustrations:

"When I asked for an appointment to speak to someone face to face I was told that wasn't possible," she said.

"I know they have a backlog of cases, but these mistakes were avoidable and we did nothing wrong.

"We're just hoping everything will work out right."

Avoiding disaster

Marissa Murdock, casework manager at the UK Visa Bureau, says the Colville's case is an extremely unfortunate situation but one which highlights the need for qualified migration agents.

"The Border Agency is one of the most overworked and busiest Government departments in the UK and the constant heavy caseload they have to deal with can lead to mistakes occurring," said Ms Murdock.

"While the Colvilles have been incredibly unlucky to fall victim to what is likely to have been a clerical error in mistaking Craig Colville's citizenship status, it does prove how vital it is to ensure all documents and pay slips etc. are properly prepared and sent in time.

"With such an incredible caseload, many applicants have just one chance to submit their applications to the UKBA and if it isn't done correctly, any error or slip up on either the applicants' or the UKBA's part can result in disaster."


- 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.

Nick Clegg grilled over UK immigration predictions

by Dominic 21/02/2013 12:01:00

The prospect of Romania and
Bulgaria joinnig the European
Union has ignited a fierce debate.
 

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has faced criticism over his reluctance to detail UK immigration predictions concerning the number of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants expected next year.

Bulgaria and Romania will accede to the European Union at the end of this year, giving all their citizens the right to live and work anywhere else in the EU without the need for a specific visa.

The last time a similar event occurred - when Poland, Latvia and Lithuania acceded in 2004 - rates of UK immigration reached record highs and many are concerned that the same could be about to happen again.

The problem with official predictions

The then-Labour government predicted in 2004 that Britain could expect no more than 13,000 extra migrants a year. However, actual rates quickly surpassed these estimates, with net UK immigration reaching over 250,000 a year by 2012.

Labour have faced repeated criticism of their immigration policies - particularly their wildly inaccurate predictions - and current Labour Leader Ed Miliband has admitted his party 'got it wrong' on immigration during their 13 years in power.

The current coalition Government therefore has been reluctant to publicly release predictions for Bulgaria and Romania this time around - despite consistent calls to do so - through fear of getting them wrong.

The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said last month he had seen official estimates but was not confident they were correct. Speaking on his weekly phone in show, Mr Clegg admitted he too had seen figures but said it would not help 'public confidence in the immigration system' if they were released.

While many have taken this to mean the figures are high, Mr Clegg insisted the figures are not ready.

"I don't think we as a Government should start bandying around estimates, estimates which at the moment aren't very precise," said the deputy PM.

Why are the numbers so hard to predict?

While Labour may have got their estimates so wrong in 2004, the situation facing the current Government is even more complex; in 2004 only Britain opened its borders to the eight eastern European nations acceding to the EU. In 2013, every EU country will open its borders to Bulgaria and Spain.

There is already a significant number of Bulgarians and Romanians in the UK - 47,000 and 94,000 respectively - but studies show many prefer the cultural and language similarities with Italy and Spain to the UK.

Pressure to release numbers anyway

Migration Watch UK, a staunchly anti-immigration think tank, has released its own estimates of 50,000 Bulgarians and Romanians a year - estimates which it says are conservatively low - and has called on the Government to release its own estimates.

Despite previous mistakes, Labour's shadow immigration minister, Chris Bryant, said the Government is 'in a hopeless mess’ over the issue.

Even London Mayor Boris Johnson has joined in the argument, calling Mr Clegg a 'great big vacillating jelly of indecision' who 'needs to discover some spine' on the issue of immigration.

"If they've got some estimates they should clearly release them," said Mr Johnson.

On his weekly phone in show on LBC, Mr Clegg was pushed on whether the estimates were higher or lower than Labour's 2004 predictions of 13,000 but the deputy prime minister held firm.

"I can't give you clues...you are inviting me to get into a sort of guessing game about an estimate."

Marissa Murdock, casework manager of the UK Visa Bureau, says the Government is right not to release estimates simply to mollify critics if they have no confidence in the figures.

"The situation facing the Government at the end of the year is incredibly complex and there is no way to definitively predict how many people will come," said Ms Murdock.

"Any Government prediction will only further ignite the debate so it is right to hold off on publishing anything until it is certain that they are as accurate as possible."


- 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.

Romania hits back at UK immigration deterrence campaign

by Dominic 01/02/2013 12:46:00

 

Photo: gandul.info

After reports emerged this week that the Government was considering a negative advertising campaign aimed at deterring Bulgarian and Romanian citizens from moving to the UK when their countries join the EU has raised the ire in Romania, who have hit back with a campaign of their own.

Bulgaria and Romania are due to accede to the EU later this year, providing all citizens with the full benefits of membership, including the Freedom of Movement. This means citizens of either country will be able to live and work in the UK without the need for a UK visa.

The last time several Eastern European countries acceded to the EU - Poland, Latvia and Lithuania in 2004 - UK immigration rates soared and concerns have been raised that a similar scenario could occur later this year or early 2014, placing further strain on already struggling public services.

While there is still some contention over the effect the accession will have - the Government have so far refused to release official estimates - reports early this week suggested the Government was considering a negative ad campaign designed to deter Romanians and Bulgarians.

The ads - which were quickly derided and dismissed by politicians - were supposed to feature a dreary Britain with a rainy, cold climate and little opportunity for work.

Whether any such ad campaign would have ever materialised or not, one Romanian newspaper has taken it upon themselves to create their own ad campaign - designed to attract Brits to Romania - using tongue-in-cheek 'facts' and stats about Britain and Romania under the tag line 'we may not like Britain, but you'll love Romania'.

One ad claims that 'half of [Romanian] women look like Kate [Middleton]. The other half, like her sister.' and, continuing in the vein of mocking the monarchy that 'Harry has never been photographed naked once'.


- 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.

EU Referendum and UK immigration

by Dominic 23/01/2013 11:51:00

Prime Minister David Cameron
delivered his much anticipated
speech on the EU today.
 

David Cameron has promised a referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union should the Conservatives win the next election, but what would that mean for UK immigration policy? And will it even happen?

In a long awaited speech - six months in the making - Prime Minister David Cameron has outlined his party's policy on putting the UK's membership of the European Union to the British public with a simple in/out referendum, should his party secure a majority at the next General Election. An event which would have a widespread on many aspects of British politics - particularly UK immigration policy. 

The referendum

"It is time for the British people to have their say," said the prime minister. "It is time to settle this European question in British politics. I say to the British people: this will be your decision."

Calls for a referendum on the UK's EU membership have been growing recently following cuts to public services and other harmful effects of the GFC. The prospect of Romania and Bulgaria acceding to the EU later this year has caused some to fear an influx of migrants and the rise of the UK Independence Party luring support from traditional Conservative Party supporters has increased pressure on the prime minister regarding a referendum.

Mr Cameron said that, should the Conservatives secure another term, a referendum would be held early in the next parliament; this is thought to be most likely before the end of 2017.

The prime minister said the decision for a referendum comes at a time when 'disillusionment' with the EU was 'at an all time high'.

"Simply asking the British people to carry on accepting a European settlement over which they have had little choice...is why I am in favour of a referendum. I believe in confronting this issue, shaping it, leading the debate. Not simply hoping a difficult situation will go away."

Despite promising the referendum, Mr Cameron said he would first attempt to renegotiate a unilateral agreement with the EU to change the UK's relationship with the single market and secure more autonomy over such policies as immigration.

Once a new arrangement had been concluded, only then will the referendum take place. The EU is certain to change as the global economy continues to settle following the Global Financial Crisis and Mr Cameron said it would be 'wrong to ask people whether to stay or go before we have had a chance to put the relationship right'.

Mr Cameron added that should the British public vote to remain part of the EU in any referendum, he would fight 'heart and soul' to remain part of the single market.

What would the UK's leaving the EU mean for UK immigration?

The UK's membership of the EU
has become a controversial issue.

Should the Conservatives win the next General Election and hold the referendum, the effect on UK immigration is likely to be incredibly affecting - particularly for those wanting to move to the UK from within the EU - but also for those already here.

Changes to the status of EU citizens who have used the Freedom of Movement directive to live and work in the UK would almost certainly lead to a surge in UK visa applications for those wanting to remain. With so many EU citizens already in the UK, this could result in an over burdening of the Home Office and potentially even lead to panic among those faced with being forced to leave the UK.

However, Marissa Murdock, casework manager at the UK Visa Bureau, says the timescales mentioned and the magnitude of the change would mean that any real effect would take several years to be felt.

"The decision to leave the EU would necessitate a large number of transitional measures being put in place to UK immigration policy and such large changes rarely take fewer than a matter of years," said Ms Murdock.

"A raft of new rules combined with the political uncertainty of such a change would mean most current UK residents would have sufficient time to apply for residency or Indefinite Leave to Remain [ILR] before any changes could take effect.

"While it would remain to be seen whether any changes would affect ILR or residency requirements, should this happen there could be significant backlash to those who had already obtained permission to remain in the country."

Will it even happen?

Mr Cameron has already said that he will seek to secure a new relationship with the EU before holding a referendum. While this prospect has already been derided by some, the larger question is whether the Conservative Party is even capable of securing the required majority in 2015.

According to the latest YouGov poll, Ed Miliband's Labour Party currently has an 11 point lead over the Conservative Party.

Lord Ashcroft, the influential Conservative peer, said it was time for the party's euro sceptics to 'declare victory and talk about something else'.

"The new policy will be in the manifesto. The only question is whether we get a chance to implement it," said Ashcroft.

"And that depends on whether we get a majority at the next election. And that depends on how voters think we are doing on the economy, jobs, public services, welfare, crime immigration: whether we are on their side and understand their priorities."


- 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.

Is immigration really the biggest issue facing the UK?

by Dominic 14/01/2013 13:25:00

One in three people surveyed
said UK immigration was the
biggest issue facing the
country.
 

A recent study by a leading think-tank has revealed that UK immigration is considered the biggest issue threatening the UK, but is it as bad as it seems?

The report, titled 'State of the Nation: Where is Bittersweet Britain Heading?' was written by the think-tank British Future and published in the Observer, claims that one in three Britons believe tensions between immigrants and those born in the UK is the most divisive issue in the country.

Public concern

Immigration was chosen by more people as the nation's biggest issue than the still flailing economy and the housing market's ongoing problems.

Net migration to the UK stood at record high levels until recently with over 250,000 more people entering the UK than leaving each year. Figures have since started to reduce after the Conservative-led coalition Government's changes continued to take their toll but it appears to have done little to dampen the public's concerns.

The study, which surveyed 2,515 people aged between 16 and 75, said respect for the law, for the freedom of speech of others and English language ability were the three most important traits for new immigrants to have.

Is it damaging?

The Labour Party has admitted in recent months that their government's actions which encouraged large amounts of immigration fostered negative attitudes toward those who criticised immigration rates.

However, while the British Future's report showed that the public was more concerned with immigration than any other single issue, it also showed that they country is tolerant towards immigrants, with almost 70% of those surveyed saying immigrants should be given access to the welfare state as long as they contribute to society and keep within the boundaries of the law.

Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, said the report showed an anxiety regarding immigration at a national level but that this considerably reduced when respondents considered their local areas: just 19% reported immigration to be the most divisive around their own homes.

"People are obviously very anxious about immigration," said Mr Katwala. "But I was struck by how much higher it was as a national rather than a local tension.

"That to me suggest that managing local tensions is obviously very important, but it is probably not the answer entirely because people have this national-level concern.

"I think would be wrong to say that local concerns are real and national concerns are just driven by the media, but I think what is going on there is people asking: 'does the system work?' And I don't think anyone has any confidence as how it is managed as a system.

"Also there is a concern around national cohesion, identity and ability to cope with the scale of change."

Marissa Murdock, casework manager at the UK Visa Bureau, says the report proves that attitudes towards immigration and immigrants are not as caustic as some would have you believe.

"Expressing opinions on immigration levels has become thin ice for many people; those lamenting high levels are labelled xenophobic while those advocating the benefits of multiculturalism are blamed for economic troubles," said Ms Murdock.

"Yet the report shows that neither label is fair or accurate; the public's concern does not lie in issues with individual immigrants but the numbers of immigrants.

"As the Government continues to take measures to reduce net migration the public's welcoming attitude should become more evident."


- 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.

UK visa processing transferred to Croydon

by Dominic 02/01/2013 13:01:00

The UK Border Agency has announced that the processing of UK visa applications from many countries will now take place in Croydon, rather than individual international offices.

The UKBA has been plagued in recent months by reports of extensive backlogs and delays in processing applications, as well as poor exit controls. It is thoguht that by centralising all UK visa applications to one office, not only will such delays and lapses occur, but all applications will be processed by a single team, resulting in a much fairer and better balanced system.

The agency is releasing which countries will be affected the changes individually, so far the UKBA has included the following countries as eligible for visa processing in Croydon:

Croydon Processing 

  •  Passport holders of the following countries will have their UK visa applications processed in Croydon:
Denmark 
Estonia Finland
Iceland 
Norway  Sweden 

- 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.

Minister and Lord clash on UK immigration policy

by Dominic 11/12/2012 15:26:00

The Lord Bilimoria (top) and 
Immigration Minister Mark 
Harper clashed on the BBC's
Daily Politics.
 

Immigration Minister Mark Harper and the Lord Bilimoria have clashed on the BBC's Daily Politics over UK immigration policy affecting international students and skilled workers.

The Conservative-led coalition Government has made significant changes to UK visa and immigration policy in recent months as part of its aim to reduce net migration to the UK to the 'tens of thousands' by 2015.

Changes have included the introduction of salary thresholds for those wanting to bring partners and families to the UK and the removal of post study work rights for international students.

It is the changes affecting international students which have provoked the sharpest debate; the international education industry in the UK is a world leader which contributes billions to a struggling British economy.

The Government maintains that the changes tackle abuse of the student visa system - foreign citizens who enter the country on a student visa under the pretence of studying but really to work. Critics however, argue that the changes are too blunt.

Are the changes too harsh?

Lord Bilimoria, an Indian-born British businessman and life peer, agrees that changes need to be made to the system, but the Government's intentions are seen much more harshly from prospective migrants.

"I hear what [Mr Harper] is saying about what the Government is trying to say, the reality is the perception of what is being said," said Lord Bilimoria.

"We've had this country built on good immigration. What happened was the previous government lost control of immigration where if you ask the UK Border Agency right now how many illegal immigrants there are in this country they cannot even give you a figure rounded up to the nearest hundred thousand, they haven't a clue. We have lost control of our borders."

"We have still not reintroduced exit controls so we don't even know who's leaving the country; that needs to be brought in urgently."

"And there's a big difference between bad immigration and good immigration. This whole country, we're only 60 million people on a small island we can't have everyone coming here and it's an attractive place to come we're one of the top 10 economies in the world."

"But we need to keep away the bad immigration, that's what we've got to get control of."

The minister said the Government was fully intent on agreeing with the Lord Bilimoria's suggestions. However, Lord Bilimoria, who sits on the board of three UK business schools, criticised the Government's methods of achieving those goals.

"It's the way that you do it, if you want to get rid of the bad immigration, everyone would agree. If you want to get rid of the dodgy colleges and dodgy students, everyone would agree," said the life peer.

"But what happens when you have a blunt, crude immigration cap - it's a mad cap idea - you send out the message with a broad brush - carpet bombing - everyone is affected."

Lord Bilimoria said the application rate from Indian students had 'plummeted' since the changes were introduced - a fact he said was due to the message emanating from the UK being 'Britain doesn't want us'.

The Government's changes to immigration policy culminated in the removal of London Metropolitan University's ability to take in international students - a move the Lord Bilimoria labelled as the actions of a 'police state'.

Are the changes taking effect?

Mr Harper defended the Government's changes, referring to the most recent release of immigration figures which showed net migration to be down for the first time in four years. The figures showed a 26% decrease in the number of international students in the UK but this figure too was defended by the minister.

"The overall number of students coming to our universities is up compared to last year," said the minister, claiming there was a difference between international students and international students studying in British universities.

"What we've done is we've tackled those institutions that were not actually selling education. Our university sector is being protected; the number of applications to come to universities is up.

"The number of students coming to our universities is up, the high quality end of the sector, the best and the brightest, we're seeing those numbers going up so Britain is very much open for business."


- 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.

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.

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.

Changing attitudes to UK immigration

by Dominic 20/09/2012 15:21:00

The latest publication from the National centre for Social Research shows a declining attitude in the public consensus of UK immigration.

The British Social Attitudes Survey is conducted on an annual basis and involves in-depth interviews with approximately 3,000 respondents. The study covers a range of issues including politics, the environment, the European Union, crime and many others. It is however, the study's findings on UK immigration that are the most notable.

The survey is the first to be conducted after many of the coalition Government's much publicised attempts to reduce net migration to the UK to the 'tens of thousands' have come into effect and, combined with a still sluggish economy, the survey's findings reflect a toughening attitude towards immigration.

What did the study find?

51% of people would like
to see immigration levels
'reduce a lot' according to
the study.
 

The survey's findings included:

  • 51% of respondents would like to see immigration levels 'reduce a lot' - up from 39% in 1995 but down from a 55% peak in 2008.
  • A further 24% of respondents would like see immigration 'reduce a little'
  • 21% of respondents thought the economic impact of immigration is 'very bad' - up from 11% in 2002
  • 21% of respondents thought the cultural impact of immigration is 'very bad' - up from 9% in 2002

The study also reported far fewer neutral views on the effects of immigration compared to past studies and according to Robert Ford, a politics lecturer at the University of Manchester who led the study, says the results are unsurprising given trends in immigration.

"The flow of migrants into Britain over the past 15 years has been the largest in British history," said Mr Ford.

"The public has reacted to this with strengthened demands for a reduction in migration and increasingly negative views about the cultural and economic impact of migrants on Britain."

Why do people feel so strongly?

Since the turn of the century and the freedom of movement directive within the UK, large numbers of people have been able to enter the UK without scrutiny, regardless of their intentions. This fact was compounded when eight Eastern European countries acceded to the EU in 2004.

The then-Labour government predicted 12,000 people a year would enter the country; net migration levels have reached approximately 250,000 since then.

However, while the number of migrants has given many cause for concern, it is the quality of immigrants that is the more prominent issue.

"What sways British voters in favour of migration is the perception that migrants are highly qualified," said Mr Ford.

The Government has made several changes to UK visa and immigration policies in recent months including introducing application caps and salary thresholds. The changes culminated in the revocation of London Metropolitan University's (LMU) ability to sponsor foreign students, forcing over 2,000 international students to find alternative institutions to study at or return home.

Marissa Murdock, casework manager at the UK Visa Bureau, says the public opinion is to be expected, but often unjustified.

"Everyone everywhere interacts with immigrants on a daily basis without incident and often without notice, yet when attention is drawn to the issue, it's often in the form of newspapers sensationalising a fraction of the country's immigrant population," said Ms Murdock.

"This only serves to incite negative opinion towards migrants, many of whom contribute in many ways to this country."

The Government's policy changes are sure to go some way to reducing the number of immigrants who neglect to contribute in taxes or burden public services, but policies such as that which saw thousands of LMU, many of whom were legitimate fee paying students, faced with the prospect of being deported have already hit harder than perhaps necessary.

A further study published this week by the General Medical Council showed the number of foreign trained doctors coming to the UK was down by almost 90% in 2012 compared to a decade ago.


- 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.