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Petition triggers UK immigration debate in Commons

by Dominic 10/09/2012 15:13:00

An online petition which garnered over 100,000 signatures prompted a debate in the House of Commons over the current state of UK immigration.

Upon taking office, the Conservatives promised to reduce net migration to the UK from the 250,000 level to the 'tens of thousands' by the end of the current parliament. As part of their efforts, the Conservative-led coalition Government have made sweeping changes to UK visa and immigration policy such as salary thresholds and visa application caps.

However, official figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed little impact on overall figures, and even included an increase at one point. The latest batch revealed a drop to 216,000 but the ONS said the drop was 'not statistically significant'.

MigrationWatch Petition

MigrationWatch UK advocates
tougher immigration control.
 

Nevertheless, the drop was lauded by Conservatives as proof changes to the immigration system were beginning to take effect but Sir Andrew Green of MigrationWatch UK, an independent think-tank which favours tougher immigration control, said the figures proved more had to be done.

"The Government must ensure that they pursue the national interest ahead of vested interests," said Sir Andrew.

"They now need a blitz on bogus students and much tougher action on enforcement and removal. For too many years we have had only a token effort at tackling illegal immigration."

Following the figures' release, MigrationWatch launched an online petition which urged the Government to curb UK immigration. The petition claims the Government needs to reduce net migration to approximately 40,000 to prevent the population from reaching 70 million; it currently stands at approximately 63 million.

The petition, which calls for 'all necessary measures' to keep the population down, gained more than 100,000 signatures within a week, bringing national attention to the watchdog's cause.

House of Commons

Senior Conservative MP Nicholas Soames opened a debate in the House of Commons over the issue, urging the Government to continue making changes to the immigration system to ensure the country's population does not exceed 70 million, which predictions expect to happen at some point in the next two decades.

Mr Soames blamed the previous Labour government for its 'chaotic, ill-thought out and deeply irresponsible approach to immigration' which led to an uncontrolled influx of migrants; a factor current Labour leader Ed Miliband has since acknowledged.

"In the coming 15 years we will have to build, just for new immigrants and their families, the equivalent of eight of the largest cities outside London, together with all their associated infrastructure, of schools, roads, hospitals, railways and all the rest," said Mr Soames.

The Conservative's position was backed by Labour's Frank Field, who said the issue was becoming such a concern that it took precedence over partisanship.

Mr Soames and Mr Field, along with the support of eight other members, tabled a motion to implement some of the measures outlined in MigrationWatch's petition.

Heated Debate

The immigration debate in the UK has proved extremely divisive in the past and this motion proved no different. SNP MP Pete Wishart called the Commons motion a 'nasty little motion' while Labour MP Dianne Abbott took exception to Mr Field's argument when he claimed there were some second generation immigrants who 'harbour such terrible thoughts in their hearts about us'.

Mr Wishart also said the language used in the watchdog's petition, particularly the phrase 'all necessary steps' was worryingly authoritarian, a sentinment shared by Lib Dem MP Martin Horwood, who criticised the motion's tone as inflammatory:

"Would [Mr Field] agree that actually immigrants can make a very positive contribution to our economy, and to our culture, and we need to take a balanced, evidence-based approach to this whole debate, and not use language that will inflame fears amongst minority ethnic communities in this country?"

The Government's goal of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands by 2015 has widely been dismissed as impossible and Shadow Immigration Minister Chris Bryant claimed in the Commons that the rise in population was inevitable.

"The fact is that if net migration were zero in every category for the next 25 years, the population would grow to 66 million," said Mr Bryant.

"And if it were tens of thousands, the population would be 70 million just after 2035."

Future measures 

Martin Ruhs, director of the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, said MPs needed to 'move beyond rhetoric and into substance' when it came to controlling immigration.

Marissa Murdock, casework manager at the UK Visa Bureau, says a more measured approach to immigration is required.

"There is almost no debate that immigration, properly managed, can benefit a country, particularly the UK. There are thousands of people who want to move to the UK for no other reason than to work hard, contribute and lead a better life," said Ms Murdock.

"Abuse of the system is common and does need to be dealt with but an absolute approach like those some have suggested will only serve to damage the UK's reputation abroad of, and foster resentment within, an enviable multicultural society."



- 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.

Latest UK immigration figures released

by Dominic 30/08/2012 12:47:00

The Office for National Statistics released its latest quarterly report today, offering the opportunity to shed light on the progress of the Government's tougher UK immigration measures.

The Conservative Party made reducing net migration to the UK to the 'tens of thousands' an election pledge in 2010; upon taking parliament, net migration to the UK stood around the 250,000 mark.

The Conservatives, in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, have set about making changes to the UK visa and immigration systems which have included adding salary thresholds and caps to visa numbers, removing post study work rights for international students and clamping down on fraudulent student visas.

As many of the changes concern routes into the UK used primarily by legitimate immigrants wanting to move to the UK for bona fide reasons, the changes have been met with dismay with accusations of making the immigration process deliberately harder for legitimate migrants while doing little to tackle illegal immigration.

Just this week, one London university had its licence to welcome overseas students revoked, leaving as many as 2,000 students uncertain of their immigration (and education) status and proving that the Government means business. The debate over whether to include student numbers in net migration figures at all is an ongoing and embittered debate.

However, despite the tough resolve and harsh restrictions added on to policy, immigration figures published in May showed an almost negligible decrease in net migration - down just 3,000 to 252,000.

The figures were quickly labelled a failure by opposition politicians but Immigration Minister Damian Green insisted there were positives to be taken and reverted to the much reused and recycled refrain of comparing fixing the immigration system to 'turning round an oil tanker'.

Current figures

The latest report from the ONS shows a more substantial decrease, down to 216,000 in the year to December 2011. While this may be appear to be a considerable change - almost 15% - the ONS was quick to point out that this was not statistically significant.

Total long-term international migration estimates, 2002–2011
Source: Office for National Statistics, August 2012

The number of National Insurance numbers issued to foreign workers also fell by 15% in the year to March.

There was also a slight increase on the long-term emigration from the UK in the same period, with education being the most common reason for people leaving.

It was however, students entering the UK that will perhaps generate the most headlines. In the year to June 2012, just over 280,000 student visas were issued: a 21% drop.

Reaction

Praise

That did not stop Immigration Minister Damian Green praising the figures as proof tougher measures were starting to tell.

"We are now starting to see the real difference our tough policies are making, with an overall fall in net migration and the number of visas issued at its lowest since 2005," said the minister.

"At the same time, there are encouraging signs that we continue to attract the brightest and best and to support tourism in the UK.

"We will continue to work hard to ensure that net migration is reduced from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands by the end of this parliament.

"We are doing this by improving the selectivity of our immigration system and increasing enforcement activity to prevent people coming into the UK illegally and removing those with no right to be here."

Criticism - figures too high

Sir Andrew Green of MigrationWatch UK, which favours tougher immigration methods, said 216,000 is still 'far too high' and proved further changes were called for.

"The Government must ensure that they pursue the national interest ahead of vested interests," said Sir Andrew.

"They now need a blitz on bogus students and much tougher action on enforcement and removal. For too many years we have had only a token effort at tackling illegal immigration."

Criticism - figures too low

However, left-leaning think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), who have consistently argued the need for current levels of net migration, said the figures showed 'the folly of the Government's target to reduce net migration to less than 100,000 a year'.

"The combination of recession and immigration policy changes may be starting to have an impact but more than a third of the fall is due to a rise in emigration," said Sarah Mulley, IPPR associate director.

"The statistics show that the Government remains a long way from its goal."

Ms Mulley conceded that the Government was making progress, but the wrong progress.

"The Government is making progress towards its target but only at significant economic cost: reducing the numbers of skilled migrants who come to the UK to work hard, pay taxes, help businesses grow, and staff our public services, as well as fee-paying students who support our colleges and universities and provide jobs for thousands."

Education providers shared Ms Mulley's concerns, claiming the drop in student visa numbers were very concerning for the country's multi-billion pound international education industry.

"A drop in international students will damage our universities, which rely on the economic contribution these students make, and deny domestic students the opportunity to mix with multinational academic peers," said Michael Corner of the international education provider Study Group.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

UK Immigration Update - 15 August, 2012

by Dominic 15/08/2012 10:44:00
Dog the Bounty Hunter denied UK visa

Dog the Bounty Hunter has had his UK visa application rejected due to his involvement in a 1976 murder...read more.

UK visa changes mulled to capitalise on Olympic success

The Government is reportedly considering changes to UK visa policy in order to make it easier for foreign tourists to visit after the success of the Olympic Games...read more.

UK immigration staff exceeded expectations during Olympic rush

UK immigration figures show passport and border control staff outperformed all targets during the Olympic Games...read more.

UK visa changes to lure Chinese tourists

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said new UK visa offices and staff will be set up in China as well as a Chinese-language website in order to triple the number of Chinese tourists visiting Britain...read more.




Dog the Bounty Hunter denied UK visa

Dog the Bounty Hunter will not
be appearing on the new series
of Celebrity Big Brother.

Dog the Bounty Hunter has had his UK visa application rejected due to his involvement in a 1976 murder.

Duane 'Dog' Chapman, who made his name as the star of the Hawaii-set TV show Dog the Bounty Hunter, has been rejected for a UK visa due to his part in a 1976 murder.

Mr Chapman was expected to appear on the latest version of Channel 5's Celebrity Big Brother but has had to cancel after the UK Border Agency failed to approve his application.

Mr Chapman claims he has since renounced his life of crime and often tells his bounties to do the same and 'go with Jesus' when he apprehends them but his own past has come back to bite him.

In 1976 Jerry Oliver was gunned down in Texas by one of Mr Chapman's associates who had gone to purchase drugs from him; Mr Chapman himself was waiting in a car outside at the time but was convicted of first degree murder nonetheless and sentenced to five years in prison.

Mr Chapman, who served 18 months of his sentence, has been no stranger to controversy; in 2007 a private phone conversation between the Dog and his son, Tucker, was released. In the tape, Mr Chapman was heard using several racial slurs and chastised his son for dating an African American girl.

However, Mr Chapman has taken the news stoically, expressing his regret he would not be able to appear on the show and saying he hoped the 'red tape' could be resolved.

"I'd like to see your country and I have a lot of fans there and I'd like to meet them," Mr Chapman said.

"I have always wanted to come here."

Mr Chapman's wife Beth, who also appears on the show, expressed a little more frustration and pointed out her husband's charitable work as cause for approving his application.

"It's just incredible that something that he did 33 years ago is just haunting him," said Mrs Chapman.

"It prevents him making a living. Our society is so unforgiving it seems, no matter how many good things we do."

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UK visa changes mulled to capitalise on Olympic success

The success of the Olympics
has led to increased in interest
in visiting the UK.

The Government is reportedly considering changes to UK visa policy in order to make it easier for foreign tourists to visit after the success of the Olympic Games.

Previous reports have cited complicated UK visa application processes as a deterrent to more foreign tourists visiting Britain. While studies have shown that many foreign tourists would prefer to visit the UK, large numbers choose to visit France, Germany or Italy instead on a Schengen visa.

A UK visa currently allows non-EU tourists to visit Britain and Ireland but for a similar price, a Schengen visa allows a holder to visit a total 26 European countries. The Schengen visa application is also much shorter and multilingual than the English and Welsh UK visa application.

With the Chinese economy currently producing vast numbers of first time international travellers, most Western countries are eager to attract the tourists who have been shown to spend more on average on a typical holiday than any other nationality.

However, six times as many Chinese tourists visit France compared to Britain, nine times as many to Germany, many blame this on tourist visa processes.

Tourist bodies have called in the past for simpler visa applications and, with the country currently in the spotlight thanks to the unexpected success of the 2012 Olympic Games, the Government is considering loosening visa restrictions in order to capitalise on this.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to discuss the issue during a speech at the Tate Modern on Tuesday; policy aspects reportedly up for debate include translating the visa application form, expedited application processes and allowing visa applications to be filed at other European countries' application centres around the world.

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UK immigration staff exceeded expectations during Olympic rush

Waiting times at the UK borders
during the Games exceeded
all targets..

UK immigration figures show passport and border control staff outperformed all targets during the Olympic Games.

Significant and widespread scepticism regarding the UK immigration system's ability to cope with increased demand was rife prior to the Games due to reports of protracted queuing times, understaffed passport desks and threats of strikes.

However, contingency plans put in place to man extra desks and open up priority lanes have paid off as despite Heathrow Airport processing record levels of passengers on several days of the Games, queuing time targets for both European Economic Area (EEA) and non-EEA passengers were surpassed.

Immigration Minister Damian Green had previously said non-EEA passengers should have to wait no longer than 45 minutes and EEA passengers less than half that time. However, reports earlier this summer claimed people were waiting in excess of three hours with lines stretching over half a mile in immigration halls.

Mr Green paid tribute to the border staff for ensuring that similar situations were avoided.

"Our staff and volunteers have shown fantastic dedication and commitment during what has been an extremely busy period," said the minister.

"These figures are proof that our detailed planning for the Olympics, combined with wider action to cut queuing times and keep the border secure, have paid dividends."

BAA chief Colin Matthews echoed Mr Green's praise:

"We are proud to have played our part in giving the very best welcome to London 2012 to athletes and visitors alike. Seven years of hard work and planning, the warmth and enthusiasm of more than a thousand volunteers and additional Border Force staff produced our strongest ever passenger satisfaction scores."
 

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UK visa changes to lure Chinese tourists

Chinese tourists are worth
hundreds of millions to
the British economy.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said new UK visa offices and staff will be set up in China as well as a Chinese-language website in order to triple the number of Chinese tourists visiting Britain.

Chinese tourists have been shown to spend more than any other nationality on holiday but tough UK visa requirements mean Britain welcomes significantly less than its European neighbours.

In order to combat that and capitalise on the momentum of the London Olympics, Mr Hunt said 150 additional visa officers will be employed during peak months as well as 72 agents for tourist groups.

"We'll be looking at improvements to the visa system and work with airlines to improve the number of flight connections to China," said the culture secretary.

The UK visa application is currently limited in its language options but Mr Hunt said a Chinese language website with online application capability will go some way to help potential visitors overcome the language barrier.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said the goal was to increase Chinese tourists from current levels of 150,000 to almost half a million, providing an extra £500 million in spending creating over 10,000 jobs.

"China is one of the UK's priority markets for tourism and business and we are committed to providing an ever improving service to support this," said Mr Green.

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the UK Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Olympics and UK immigration

by Dominic 14/08/2012 15:47:00

Mo Farah, double gold medallist and one
of the stars of the 2012 Olympics, was
born in Somalia and moved to the UK to
escape the war torn country.

Aside from a strangely poor closing ceremony, the London 2012 Olympics were an exceptional, and widely unexpected, success. While the organisation of the Games was fraught with budget and staffing concerns, it was on the field that Britain surprised the most, finishing only behind China and the US in the medals by winning the most medals since 1908.

A few weeks ago, we looked at the influence immigration has had on the success of the US Olympic team in the past. America has won nearly half of all Olympic medals ever awarded and has the broad, welcoming immigration policies of the past to thank for the evident diversity of its high flying team.

But what about the UK? Being the home nation was certainly an advantage to TeamGB, anyone who witnessed Mo Farah's performances could not deny that but the UK's march toward the top of the Olympic table did not begin in London, TeamGB finished fourth in Beijing.

Only the US and China have finished above TeamGB in the past two Summer Games; China's 1.3 billion strong population might be proving a match for America's 350 million people of all walks of life but is the UK that far behind?

UK immigration policy is currently a controversial topic; with Britain on course to be the most populous country in Europe, the Government has pledged to bring net migration down to roughly a third of its current levels but where would TeamGB have finished without its immigrants?

A study by independent think-tank British Future found approximately a third of TeamGB's 65 medals were won by athletes with immediate family members from outside Britain, including the following high profile eight athletes:

Athlete

Event

Medal

Immigration Connection

Mo Farah 5000m and 10,000m Two Gold Born in Somalia, moved to the UK as a child.
Jessica Ennis Heptathlon Gold Jamaican Father
Bradley Wiggins Cycling - Time Trial Gold Born in Belgium, Australian father.
Laura Robson Tennis - Mixed Doubles Silver Born in Australia
Laura Bechtolsheimer Dressage One Gold One Bronze Born in Germany
Christine Ohoruogu 400m Silver Nigerian-born Parents
Robert Grabarz High Jump Bronze Born in Germany
Anthony Ogogo Boxing Bronze Nigerian father

UK immigration has resulted in Great Britain becoming one of the most diverse countries in the world; in London alone over 300 languages are spoken and while immigration is certainly one of the most divisive issues around, Sunder Katwala of British Future says its benefits are plain to see.

"The record breaking achievements of TeamGB athletes have reflected an inclusive and authentic pride in the shared, multi-ethnic society that we are today."

- 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 Update - 03 August, 2012

by Dominic 03/08/2012 10:39:00
Child Palestinian refugees get UK visa to visit Olympics

Ten Palestinian children from the notorious Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon have arrived in the country after finally being granted a UK visa at the 11th hour...read more.

Tory MP bemoans UK immigration policy after failed citizen's arrest

Conservative MP Stewart Jackson has voiced his frustration with UK immigration policy after being assaulted by an immigrant while he tried to perform a citizen's arrest...read more.

UK visa rejection leads to Paralympian heartbreak

A nine-year-old Vietnamese boy's hopes of seeing his uncle compete in the Paralympic Games this month have been ruined after his UK visa application was rejected...read more.




Child Palestinian refugees get UK visa to visit Olympics

The children received permission
to travel to the UK at the last
minute.

Ten Palestinian children from the notorious Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon have arrived in the country after finally being granted a UK visa at the 11th hour.

Children from the camp visit the Shatila Theatre Trust in North Tyneside every year but this year's trip was put in jeopardy after being informed their UK visa applications had been rejected by the British Embassy in Beirut just days before their trip.

After contacting Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell, the applications were reviewed and approved but the trip was put in fresh jeopardy after it was revealed the visas would only be valid the day after they arrived in the country.

After paying £9,000 for the flights for the 12 and 13-year-olds, it looked as though the trip would have to be cancelled or the charity would have to pay for more flights which, during the peak time of the Olympic Games, would either be impossible or too expensive.

"It wasn't something we had budgeted for and I feel very angry because it's not our fault, it's the British Embassy and the [UK] Border Agency, but it's us that had to pay," said Peter Mortimer, the charity's founder.

The matter was resolved when the charity was able to change the flights by paying a re-booking fee of £1,500. The children have since arrived in Tyneside but Mr Mortimer says the matter is not over.

"I will take this up when [the children leave], we don't have this kind of money, we are a charity."

The children's teacher, Mariam Najem, who accompanied the group along with two others said the trip had never before been an issue but the situation could have been resolved much easier if they had been informed earlier.

"We have never had problems with visas before, we didn't expect it, and there was no time to apply again," said Ms Najem.

"When we finally got them it was very difficult to find flights, we had to be at the airport and 2pm and we only found out we had got the last seat at noon so we just had to get ready and go."

During their trip, the children watched an Olympic football match between Brazil and New Zealand at Newcastle's St James Park and they will also be creating art projects which will be installed at Tynemouth Station.

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Tory MP bemoans UK immigration policy after failed citizen's arrest

Mr Jackson says uncontrolled UK
immigration rates result in people
drinking in town centres.
 

Conservative MP Stewart Jackson has voiced his frustration with UK immigration policy after being assaulted by an immigrant while he tried to perform a citizen's arrest.

While out shopping with his family in his constituency of Peterborough, Mr Jackson attempt to apprehend a man he saw vandalising a bus shelter. After grappling with the man, he was kicked in the chest and the man escaped. Mr Jackson says he does not regret his actions despite failing to apprehend the man and injuring himself but says failed UK immigration policies are to blame.

"I don't regret it, ultimately you can't just walk by and watch somebody destroying public property, not just my constituency but my home as well," said the MP, adding that the man was drunk. "Not only did he smash a bottle into a bus shelter, he kicked the glass through onto pensioners and shoppers."

Mr Jackson said that while the problem also resulted from 'too much imbibing of alcohol to the extreme in the city', uncontrolled immigration, particularly from Eastern Europe, was resulting in thousands of people entering the country without work who were turning to alcohol.

"While it's not exclusively eastern Europeans, there are a large number of eastern European people who like to get drunk."

The Peterborough MP said the free movement directive within the EU limited the Government's ability to prevent large numbers of people from needlessly entering the country.

"The free movement directive connects to this, because we've had 20,000 people come to the city from Eastern European countries."

Mr Jackson said such levels of immigration were 'fine and dandy if you're getting the funding to deal with that issue' but in a city with precious few industries to speak of, an influx of people unable to find work presents too much of a burden.

"We've had the proper funding to deal with that, but we're at the centre of the food processing and logistics industries in Peterborough, generally low or intermediate skill work."

The UK has experienced unprecedented levels of European immigration since eight countries including Poland and Romania acceded to the EU in 2004; the Labour Party recently admitted they got UK immigration policy wrong during their time in government.

The current coalition Government have promised to bring net migration to the UK down from current levels of approximately 250,000 to the ‘tens of thousands’ by the end of the current parliament but Mr Jackson says the level of immigration should be secondary to the quality.

"It seems to be bizarre that we're turning away people from India and Singapore with degrees in IT which could grow a business, at the same time we completely fail to restrict access to European migrants with few or no skills.

"That's the crazy immigration system that we've got."

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UK visa rejection leads to Paralympian heartbreak

Daniel Munro will not be able to
watch his uncle compete at the
Paralympic Games in London.

A nine-year-old Vietnamese boy's hopes of seeing his uncle compete in the Paralympic Games this month have been ruined after his UK visa application was rejected.

Daniel Munro had been hoping to see his uncle, John Munro, compete as a member of TeamGB in the sitting volleyball competition which starts on 30 August but his UK visa application reportedly failed to convince UK immigration authorities that he did not present a risk of becoming a burden on state benefits.

Daniel and his mother, Anne, were intending to stay with Mr Munro in London and a family friend, Reverend John Taylor, for a month but has had to cancel the trip after the UK Border Agency (UKBA) said they were 'not satisfied' that Daniel would be 'maintained and accommodated adequately by relatives or friends, or that you can meet the cost of the return journey'.

Daniel's family was informed of the decision only after Ms Munro had paid £1,800 on flights. Ms Munro, who has an Australian passport but lives in Vietnam with her son, was granted entry into the country.

"It's a total nonsense, I don't know what these officials are thinking," said Reverend Taylor. "She is quite annoyed about it, because it doesn't make any sense and it is costing her a lot of money.

"They refused on the grounds that Daniel could be dependent on the benefits system, despite John sending all his bank statements and letters from me to prove that we would support him."

Ms Munro expressed her disappointment that Daniel would not be able to see his uncle compete but said the British visa system should be better equipped to deal with such instances.

"I am not angry about the refusal of the visa for my son if extra evidence is required. However, I am angry with the system," she said.

"Visa applications should not be processed until all the documents have been checked and the applicant should be told of all necessary requirements."

A UKBA spokesperson said the Munro family could appeal the decision which they would 'aim to consider within three weeks'. 

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the UK Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

UK Immigration Update - 27 July, 2012

by Dominic 27/07/2012 14:13:00
Home Affairs Committee recommends international students' exclusion from net migration figures

Parliament's Home Affairs Select Committee has recommended the Government remove international student figures from net migration totals in order to help both the Government achieve their UK immigration goals and the British education industry benefit from international students...read more.

Damian Green rebuts UK immigration job promises

UK Immigration Minister Damian Green has denied claims made by the PCS Union that 1,100 new jobs would be created in exchange for calling off a much publicised strike by UK Border Agency Staff...read more.

Home Affairs Committee calls for relaxed UK visa checks

The influential Home Affairs Committee has said that UK immigration checks should be relaxed again to prevent extensive queues forming at border security when staff levels return to normal following the Olympic Games...read more.

MigrationWatch makes startling UK visa claims

UK immigration watchdog MigrationWatch UK has said that as many as 60% of UK visa applications from Asian and African foreign students should have been refused in 2011...read more.




Home Affairs Committee recommends international students' exclusion from net migration figures

Story 1 Picture.

Parliament's Home Affairs Select Committee has recommended the Government remove international student figures from net migration totals in order to help both the Government achieve their UK immigration goals and the British education industry benefit from international students.

The debate whether to remove students from net migration figures has been ongoing for some time; the Conservative Party promised to reduce net migration to the 'tens of thousands' by the next general election and has made changes to UK visa and immigration policies in line with that.

However, the decision to remove post study work rights for graduating international students and the addition of a salary threshold has made it harder for many students to study in the UK. This has resulted in a drop in student visa application rate but some have accused the Government of 'gaming' immigration figures to make it look like they are in line with their goals.

The UK is a world leader in the international education industry - worth up to £8 billion a year - yet unlike its competitors, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, is the only country to count international students as long term migrants.

Reports emerged recently that Prime Minister David Cameron was considering removing the students, despite insistence from Immigration Minister Damian Green that this would not happen. However, now the Home Affairs Committee has weighed in, Mr Cameron might be more persuaded.

The committee said reducing the 260,000 strong international student population in the UK by 25% as the Government has pledged to do would not benefit the country while discouraging genuine students from coming would not improve the Government's efforts to tackle abuse of the immigration system.

"[Excluding student figures from net migration totals] will enable the Government to encourage students to come to the UK whilst maintaining their position on curbing immigration," said Keith Vaz, chair of the committee.

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Damian Green rebuts UK immigration job promises

Damian Green dismissed PCS's
claim that 1,100 new jobs are to
be created.

UK Immigration Minister Damian Green has denied claims made by the PCS Union that 1,100 new jobs would be created in exchange for calling off a much publicised strike by UK Border Agency Staff.

Speaking to ITV News, Mr Green said there were just 319 vacancies advertised for border security staff but that these were 'just the normal replacement of jobs you get in all big organisations'.

The PCS Union had threatened strike action over cuts to the border staff and intended to call a 24 hour strike on Thursday 25 July, the eve of the Olympic Games when arrivals at British airports are expected to reach record levels but cancelled the plan at the 11th hour after urgent talks.

PCS head Mark Serwotka credited the creation of over 1,000 new jobs as one of the main reasons for cancelling the strike action but Mr Green quickly dismissed these claims.

"There were no new promises made [during negotiations] yesterday," said the minister. "No promises of the creation of new jobs.

"There are 319 vacancies at the moment in the passport service; this is just the normal replacement of jobs you get in all big organisations."

The prospect of a strike at the country's border represented a large threat to the smooth progress of the Games and was roundly condemned by many, a criticism Mr Green echoed, although he also expressed his relief that the action had since been cancelled.

"I'm glad that after a week of militant posturing the union has seen sense. There was clearly not a shred of public support for this strike.

"It makes sense for them to carry on as normal, work as normal and we can all get on with the job we've been doing very well at the borders of welcoming people to the Olympics."

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Home Affairs Committee calls for relaxed UK visa checks

Keith Vaz, chair of the committee
says UK immigration checks 
should be relaxed when the Games
finish.
 

The influential Home Affairs Committee has said that UK immigration checks should be relaxed again to prevent extensive queues forming at border security when staff levels return to normal following the Olympic Games.

British airports are expecting record arrivals during the Games and following damning reports of wait times up to three hours during the usual summer peak period, extra staff have been brought in to deal with record levels of arrivals during the Games.

However, the Home Affairs Committee has said UK immigration checks should be relaxed following the Games to avoid a return to the problems seen earlier this summer.

The Home Office ordered a pilot programme last summer which permitted border staff to relax checks for passengers judged to be low risk yet when it emerged border staff went beyond their remit, a scandal ensued which eventually cost UK Border Agency (UKBA) chief Brodie Clark his job.

Mr Clark was accused of relaxing checks beyond his ministerial permission although he contended he did no such thing; the case was eventually settled after an unfair dismissal claim in which Mr Clark was reportedly awarded £250,000.

The extensive delays were attributed to Governmental cuts to border staff combined with a tightening of checks following Mr Clark's dismissal but now the Home Affairs Committee says the pilot programme had been a success despite the scandal and the relaxations should resume.

"I think [ministers] would all like to forget about this episode taking place," said Keith Vaz MP, chair of the committee. "The taxpayer has ended up paying the bill for what happened with Brodie Clark. What we just need to make is that the lessons are going to be learned."

Mr Vaz said the committee was recommending the Government reinstate the 'risk-based' approach to security checks which was suspended in the wake of Mr Clark’s dismissal.

"We think the home secretary's decision to suspend the risk-based approached was wrong and we felt that the pilot was successful.

"I think we need to leave it to experienced officers to decide whether or not they need to check everybody 100%. The school party coming from Calais, for example, of under 13s, we don't believe they should be given the same kind of priority as someone who is profiled as being a cause for concern."

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MigrationWatch makes startling UK visa claims

MigrationWatch are outspoken
critics of UK immigration policies.
 

UK immigration watchdog MigrationWatch UK has said that as many as 60% of UK visa applications from Asian and African foreign students should have been refused in 2011.

In total, MigrationWatch UK said 44% of the 141,700 UK visa applications granted in 2011 to international students went to people who had no intention of studying and should never have been allowed entry to the country.

"Bogus students come here to work illegally and thus take jobs from British workers. We now have clear evidence of abuse on a major scale," said Sir Andrew Green, chairman of MigrationWatch.

The controversial watchdog said it had found over 63,000 applications which ought to have been refused last year and weren't while rejection rates should have been as high as 59% for Indian, Bangladeshi and Nigerian students and even 62% for Burmese students.

The Government is clamping down on UK immigration and despite protests from many within the education industry, the tough new measures are also affecting student visa policy. The Home Secretary Theresa May has announced a pilot scheme to interview visa applicants and question their intentions within the country.

The international education industry is worth £8 billion a year to the British economy and universities have pleaded with the Government to separate the immigration and education systems.

MigrationWatch says these checks are insufficient to genuinely tackle the issue.

"These half measures simply will not do. The Government have bottled out on bogus students. If they are serious about immigration they must face down the self-interested demands of the high education sector and pursue the public interest." 

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the UK Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

UK Immigration Update - Olympic Special - 27 July, 2012

by Dominic 27/07/2012 11:33:00
The Olympic Games has technically already started with several events underway and records already having been broken. However, no event of such a large scale could possibly start without issues and the Olympics have had a few, both in the run up to the Games, and during the events.

With so many people coming from all over the world, it was inevitable that many of the main concerns surrounding the Games would centre on UK immigration. Here is a look at some of the Games' issues in the past week.

UK immigration strike called off

A strike by UK immigration staff set to go ahead on the eve of the Olympic Games has been called off after talks...read more.

UK immigration staff: Smooth Olympic queues more important than security

Staff at the country's borders have claimed that the smooth progress of queues through UK immigration checks during the Olympics is being given greater precedence over proper security...read more.

Pakistan promises to sue over UK visa allegations

The Pakistani government has announced its intention to sue British newspaper The Sun over allegations that criminals within the country were offering a UK visa to smuggle illegal immigrants, or possibly terrorists, into the UK as part of the Pakistan Olympic contingent...read more.




UK immigration strike called off

PCS union, which represents staff
including the UK Border Agency
has confirmed it will not strike.

A strike by UK immigration staff set to go ahead on the eve of the Olympic Games has been called off after talks.

The PCS union had planned the strike in response to planned job cuts of frontline UK immigration staff but with so much riding on the smooth progress of the Games, the PCS said they had made 'major progress' in urgent discussions with the Home Office.

PCS said that the Government's cuts meant that as many as 8,500 Home Office jobs were at risk and the union balloted approximately 16,000 of its 250,000 members earlier this month. Of those polled more than half favoured industrial action with the day before the Games chosen as the time which would carry the most impact.

The decision was widely criticised with Prime Minister David Cameron saying any strike action would not be 'right or justified' and urgent talks were entered into.

The Home Office even sought a last minute High Court injunction to block the 24 hour strike but an injunction became unnecessary when PCS agreed to call off the strike just 45 minutes before the High Court session was due to begin.

The Home Office has since agreed to invest in 1,100 new jobs but PCS leader Mark Serwotka promised this would not be the end of the issue.

"We are not ending our dispute today... what we have done is not call action in the next few weeks," said Mr Serwotka.

"These are professional frontline staff who want to be able to serve the public and have the resources to do so."

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt welcomed the decision but said that so close to the Olympics was 'the wrong time to pursue a grievance'.

"If Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats can work together to make the Olympics a success, then even our most militant unions can recognise that this is not the right moment," said Mr Hunt.

"For an immigration officer - and I'm sure the vast majority of immigration officers feel this way - Thursday is one of the biggest days in their professional career.

"It is the day when the eyes of the world will be upon them and then welcome we are giving to the rest of the world. The vast majority of them will want to do a really good job and show what they are capable of."

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UK immigration staff: Smooth Olympic queues more important than security

Heathrow staff say smooth
progress of queues at British
has been given preference over
proper security checks.

Staff at the country's borders have claimed that the smooth progress of queues through UK immigration checks during the Olympics is being given greater precedence over proper security.

Speaking anonymously to the BBC, several Heathrow workers said Government cuts combined with overwhelming pressure to keep queues moving smoothly during the Games meant that requested checks of suspicious passengers were often foregone.

"We have a watch-list of passengers whose profile identifies them as people who might be bringing prohibited substances into the country," one Heathrow staff member said.

"On several occasions we've rung customs control to report a passenger, but they have not had anyone to follow it up.

"The priority is queue-busting."

With the Olympics starting today, British airports are expecting record numbers of arrivals and with reports earlier this summer of queuing times reaching three hours or more, the Government and the UK Border Agency (UKBA) are desperate to avoid a repeat but staff claim smooth progress is coming at the cost of security.

"The customs operation has virtually ceased," said another staff member. "Customs officers are being deployed on the queues. It's just queue-bust queue-bust. We're focused so heavily on 100% [passport checking] desk occupancy, everything else has stopped.

"If I were a drugs baron, it will be a free-for-all during the Olympics."

The Home Office maintains all proper checks are being carried out and security will not be compromised during the Games; the Home Office has reportedly spent £6 million on drafting extra staff to cope with increased demand. 

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Pakistan promises to sue over UK visa allegations

The Sun said scammers
were selling UK visas.

The Pakistani government has announced its intention to sue British newspaper The Sun over allegations that criminals within the country were offering to smuggle illegal immigrants, or possibly terrorists, into the UK as part of the Pakistan Olympic contingent.

The Sun claimed it had uncovered a scam in the country's second largest city Lahore which offered access to the London Olympics as part of the country's athletic squad for as little as £7,000.

The Pakistan government originally promised to investigate and prosecute anyone involved in such a scheme but has now changed its approach and promised to take legal action against The Sun over the 'dirty propaganda unleashed against Pakistan'.

Four Pakistani officials and three travel agents had been arrested in connection with the newspaper's allegations but have since been released.

The Sun has denied receiving any notice of legal action but defended its reputation for investigative journalism and promised to 'vigorously defend' themselves against any claims.

Meanwhile the British high commissioner to Pakistan, Adam Thompson says there is no evidence to support The Sun's claims and that 'Britain is satisfied with Pakistan's visa and passport issuance mechanisms'.

Mr Thompson said that while the visa system in the UK is not perfect, much like any, it would be impossible for anyone to sneak into an Olympic squad illegally.

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the UK Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

UK Immigration Update - 20 July, 2012

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

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

Stranded students complain of UK visa issues

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

Supreme Court decision threatens to force UK immigration overhaul

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

UK immigration staff threaten Olympic strike

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




UK immigration fuels biggest population growth in centuries

The population of England and 
Wales has topped 56 million.
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stranded students complain of UK visa issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Supreme Court decision threatens to force UK immigration overhaul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UK immigration staff threaten Olympic strike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the UK Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

UK Immigration Update - 13 July, 2012

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

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

Complicated UK visa application costing almost £3 billion

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

Passport prices cut

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

UK visa staff told to stick to English

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

Vince cable weighs into student numbers row

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




Complicated UK visa application costing almost £3 billion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Passport prices cut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UK visa staff told to stick to English

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vince cable weighs into student numbers row

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the UK Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

UK Immigration Update - 11 July, 2012

by Dominic 11/07/2012 10:40:00
With the Olympics just weeks away, UK immigration is completely focussed on presenting an atmosphere of welcome and success to the world but with overly excessive queues at the country's border still dominating news reports, that image is threatening to be undermined while a Saudi royal's fears threaten to engulf the Government in a diplomatic row.

Staff in UK immigration halls had previously banned passengers queuing for security checks from taking pictures of the extensive queues that have featured in news reports in recent months but attempting to keep the problem under wraps has failed miserably.


Saudi princess claims asylum in the UK

Saudi Arabian Princess Sara bint Talal bin Abdulaziz is attempting to claim asylum in the UK over fears she will be harmed if she returns home...read more.

UK immigration security boost after ‘slow clap’

Passport officials at the country's borders have requested extra security after disgruntled passengers tried to 'storm' UK immigration controls and began a 'slow clap' to agitate staff...read more.

Damian Green says UK immigration queues are 'acceptable'

Immigration Minister Damian Green has said queuing times at the UK border, particularly at Heathrow, aren't perfect but are 'acceptable'...read more.

New fast-track lanes to ease UK immigration congestion

A new scheme aimed at easing the lengthy queues and delays in UK visa checks involves allowing citizens of 'low risk' countries to go through fast-track lanes...read more.

UK immigration chief to step down

The head of the UK Border Force Brian Moore has said he intends to step down from his position after the London Olympics has concluded...read more





Saudi princess claims asylum in the UK

The current King of Saudi
Arabia, Abdullah bin
Abdulaziz al Saud is Princess
Sara's uncle.

Saudi Arabian Princess Sara bint Talal bin Abdulaziz is attempting to claim asylum in the UK over fears she will be harmed if she returns home.

Princess Sara, the granddaughter of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's first king and daughter of one of his most prominent sons, has accused senior Saudi officials of attempting to kidnap her to force her to return home.

Princess Sara has lived in the UK since 2007 and lives an outgoing life; she refuses to wear a veil and is nicknamed the 'Barbie princess' in her home country.

"They called me the little Barbie as I was like this cute little girl who had everything," said the princess.

"My branch of the family was always different from the rest of Al Saud - open, controversial and diverse. We celebrate Christmas."

However, with such a large and ambitious royal family - Princess Sara's grandfather, King Abdulaziz, had 45 sons - tensions within the country's ruling family spring up frequently.

Princess Sara claims her inheritance of her mother's £325 million fortune was impeded and has complained publicly about the matter. Saudi officials have requested her return to Riyadh to discuss her grievances but after a fallout with her father, Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud, Princess Sara says she is scared to return home.

"Everything goes back to a certain aspect that I don't discuss in public. Something happened with my father and he didn't take it lightly," she said.

"He retaliated against me and wanted to crush me. I had been his closest; I had been his favourite. It shook my world."

Now her grievances have been made public, Princess Sara says she can't return to Saudi Arabia.

"I am very scared right now. They know I can't go back now. There is a threat. That's a slap in the face of the Kingdom.

"I've been physically abused, I've been mentally abused, my assets have been frozen. I've been crucified in every way."

The Home Office was informed of her intention to claim asylum in the UK. While the Government is bound to keep foreign nationals out of harm's way, the high publicity of such a claim threatens to ignite a diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia. 

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UK immigration security boost after ‘slow clap’

Passengers in UK immigration
halls have been unsettling
staff by 'slow clapping'.

Passport officials at the country's borders have requested extra security after disgruntled passengers tried to 'storm' UK immigration controls and began a 'slow clap' to agitate staff.

Excessive queuing times at the country's borders has been an ongoing issue for the past few months and, with the Olympics just weeks away, the problem is beginning to become desperate.

The Home Secretary Theresa May and Immigration Minister Damian Green have repeatedly said the issue would be dealt with by the start of the Games but with queues still stretching as long as half a mile and wait times up to three hours, passengers are beginning to lose patience.

"We are seeing public order issues in queues, including slow hand-clapping, abuse of staff and attempts to storm the controls, with people just trying to walk through without being checked, particularly at desks that are not manned," said Lucy Moreton of the Immigration Services Union.

Keith Vaz MP, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, yesterday said he was 'appalled' by the length of time people were expected to wait.

"It is now two months since the immigration minister promised additional resources and better management," said Mr Vaz.

"The worst aspect was that half of the immigration desks were simply not opened, even though the Border Force had prior knowledge of all flight arrivals."

Ms Moreton said staff would be receiving extra security to ensure that tensions within immigration halls do not boil over.

"They have negotiated Heathrow for extra police to be around the halls. People want them to be more visible and to be sure that they can be quickly moved to areas where staff fear trouble. There are fears of public disorder." 

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Damian Green says UK immigration queues are 'acceptable'

Immigration Minister Damian
Green says queues at the
border are acceptable.

Immigration Minister Damian Green has said queuing times at the UK border, particularly at Heathrow, aren't perfect but are acceptable.

Mr Green was speaking before the Home Affairs Select Committee whose chair, Labour MP Keith Vaz, had visited Heathrow and observed queuing times which he described as 'appalling'.

However, the immigration minister has rebuffed these claims, saying that the queuing times were 'acceptable' for now and would improve when the Olympics get underway with 500 extra members of staff scheduled to help with the influx of visitors.

"Once the Olympics start, every desk will be manned at peak times," said Mr Green, adding that he visited Heathrow before 7.30am, a similar time to Mr Vaz, and about 80% of the desks for non-EU passengers were manned.

The minister said the wait times he observed were over the 45 minutes target, but that they remained under an hour during his visit.

"Forty five minutes is acceptable," he said, "it has got better than it was in April, May or June but it is not perfect."

In contrast, Mr Vaz said during his visit half the passport checking desks were closed. 

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New fast-track lanes to ease UK immigration congestion

Citizens from the US, Australia,
Canada, Australia and New
Zealand will soon be able to use
fast-track lanes.

A new scheme aimed at easing the lengthy queues and delays in UK immigration halls involves allowing citizens of 'low risk' countries to go through fast-track lanes.

Reports of queues stretching half a mile and taking up to three hours have plagued UK immigration authorities in recent months and, with the Olympic Games just weeks away, the Government has come under criticism from all sides.

Immigration Minister Damian Green appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee to defend the queuing lengths, admitting that while they were not perfect, they were 'acceptable'.

Mr Green also took the opportunity to announce that after the Games were over, citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and America will be able to pass through border control quicker in new fast-track lanes.

A similar plan was piloted last year but was not successful; however, Mr Green maintains that the scheme was conducted 'intermittently' which left passengers unsure of where to go and cancelled out any benefits the expedient lanes produced.

The minister's new plan has also attracted significant criticism from those who claim it discriminates against passengers from other countries.

"This is a list of wealthy countries with links to the UK," said Habib Rahman, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

"It is based on wealth and trade links and it discriminates against people from the developing world, parts of which we have very strong links with and aspire to foster better relations."

Mr Green dismissed the criticism, citing the countries listed are already prioritised as citizens of those countries don't require a UK visa to enter the country.

"The idea of differentiating people so that those who don't need visas, and therefore already we feel more confident about them than those who we do require visas from, to have them in separate lanes in the airport is something work looking at."

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UK immigration chief to step down

The head of the UK Border Force Brian Moore has said he intends to step down from his position after the London Olympics has concluded.

The UK Border Force was formed as a separate part of the UK Border Agency after last summer's border fiasco when UK immigration checks were foregone for expediency.

It was hoped that the Border Force would better be able to police the borders but reports of lengthy queues taking up to three hours to navigate have not abated and Mr Moore has come under increased fire.

Mr Moore, who was on secondment from Wiltshire Police who was paying his £133,000 a year salary, was criticised by his own staff for prioritising uniform discipline over the worsening situation at checking desks.

His resignation was confirmed by Immigration Minister Damian Green.

"He has decided to do what he was brought in to do, be the interim head on secondment," Mr Green told the Home Affairs Select Committee. 

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the UK Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.