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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.

Changes to Australian visitor visa and how they affect you

by Dominic 15/03/2013 12:38:00

Visitor visa

Changes to visitor visa policy
take effect on 23 March.
 

Several different classes of Australian visitor visa will be superseded by new classes next week but if you're already in Australia, or already have your visa, how will they affect you?

The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) announced recently that their nine classes of visitor visa will be simplified into just five classes, in order to draw greater distinction between work and business visitor activities.

The existing nine categories:

  • Tourist visa (subclass 676)
  • Sponsored family visitor visa (subclass 679)
  • Business (short Stay) visa (Subclass 456)
  • Sponsored business visitor (short stay) visa (subclass 459)
  • Medical Treatment (short stay) visa (subclass 675)
  • Medical Treatment (long stay) visa (subclass 685)
  • Electronic Travel Authority (visitor) (subclass 976)
  • Electronic Travel Authority (business – short validity) (subclass 977)
  • Electronic Travel Authority (business – long validity) (subclass 956)

These will be consolidated into the following five visa classes as of 23 March:

  • Temporary Work (Short Stay Activity) (subclass 400) visa
  • Visitor (subclass 600) visa
  • Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) (subclass 601) visa
  • Medical Treatment (subclass 602) visa
  • eVisitor (subclass 651) visa
I already have my visa; do I need to apply for another?

No. Any visas granted before 23 March will remain valid until the original expiration date provided when your visa was granted.

For example, if you were granted an Electronic Travel Authority (visitor) (subclass 976) visa on 15 March, 2013, the last date of entry would be 15 March, 2014 or the expiry date of your passport (whichever is sooner). 

This will still be the case following the changes.

The changes are intended to streamline and simplify the application process. We will continue to update our clients as more info is released.

However, it is important to remember that all visas which have already been issued, or will be issued before 23 March, will be honoured for their entire validity period.

I will be applying for my visa soon, what does this mean?

If you know which visa you require under the current system, applying for an Australian visa under the new changes should be easier and quicker. If you are unsure which visa you will require, use our online travel advisor to find out.

If you intended to visit Australia under the following three classes:

  • Electronic Travel Authority (visitor) (subclass 976)
  • Electronic Travel Authority (business – short validity) (subclass 977)
  • Electronic Travel Authority (business – long validity) (subclass 956)

You will be able to apply under the new, single Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) (subclass 601) visa.

If you intended to visit under one of the following visitor visas:

  • Tourist visa (subclass 676)
  • Sponsored family visitor visa (subclass 679)
  • Business (short Stay) visa (Subclass 456)
  • Sponsored business visitor (short stay) visa (subclass 459)

You will be able to apply under the single Visitor Visa (subclass 600) visa.

We will be making changes to our online application forms in the next few weeks. In the meantime however, you can continue to use our current 676 visa application and we will use the information provided to lodge a new, 600 visa application on your behalf.

If you have any questions regarding the validity of your visa or which visa to apply for, do not hesitate to contact us.


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

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

The worrying state of the Australian 457 visa row

by Dominic 07/03/2013 11:50:00

457 visa

The 457 visa program is mostly
used for temporary workers on
construction and mining projects.

The Australian government announced last month that they would be tightening the rules surrounding its temporary worker program - the 457 visa - triggering an ongoing row that is quickly becoming embittered.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a reshuffling of her Cabinet earlier this year and one of her most notable changes - handing Victorian politician Brendan O'Connor the Australian immigration portfolio - has already made headlines.

One of Mr O'Connor's first acts was to announce a tightening of the 457 visa program, claiming the system was open to 'rorting' - abuse of the system. The 457 visa program is intended to allow Australian employers to bring in overseas workers, but only when local labour is unavailable.

Why does the system need changing?

Mr O'Connor, along with several workers' unions, claims that the system is used by unscrupulous employers to undercut local labour.

The minister claimed employers were bypassing the system's rules by hiring unskilled workers from overseas in high paid, senior positions and then demoting them on arrival. The minister cited cases of 'project administrators' in Western Australia being brought in to work as security guards.

The immigration minister's announcement have triggered a row that quickly reached both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott, who accused each other of inciting fear and even xenophobia against foreign workers.

Yesterday the Treasurer Wayne Swan weighed into the debate:

"I'm frequently approached in my electorate by people who I know to be quite well qualified, hard working Australians, who are looking to get jobs in certain sectors," he said.

"My summation of this is that there is a bit of a problem in parts of the mining sector, where Australians are not necessarily getting a look in first as they should, where they are appropriately qualified and willing and able to work."

The mining and construction industries have been at the centre of the debate due to their rapid expansions and the remote nature of the projects but Mr Swan was quick to add 'it’s not only the mining sector where this is an issue'.

Why are people defending the program?

However, there are plenty of voices defending the program; Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett has said his state's AU$237 billion (£162 billion) economy is dependent on the temporary overseas workers - known as Fly-in Fly-out (FiFo).

"FiFo workers are modern day heroes. They do separate from their families, they do put up with some loss of amenity, they work in harsh conditions, for long hours, doing exciting work," said the premier.

"They are building this state and building this nation...these are the modern day heroes of the economic development of Australia.

"They deserve more respect, and not to be treated like some scourge of the Earth."

A spiralling debate

Pauline Hanson made her name
in the 1990s as a strong opponent
of Australian immigration.

Mr O'Connor himself has admitted that tracking down and prosecuting 'rorting' is difficult due to the processes involved and the government's critics have pointed to an almost complete lack in prosecutions associated with rorting in the last few years - just one prosecution.

The federal opposition, along with other detractors, have used this to accuse the government of xenophobia and inciting divisiveness in communities with a large immigrant presence.

While Mr O'Connor's changes were likely quite well intentioned - the government have repeatedly stated they are open to foreign workers in Australia who follow the rules - the debate it has triggered has already begun to raise tensions.

Over 1,000 workers in Melbourne marched through the city's Central Business District today, protesting against the 457 visa program by chanting 'local labour, local jobs'.

Perhaps even more disquieting though has been the re-emergence of Pauline Hanson.

Ms Hanson, who led the One Nation party in the mid 1990s with her strong, anti-immigration rhetoric, has stated she intends to run in this September's election due to the 457 visa situation.

"I think [the 457 visa] is a back door for immigration, I think a big investigation needs to be done," said Ms Hanson, who has not stated in what capacity she intends to run for.

"It stinks to me. I wouldn't be surprised if they're using this to bring people into the country.

"I just don't think that there are people there who really understand how Australians are feeling. I don't think there is a representation for our culture, our way of life, our standard of living."


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

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

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.

Randy Quaid denied Canadian visa

by Dominic 28/01/2013 14:59:00

Randy Quaid faces felony charges
should he return to the US.

Hollywood veteran Randy Quaid has been denied permanent residency in Canada after he tried to seek refuge there following a federal arrest warrant in his native US.

Mr Quad and his wife, Evi Quaid, fled to Canada last year after causing $5,000 (£3,200) of damage to a Californian home they were renting. American authorities refused to extradite the pair to face felony vandalism charges and so were permitted to remain in Canada.

However, the local authorities in Santa Barbara, California maintain that they will prosecute Mr Quaid and his wife should they return to the US.

The former Golden Globe winner petitioned to become a permanent resident of Canada late-last year but was refused as the actor does not have a passport.

Mr Quaid alleges he needs to stay in Canada to avoid 'Hollywood star-whackers' who have allegedly killed his friends David Carradine and Heath Ledger.

Celebrities taking up permanent residency in third countries has become newsworthy in recent months after French cinema star Gerard Depardieu was granted Russian residency by Vladimir Putin in order for the Frenchman to avoid paying the 75% tax rate.

However, it would appear Mr Quaid, who is the older brother of fellow Hollywood star Dennis Quaid, does not have enough clout with the Canadian immigration officials to warrant a special grant of permanent residency.

Mr Quaid, who is best known for his roles in screwball comedies such as National Lampoon's Vacation as well as a dramatic turn in Independence Day, has been granted leave to appeal the decision to the federal court.

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

Australian citizenship test struggles

by Dominic 23/01/2013 14:47:00

Native Australian citizens perform
almost as badly on the Australian
citizenship test as Brits and Kiwis.

A recent report published in The Australian newspaper showed that New Zealanders and Britons struggled more than any other nationality in the Australian citizenship test. While this may have come as an embarrassment for Kiwis and Brits - traditionally Australia's closest cousins - a follow up report showed that Australians struggle too.

Foreign citizens living in the country on an Australia visa can apply for citizenship after they have fulfilled certain requirements such as length of time living the country. However, as part of the process an applicant must pass a citizenship test - a series of multiple choice questions on Australian history, culture and what it means to be an Australian.

The Australian government has been reluctant to release results publicly in the past but an application under the Freedom of Information Act by The Advertiser newspaper managed to wheedle the results from Australian immigration officials.

The results showed that Swedish citizens scored the highest, with an average score of over 98%. The Swedes were quickly followed by the Dutch (97.6%), the Finnish (97.5%) and the French and Swiss with 97.4% each.

British applicants however ranked 18th overall with a score of 95.6%. Even more embarrassing however are the Kiwis, who ranked among the least knowledgeable about their closest neighbours with a pitiful score of just 72.6%.

Adelaide University Associate Professor in history and politics Paul Sendziuk came to the Brits and Kiwis' defence by claiming that the two nationalities were too often taking Australia's close relationships with New Zealand and the UK for granted and doing little to prepare for the test.

"It is interesting that applicants from the UK, and particularly New Zealand, perform less well than those from similarly developed and wealthy countries," said Professor Sendziuk.

"It is possible that they do not study enough because they feel that they can rely on their background knowledge of Australia, which is a fair-enough assessment given the level of cultural exchange that already exists between Australia and these places.

"It is also possibly that they take the rest a bit lightly - knowing that they are likely to achieve a pass mark even without much study."

The results make for cringe worthy reading for British and Kiwi applicants but there was one nationality that wasn't assessed that perhaps has even more reason to be embarrassed: Australians.

In a follow up report in The Australian, the newspaper set out to find out how native Australian citizens would perform in the test. After polling almost 5,000 readers, it turned out that while most have a good grasp of Australian history and beliefs, just half had a decent understanding of the country's legal and judicial systems.

How much do you know about Australia? Click here to take a practice test, the answers can be found here.


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

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

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.