by Constance Daley
St. Simons Island, Ga.
January 19, 2011
LONDON -- The new British coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats has announced tough new measures to control immigration, including a halt to acceptance of applications for Tier 1 general immigration and making student visas harder to obtain, tuition fees vastly more expensive and jobs to pay the fees far more difficult to find.
The ban on Tier 1 "is to ensure that we do not exceed the limit set by the government for issued Tier 1 (General) applications" between July 19, 2010 and April 5, 2011, the United Kingdom Border Agency said in its latest announcement. Only people of exceptional talent that include scientists, academics and artists will be allowed under Tier 1, which will be limited to 1,000 per year.
According to the UKBA website, following a court judgement on Friday, the government has also set a limit until April 5, 2011, on the number of certificates of sponsorship that are available to licensed Tier 2 sponsors under Tier 2 (General). The level of the limit will be 10,832, and the changes will take place immediately.
The agency said that the "Tier 1 (General) overseas will not reopen for applications. Tier 1 (General) in the UK will remain open until 5 April 2011. "There will be transitional arrangements beyond [April 6, 2011] for some applicants who are already in the UK, and we will announce details of these in due course."
"This ruling is about process, not policy - the policy of having a limit has not been found to be unlawful," Immigration Minister Damian Green writes on the website. "The court's ruling rests on a technicality, which we have set right today to ensure that from now on the interim limit is backing up and running.
"This judgment does not affect the annual cap in any way," Green adds. "The interim limit was a temporary measure introduced specifically to tackle a rush of applications ahead of the introduction of the annual limit."
"As a result of the volume of applications received since the interim limit was introduced last July, no more Tier 1 visa applications from overseas will be accepted" after December 22," he said. "The government remains firmly committed to reducing net migration to the tens of thousands."
Britain's business secretary, Vince Cable, who is said to have opposed the idea of imposing cap on immigrants spoke out after new figures showed an unexpected 20 percent rise in net immigration to Britain. The official says 196,000 people arrived in 2009, up from 163,000 the year before. Cable told the Financial Times last year that "It's very clear from the figures that the increase in recorded immigration has nothing to do with the number of non-EU work permits issued; they actually declined."
"I've full confidence that my colleagues understand the need for immigration control measures that support business recovery and economic growth," Cable said.
During the election debate in May this year, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg opposed then-Conservative leader and present Prime Minister David Cameron's plan to impose a cap on immigration, saying there is no point in imposing a cap because the number of people coming to Britain from European Union nations is higher than from outside Europe. Most of the people coming from outside the EU are highly skilled professionals including doctors, engineers, teachers and technicians, who are deemed essential to the job market in Britain, Clegg said before joining the government.
According to a report published in the widely read Guardian newspaper, although a net migration figure of 196,000 for 2009 is higher than the previous year, it is still well below the peaks of about 220,000 seen in 2005 and 2007, when the flow of migrants from the new European Union states - Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic states - was at its highest.
In another move, the government has said it would introduce new rules for international students. Under one rule, which is under consultation, students will only be allowed to work during weekends and vacation time, and only on campus during weekdays. Dependents will not be allowed to accompany them if the student has a visa for less than one year, and they will not be allowed to work at all. Tuition fees for international students are already among the most expensive in the world, and also a major source of income for universities. Dependents of students with longer visas could work to supplement the students' tuition fees and other expenses.
Under the new rules, some students will have to depend solely on their parents for the cost of their studies. Most students say they would prefer to go to the United States or other countries rather than stay in Britain under the new rules. The UKBA has also decided to scrap two-year post graduate work-study visas that would allow students to find work using their skills and experience to earn at least some income to cover the tuition fees they pay.
"It is completely impossible to bear the cost of the UK universities without the support of dependents," Narendra Tripathi, who completed his Bachelor of Science degree at Bristol University, told the American Reporter. "I paid over $ 18,000 a year for tuition that is completely impossible to pay on my own without the support of my wife, who worked full time during my studies. The government has increased the tuition fee for local students from 3,290 pounds to up to 9,000 pounds a year recently, despite the protests and demonstrations across the UK. It does not seem that it is considering the revise of its decision," he said.
"The UK is no longer an attraction for students and immigrants," said another student, studying at the University of London Metropolitan. "We are also concerned about the fact that there is no information provided about the future of the Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) category and how the new rules affect existing Tier 1 (PSW) visa holders," Amit Kapadia, executive director of HSMP Forum Ltd, which represents professionals from around the world, said in a letter to UK Immigration Minister Damian Green.
That latter category was created in order to retain the Britain's best international graduates and to make university education more attractive to international students. In the past, Tier 1(PSW) migrants have been allowed to apply for the Tier 1(General) category at the end of their visa. However, with the closure of these categories set to take effect on April 1, 2011, current Tier 1 (PSW) visa holders and prospective applicants are put at a significant disadvantage. The rules would limit their option to continue to work in Britain and probably force them to find Tier 2 sponsors quickly in order to stay here.
Frequent changes in the rules have created difficulties for immigrants and their families who are already here, Mr. Kapadia said:
"Needless to say, the lack of information adds incredible uncertainty to existing legitimate migrants and creates an atmosphere of fear and confusion among Tier 1 migrants," Kapadia said. "Tier 1 (General) migrants include a wide range of highly skilled professionals like doctors, lawyers, academic researchers and financial specialists. These people left successful careers in their countries of origin with the intention to make the UK their main home."
The Scottish Government has said that its economy will also suffer. External Affairs Minister Fiona Hyslop was quoted in a health care magazine as saying, "We are deeply concerned about the damaging impact the annual limit will have on the Scottish economy. Scottish businesses, employers, universities and the NHS share our concerns that the UK proposal is not right for Scotland." Hyslop also serves as Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning in Scotland's government.
Ms. Hyslop said a flexible approach to immigration with regional variation was needed to support the Scottish economy. "The immigration cap will do the opposite. It will have a negative impact on business investment," she said.
Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), said his member organizations were worried by more severe limits on highly-skilled workers. "While we are pleased that the Government has listened to business on intra-company transfers, we are still concerned that the lack of flexibility inherent in a cap will have a detrimental effect on London's competitiveness and productivity," he said.
Mr. Kapadia, who is leading the campaign for the rights of immigrants from across the globe, said in the letter to the minister "we believe that migrants deserve to be able to plan their future without fear of unwarranted changes in regulations and policy.
"We hope that it will be confirmed that extension and settlement criteria will remain the same as per their original visa conditions."
Kapadia has urged Parliament to address the concerns about the changes in migration policy, and implement fair transitional arrangements for extensions and settlement of existing migrants on Tier 1 and Tier 2.
Politicians, the business community and immigrants have said in one voice that the new cap, stringent rules on student visas, and a halt of Tier General applications will hurt Britain's economy and create a shortage of skilled workers in the British job market.
But the government seems to be determined to close its door to the immigrants, despite their significant contributions to the United Kingdom.