As we say goodbye to a stormy and turbulent 2011, the year will be remembered for far reaching changes to UK Immigration Rules which have already resulted in a decline in non-EU migration and student applications.
A key factor has been a Conservative led coalition government determined to slash net migration to the tens of thousands from the hundreds of thousands under Labour.
Left with crippling debts and economic woes, the government is hoping that reducing immigration will help get millions of unemployed Britons back to work and off state benefits.
In the last year the UK Border Agency has introduced sweeping points-based system changes to Tier 1, Tier 2 working visas and Tier 4 student visas.
They have also scrapped the Post Study Work visa (PSW) from April 2012 and slapped a cap on immigration preventing employers from sponsoring non-EU skilled workers.
Following important changes to the student visa rules in April and July it has become much more of a challenge extending ‘leave to remain’ as a student (e.g. the ‘3 year’ rule) and sponsor dependants.
Working hours for lower level students have been slashed or banned altogether for those applying to private colleges after 4 July 2011.
Hundreds of private colleges have had their Tier 4 Sponsor’s licence revoked or have gone out of business as new student numbers fell through the floor. I have seen countless numbers of international students caught in the crossfire in the crackdown on private colleges. Many have lost their money and no longer have the required funds to apply for a new student visa.
In recent times the vast majority of migrants have come to the UK under Labour administrations in the 1970’s and more recently when Tony Blair came to power in 1997.
The Blair years saw the expansion of the Work Permit scheme and the successful student initiative which encouraged hundreds of thousands of international students to study in the UK adding billions of pounds to the economy.
A turning point for non-EU migrants was the expansion of the European Union, which has resulted in EU migrants taking more of the lower skilled jobs.
However, not all EU citizens have escaped the curbs on immigration. In December the government extended employment restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians for two more years until the end of 2013. In July the UK Border Agency added new requirements – e.g. Comprehensive Sickness Insurance cover – to the ‘Yellow Card’ registration process.
With many European economies in recession, the immediate future for non-EU migrants does not look rosy, but try and stay positive. Immigration is cyclical by nature depending on the host country’s economic needs.
As one immigration ‘wave’ comes to an end a new one comes along or pops up somewhere else. Potential migrants must be alert and ready to ride the next wave before it takes off.
It could be in the Middle East or Asia, Australia, Canada or in one of the emerging economic super powers such as Brazil and China which have overtaken Britain in the world economic rankings.
In the ‘information age’ and with emerging markets opening up, new opportunities for skilled and talented people are limitless, so continuous professional development, training, and education are the keys to your success.
The big question you must ask yourself is do I have the right skills, qualifications and knowledge to ride the next wave and take advantage of those opportunities?
Immigration Matters wishes you a happy and prosperous New Year!
If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.immigrationmatters.co.uk