If you thought 2008 was a tough year for migrants, brace yourself for an even rougher ride in 2009.
A strict new points-based system, now in place for highly skilled and skilled workers, Tier 4 for students looming and a global recession all point to another bad year for UK migrants.
Existing migrants already in the UK will not escape the new regime from Immigration Minister Phil Woolas and his team at the UK Border Agency (UKBA).
Harsh new rules for settlement and citizenship are laid out in the Immigration and Citizenship Bill announce in last year’s Queens Speech.
Hardly a day goes by without opposition and Labour MP’s calling for curbs on immigration, and Phil Woolas, a Government Minister, broke his own official party line by announcing that he supported a cap on immigration to prevent population growth.
Newspapers report that 600,000 jobs under threat in the UK and Prime Minister Gordon Brown wants “British jobs for British people”.
In short, migrant workers and international students can expect a bumpy ride in the coming year. However, before you pack up your bags and go home, let’s put things into perspective.
Despite all the press reports Britain needs immigration. In fact many vital services such as health would collapse without migrant labour. Even the Home Office has migrant workers cleaning its offices.
There are over 600,000 job vacancies in the UK, with over 11,400 vacancies in the care sector and 11,959 in the catering and leisure sectors currently advertised on Job Centre Plus, the Government agency.
Industries such as the Care Industry and Catering sectors still desperately need staff to do the jobs that many Brits do not want to do.
The NHS squandered £800 million on temporary agency staff in 2006-07 to fill vacant shifts that could have been filled by overseas nurses, and the figure is unlikely to be much less for 2008.
Thousands of vacant shifts for HCA’s (Health Care Assistants) go unfilled every day in NHS trusts.
11,000 nurses leave the UK
Last year 11,000 nurses left the UK to work abroad and each year around 200,000 Brits seek opportunities overseas.
The UK is the fifth largest economy in the world and, when I walked around the crowded streets of London yesterday, there was little signs of ‘doom and gloom’ reported in the popular press.
There were stampedes for the winter sales at leading Oxford Street department store Selfridges, and a sales assistant at the famous Harrods London store told me that figures were actually up on last year.
Most migrant workers I know are not employed as Merchant Bankers or City ‘high flyers’ and are less likely to be affected by a downturn in the financial sector.
The Government should not lose sight of the benefits immigration and international students coming here to study, which, according to the Home Office figures, brings billions of pounds into to the UK.
Migrants do not only take jobs, they also create them.
In order to remain a powerhouse economy and vibrant society, the UK needs immigration to fill the labour gaps. Not just the “brains and money” of the Tier 1, but also care workers, chefs and restaurant staff.
Take stock – tips for 2009
For migrants now is the time to take stock. Here are some tips from leading British Immigration Adviser Cynthia Barker of Bison UK:
Review your visas or Work Permits to ensure it is up to date and compliant.
Check if you are eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and apply now whilst it is still available.
For those with ILR, go for British Citizenship now before the rules change. Some countries, like The Philippines allow dual nationality.
If in doubt, check it out! Take advice from an OISC registered adviser to check on available options.