Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cap on Migrant Workers + Student Occupation at Warwick University

A cap of 21, 700 skilled migrants from outside the EEA area was announced two days ago and will come into effect in 2011. The 21, 700 will be composed of a maximum of 20, 700 Tier 2 (General) applicants and 1000 Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) applicants. According to the UK Border Agency website, "Tier 2 (General) [applicants are people] coming to the UK with a skilled job offer to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker" and Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) applicants are scientists, artists and academics who have achieved international recognition.

However, what has been omitted is more interesting than what has been included. The Tier 1 (General) route, for instance, has been closed entirely. Again, according to the Border Agency website, "the Tier 1 (General) category allows highly skilled people to come to the UK to look for work or self-employment opportunities" and does not require applicants to have established job/sponsorship offers. As stated by CMS-Cameron McKenna in their regular legal update: "Despite reports that many Tier 1 (General) migrants have used this category to take low skilled jobs, at the other end of the spectrum, in our experience it has proved invaluable to blue chip employers wishing to bring the most highly skilled workers into the UK." The Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) route has also not fallen under the cap but has had requirements imposed on it whereby those who make less than £40,000 a year will only be allowed to stay in the UK for a year and those who make more will only be allowed to stay for up to five. Again referring to the CMS-Cameron McKenna legal update of 24th November: "It is not clear whether allowances will be taken into account in calculating the salary...If the level of allowances that can be taken into account is scaled back, this will cause problems to employers who meet market rates through a combination of salary and allowances."

So how do these changes affect a humble, non-EU student like me? Quite dramatically in fact. As a law student and aspiring Barrister, I would hope to secure pupillage here. Ironically, being a pupil at a set of chambers is not the same as being a pupil at a University and so I would not be able to continue on there under an extended student visa. If I am lucky enough (and that's a big IF) to secure pupillage, I will have to use that as a key supporting document to get a visa through the Tier 2 (General) route. On the face of it, this new cap/quota seems to indicate that the number of people who can successfully apply through the Tier 2 (General) route will increase by more than 7000. Which should be a good thing, right? The caveat is that there will be greater emphasis on recruiting citizens and fostering global competition for such migrant visas. So, "More Tier 2 (General) CoS’s will be available but this will necessitate advertising in the Job Centre Plus and by one other method for 4 weeks. If a migrant candidate is identified who requires immigration permission, his application will form part of the monthly quota and will be assessed against the pool of candidates who apply globally. There are therefore likely to be longer processing times and a certain lack of certainty regarding the ability to employ migrant workers in the UK." What compounds the difficulty of the situation is that in comparison to City solicitors, investment bankers and other corporate hotshots, pupils and young Barristers in general do not make much money per annum. Given that available maintenance funds and future expected earnings are some of the main standards upon which the points for the 'global migrant competition' are calculated, people like me wouldn't stand much of a chance of securing such a visa.

This issue has obviously been catching the UK headlines (especially because of UK Home Secretary Theresa May's cutting - no pun intended - remarks about net migration) but I noticed that The Daily Star back home has also reported on it. Apparently an official from the British High Commission has had no qualms in saying that "Bangladesh will surely see fewer number of its citizens going to the UK either for jobs or studies" since the UK is still undergoing a recession and there have been a lot of cases of students going to the UK and just working. According to the High Commission, approximately a third of those coming through this route [Tier 1 (General)] were actually doing low-skilled jobs once in the UK and were thus a detriment to local employment levels. It is being argued by the Con-Dem government that "as the recovery continues, we need employers to look first to people who are out of work and who are already in this country."

So if I am being discouraged to work, maybe I can look towards bulking up my educational qualifications before moving elsewhere or back to Bangladesh? Given the recent statements made by Theresa May ("By introducing a system that is more selective and more robust, the government aims to prevent abuse while continuing to attract the top students to our top universities") and the plans for restructuring the Tier 4 student visa route, this seems like an increasingly closed option as well. And if they aren't able to keep me/us physically out, then they can surely try by raising the University tuition fees stratospherically.

Every sentient being in the UK has become aware about the proposed rise in University tuition fees and subsequent protests and clashes against it. There has been potent outrage at the idea that Home students could get charged close to £10,000 for their degrees and, as I highlighted in a previous post, tens of thousands demonstrated in Central London to show it. The demonstrations have now percolated down to University campuses across the country and has been most recently manifested in Warwick where students took over the Arts' Centre Lecture Theatre:

Obviously, it is not an issue that most International/Overseas students can immediately sympathize with as they do not have the benefit of either a capped and subsidized tuition fee or government sponsored grants/loans. But what I have wondered for a while now is that if Home student fees are raised to a level close to that of current Overseas students, then isn't it very likely that Overseas fee levels will be raised commensurately? Wouldn't Theresa May's objective of introducing a 'more selective', 'more robust' system which still attracts great minds from around the world best be served by hiking tuition fees and introducing more merit scholarships for fewer students?

So if it is almost impossible to work and almost impossible to afford the tuition fees, what next for Overseas students?

Some poorly formatted references

UK Visas to turn elusive for Many, The Daily Star:

Tocil, Coventry

****Some Amendments****

Warwick Insite recently published the University's take on the 'Immigration Changes': It details both the changes that have taken place as well as how this affects students (read: international students) at the University. Something that I omitted above was that the phase out of Tier 1 also included the phasing out of Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visas. As mentioned in the document "This marks a return to the days before the first Prime Minister’s Initiative for International Education (1999) where obtaining a work permit was the only way in which an international graduate could remain in the UK after studies for employment. It is very difficult to prove that a post cannot be filled from the local (UK/EU labour force) [as required by the new Tier 2 visa requirements]".

It is good to see though that the University is trying to take a stance for the students though; self-serving as their intentions may be! Dr Wendy Piatt on behalf of the Russell Group, argued against the proposals to phase out Tier 1 General and Tier 1 PSW.‘There is a danger that restrictions on post-study workers might weaken the UK’s ability to pull in the world’s most talented students who are also looking to begin their career with a period of work in the UK and who contribute so much to our economy, society and culture. We therefore look forward to contributing to the consultation on student visas to ensure that the new measures do not diminish the international attractiveness of our leading universities’.

Warwick Library

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