UK employer sponsorship licences explained

by Marissa 23/09/2008 16:20:00

If you're a UK employer that employs non-EU migrant workers, then time is running out!

Simply put, you're required to have an Employer Sponsorship Licence by November 1, 2008. and companies without an employer sponsorship licence by that date will be unable to bring in new non-EU migrant workers to the UK or extend the work permits of current employees.

What's more, the new requirements also shift a lot of the burden of responsibility from the Home Office to the employers. In fact, businesses in the UK will now be responsible for:

  • Ensuring that they are licensed to hire migrants and comply with current immigration regulations;
  • Issuing certificates to foreign workers to allow the worker to apply for entry clearance to the UK; AND
  • Ensuring that any foreign workers employed by the business are fully compliant with UK immigration law.

To better explain the changes, we've put together the Employer Sponsorship Licence Information Package.

The information package is a great first step for any employer looking to apply for an employer sponsorship licence, and explains the service that the UK Visa Bureau provides. We recommend that any UK employer of non-EU migrants read the document in full (as well as any supplementary information on employer sponsorship requirements on our website), and then call a member of our licensing team directly on 0800 043 0711.

- Marissa Murdock is the Casework Department Manager for the UK Visa Bureau. To contact the UK Visa Bureau, call 0800 043 7011 or complete a UK visa application.

Delayed by DIAC: Australian skilled visa processing times explained

by Lauren 16/09/2008 17:54:00

In the Australian Visa Bureau Casework Department, we take responsibility for seeing our clients through the Australian visa application process. Essentially, this means that every year we help a large number of applicants and their families through to getting their Australian visas approved.

We try to ensure that our clients are as informed and prepared as possible throughout their application, but due to the nature of the migration process, there are some aspects which are beyond our control. For example, once we have lodged a visa application to the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), the case is essentially out of our hands until the visa has been granted. Unfortunately, in the last year or so, DIAC's processing times have become almost impossible to predict.

So why are there such variations between DIAC processing times? What prevents them from providing a concrete, consistent timeline? As with any large, bureaucratic organisation like DIAC, there are a number of reasons, many of which stem from last year's re-vamp of the General Skilled Migration (GSM) programme on September 1, 2007.

In the run-up to the GSM changes, there were a huge number of visa applications lodged by applicants keen to apply under the old migration programme, with DIAC reporting that August 2007 saw five times as many applications as usual. With so many applications lodged before the new changes came into effect, DIAC were already struggling to keep to their normal schedules by the time they changed to the new GSM system, which brought with it a number of changes to the processing methodology used by the department.

One of these was the introduction of widespread online processing. Before the GSM programme was over-hauled, the only visa that could be processed online was the now-defunct Skilled Independent Regional (SIR). However, following September 1, all GSM class visas can now be lodged through online processing.

While this might not seem like a cause for further delays, the new online processing brought with it a number of teething problems. While many of these initial difficulties have since been resolved, there is still no indication that online processing is any more efficient. For example, we have had applications lodged in April 2008 through manual processing that have already been granted, whereas applications lodged in January 2008 through online processing are still languishing in visa limbo.

Additionally, July 2008 also saw the opening of a new processing centre in Brisbane, to accompany the processing centre in Adelaide. Again, while we hope that it'll result in shorter processing times in the long term, we're still caught in the transition period and are yet to see any acceleration of processing times.

So, despite the attempts made to provide a faster, more efficient process for General Skilled Migration applications, the end result is that we've seen DIAC processing times balloon to be as much as three times as long as they were a year and a half ago. We currently give the average processing time for an Australian skilled visa as approximately 9 months, but this is only a rough estimate; depending on DIAC, it could be either longer or shorter.

While I'd be delighted if DIAC's process were formalised to the point that we could give our clients exact visa grant dates, that doesn't seem like it'll become a tangible reality in the short term. However, what I can do is ensure that clients are kept aware of the situation and know to use the time constructively so that whenever their visa is granted, they'll be ready.

- Lauren Mennie is the Casework Department Manager of the Australian Visa Bureau

Another shrimp on the barbie: Looking back at Australian tourism campaigns

by Tom 11/09/2008 16:54:00

While the Australian tourist visa application process is one of the most efficient in the world, the number of visitors to the land Down Under has been slipping in recent years. Despite concerns that Australian tourism figures are flagging, a new hope comes in the form of the soon-to-be-released film 'Australia'. Helmed by Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann, it's hoped the epic will revive the fortunes of a once-proud industry. With this in mind, it seems like as good excuse as any to take a look at how Australia's been presented to the rest of the world over the years.

While the appeal of a country rich in sunshine, sandy beaches and crystal-clear ocean waters seems obvious, it seems like Tourism Australia have never shied away from putting their own spin on the country. For most of the '80s, they relied on the appeal of Paul 'Crocodile Dundee' Hogan, unofficial Australian ambassador to the world, who presented a sunny, cheerful paradise (where yes, there was always another shrimp on the barbie).

Check out some of these classic commercials below (although we take no responsibility for the semi-naked Paul Hogan that features prominently in the first two):

However, amidst concerns that Australia was being misrepresented as a country lacking in sophistication and culture, the marketing campaigns have since taken a shift in tone. Rather than focussing on the laid-back lifestyle and beach culture, they instead began to represent the country through its vibrant natural scenery. This was most evident in the following ad from 2004 (featuring the vocal talents of ex-Neighbours star, Delta Goodrem):

However, this more sedate outing for Aussie tourism wasn't to last, with the next campaign in 2007 combining the spectacular Aussie sights with a cheeky slogan, for the memorable 'where the bloody hell are you?' campaign:

Unfortunately, the slightly salty language caused controversy in the UK (one of the key sources of tourism for Australia, as one of the countries that is part of the instant ETA visa scheme), with some complaining that it was unsuitable to be shown pre-watershed. The campign has since been referred to as an "absolute rolled-gold disaster" by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and whether it did anything to help promote Australia to the rest of the world is debatable.

So, with all hopes resting on Baz Luhrmann's film, can we expect Tourism Australia to capitalise on a potential blockbuster to provide a campaign that shows Australia in all its glory, or will we all be left pining for the days of Paul Hogan?

- Tom Blackett is the Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau

North vs. South - the regional fight for New Zealand migrants

by Tom 11/09/2008 12:02:00

With breath-taking natural surroundings, a relaxed lifestyle and competitive salaries, it's unsurprising that there's been a boost in new arrivals who emigrate to New Zealand via the country's skilled migration programme. While we see many of our clients travelling to the larger cities and towns in the North Island, there are a huge number of opportunities in the less well known pockets of New Zealand, such as the Southland Region. Fighting back, one Southland Mayor is now waging war against NZ's larger cities, in a new drive to bring skilled workers to the southernmost parts of the country.

In the most recent figures released by Statistics New Zealand, the number of permanent and long-term migration arrivals from the UK increased yet again and the majority of them headed straight for the big cities: Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. There's no denying the attraction to these cities - Auckland is the country's economic hub, Wellington is NZ's culture capital and Christchurch is a comforting reminder of the Motherland left behind.

However, according to Auckland's ex-Mayor Tim Shadbolt, the Southland region is now the region that many migrants should be considering. His views could be seen as biased, considering he's since become Mayor of Invercargill (the Southland region's principal city), but the recent economic reports seem to back him up.

Boasting about the region's economic status, Mayor Shadbolt stated that "If Southland was a country it would be near the top of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for economic growth)".

So, it must come as some reassurance to Mayor Shadbolt that workers are starting to acknowledge the appeal of the Southland. While Auckland has traditionally taken the lion's share of skilled workers arriving to New Zealand, the trend is now reversing. Immigrants on a New Zealand skilled visa and Kiwis alike are now choosing using Auckland and other major cities as a stepping stone before migrating south.

Obviously keen to continue drawing skilled workers down to the Southland, Mayor Shadbolt has announced another offensive against his old home town, stating his intent to set up a career village to compete against Auckland's Your Career Expo to lure as many workers as possible to his region. Will it be a success? We'll have to wait and see, but in the meantime, the NZ skilled worker civil war rages on...

- Tom Blackett is the Online Editor for the New Zealand Visa Bureau

UK employers: only three weeks to apply for sponsorship licences

by Marissa 10/09/2008 12:18:00

As we organise ourselves for the next wave of UK immigration changes to take effect, there's some worry that the people who will be most affected by the introduction of Tier 2 are also the ones least prepared.

I say this after I saw some alarming reports that stated by mid-August, there were still only 170 employers that had applied for a sponsorship licence. While I'm sure that this figure has gone up since then (especially with the recent television campaign launched by the UK Border Agency), it's vital that UK employers looking to employ non-EU migrants understand the preparations they need to make. A sponsorship licence is essential for any employer looking to hire migrants under the new Tier 2 system.

I'm not alone in my concern, as the Home Office is worried that a mad flurry of late applications for sponsorship licences will have a bottleneck effect and cause disruption to the skilled migration program.

UK business owners have been warned by the Home Office that their sponsorship licence applications must be received no later than October 1.  Employers without a sponsorship licence will be heavily penalised if they hire illegal workers and will be banned from employing workers from outside the EEA if caught doing so.

Bearing in mind these severe penalties for non-compliance, I think it should be evident just how vital it is for all employers and educational establishments to comply with the requirements of sponsorship. Simply put, if you enrol or employ any non-EU citizen who does not have settled status in the UK, then you are legally entitled to have a sponsorship licence.

As a UK immigration law specialist, I can provide assistance in successfully applying for the initial licence, as well as the ongoing compliance requirements for employers and educational establishments. However, as the deadline fast approaches, I worry that there could be a lot of disappointed employers and migrants alike come October 1.

- Marissa Murdock is the Casework Department Manager for the UK Visa BUreau. To contact the UK Visa Bureau, call 0800 043 7011 or complete a UK visa application.

5 points short: the ongoing capital investment scheme fiasco

by Lauren 03/09/2008 17:52:00

When the Australian skilled migration scheme was re-vamped on September 1, 2007, the skilled Australia visa application process went through a number of changes. One of these was the removal of the capital investment scheme.

Prior to September 1, it was possible to gain an additional 5 points when applying for an Australian skilled visa, provided you were willing and able to deposit AU$100,000 in a nominated Australian bond for at least 12 months. While few could afford to deposit the AU$100,000 to take advantage of the capital investment scheme, it was still a route to migration for a number of applicants who relied on the additional 5 points to qualify for an Australian visa.

As part of the Australian General Skilled Migration changes, applications lodged after September 1, 2007 would not be entitled to utilise the capital investment scheme. We anticipated this, and did everything in our power to ensure clients with applications that relied on the additional points through the capital investment scheme had been lodged by this date.

However, following news reports that hundreds of visa applications had allegedly been part of a 'scam' regarding unauthorised loans being made to applicants using the capital investment scheme, DIAC advised that from November 30, 2007, no State or Territory Government would be actively participating in arrangements that allow the allocation of 5 bonus points to skilled visa applicants through the capital investment scheme.

Essentially, this meant that even if you had successfully lodged your Australian visa application before the scheme's removal, if you hadn't been invited to lodge a deposit by November 30, your investment would no longer be permitted and the points would not be awarded.

Despite continued promises that DIAC would be investigating and proposing a replacement for the capital investment scheme, there has been no decision made yet. A number of solutions have been proposed to DIAC, such as the reallocation of points through the IELTS test or the creation of a new bond scheme to allow clients to be granted the points they need to qualify. While neither of these have been taken on, some clients have found a pathway through certain states allowing applicants to switch their application to a state-sponsored visa application.

However, there remain a number of migration hopefuls without a clear end in sight. While we understand and support any cause to crack down on fraudulent applications, it will soon be a full year since these applicants were placed in their current situation, with no sign of relief on the horizon. It's unfortunate and frustrating that we've been put in this position, but we'll continue to lobby DIAC for a solution, and hope that one will come soon.

- Lauren Mennie is the Casework Department Manager for the Australian Visa Bureau.

Migration patterns lead to Australian 'man drought'

by Tom 02/09/2008 11:16:00

According to new research from demographer Bernard Salt, Australia is suffering a drought. A man drought, that is. For the first time ever, women are outnumbering men in Australia and it's all due to the many Aussie migrants making the Great Escape overseas.

The situation is almost a complete reversal to Australia's situation from thirty years ago, when the number of men far outweighed the ladies, which was mostly due to the gender-bias of the Australia visa application process.

While the immigration process has been largely updated to acknowledge a far broader range of occupations and applicants as suitable for a skilled visa application, the result has still been that the number of single men coming into Australia can't keep up with the mass exodus of Aussie men to foreign shores. The latest statistics reveal that there are nearly 100,000 more women than men in Australia, which currently has a population of 21 million.

The situation might not be as dire for the Australian ladies as it first appears, as up to the age of 34, there are generally as many Australian men as there are women, if not more. However, after 34, the balance starts to wobble, and by the age of 40, there's a startling nine per cent more single women than men.

Essentially, this means that all the lucky single fellas who've stuck around in (or recently migrated to) the 'Land of Plenty' could quickly become an in-demand commodity. While every other Aussie guy is chugging down pints in South London or suiting up to work the Stock Exchange, there are thousands of single 'Sheilas' waiting at home for the next batch of charming Brits to emigrate to Australia to sweep them off their feet.

- Tom Blackett is the Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau

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