January 20th, 2011

old-skool: science!

UK immigration options

I attended a seminar on UK immigration arranged by the Faculty of Natural Sciences yesterday. They brought in a consultant who talked us through the types of visas currently available and the changes to the rules that will be implemented from April 2011. He also gave a good deal of case-specific advice to the audience members for free, including me, so it was well worth attending.

I noticed two things about the audience. First, of the persons attending the seminar, more than 50% were women. I’m pretty sure that the composition of the FoNS is not 50% women. Some of this may have been due to the presence of the administrative staff, which is still largely female. Second, of the persons attending the seminar, the majority were, to put it bluntly, brown. I recognised a lot of them from physics and chemistry. These were the postgrads, postdocs and lecturers who are going to be affected by the changes to the Tier 1 and Tier 2 visa schemes. I leave you to draw your own conclusions about whether or not the impending visa closures could be viewed as just a teeny bit racist.

Here’s how the Tier 1 visas, which place no restrictions on the employment of the visa holder, will be affected. Currently, there is an interim cap of about 600 per month on Tier 1 visas issued. As of 5 April 2011, this will drop to 1000 per annum. The Tier 1 (General) category, into which most applicants fall, will be replaced by the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category. You will need to demonstrate “international repute” (e.g. be a Nobel laureate) to obtain one of these.

The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Investor) categories will remain unchanged for the time being. For the former, you must demonstrate that you have £200,000 at your disposal to invest in the UK economy. This could be in the form of a research grant, which could help some postdocs and lecturers to stay in the UK. For the latter, you need to have £1,000,000 to invest in the UK economy. I gather the source of the money is not a matter of great interest, so it doesn’t matter much whether you earned it through the stock market or the black market.

All this means that you can still buy your way into the country, but brains and education alone are no longer enough.

For the Tier 2 visa, you must be sponsored by an employer, and the employer must prove that no candidate in the UK could or would take the job. It becomes easier to get a Tier 2 visa if your job is on the shortage occupation list (here). The interim cap on Tier 2 visas is about 3000 per month. As of 5 April 2011, this will drop to 20,700 per annum for new applications. A person who is presently in skilled employment and wants to transfer into this category from Tier 1 qualifies automatically.

Note that these caps are only on new applications. What will happen to current holders of Tier 1 and Tier 2 visas when their visas expire? Answer: No one knows yet. The only information given by UKBA thus far is that the visas will still be valid until their expiry dates and that there will be “transitional arrangements” for those already in the country and working. For the moment, the consultant advised us either to renew our Tier 1 and Tier 2 visas before April 2011, or to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), otherwise known as permanent residency, as soon as we qualify.

This brings me to the most interesting thing I learnt at the seminar from a personal point of view. I qualify for ILR at the end of July, assuming the ILR rules don’t change in April, too. The reason I don’t have to wait until October, when I’ll have been employed continuously for 4 years and 11 months? I’ve shacked up with an Englishman. As the domestic partner of a UK citizen, I qualify for permanent residency after 2 years of living with him. While I appreciate the recognition of our commitment, I am also slightly put out that 2 years of living with my boyfriend is equivalent to 5 years of maintaining continuous highly skilled employment. The latter is the result of individual effort and is theoretically more difficult than looking after a loving, high-maintenance Englishman...

...Actually, I take that back. I deserve this!