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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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I am an immigrant. Hear me, er, adopt what I perceive to be the appropriate volume level. [20101129|16:26]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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I’ve been reading a good deal in newspapers of varying quality about the coalition government’s plans to cut the number of non-EU highly skilled migrants in the UK. It seems likely to me that the cuts will go through with a minimum of resistance.

I am one of the some 20,000 Tier 1 migrants that are permitted into this country per year. The Tier 1 scheme does not bind the migrant to a specific employer, giving a greater degree of flexibility to the visa holder. To put this number into perspective, allow me to point out that the population of England is about 56,000,000 (56 million). Unemployment is around 2,500,000 (2.5 million). We Tier 1 visa holders are not flooding the country and stealing all your jobs.

One headline I saw in the ever-objective Evening Standard said, “Immigration cuts will give more jobs to unemployed Britons”. I find this improbably optimistic. The kinds of skilled jobs for which people migrate are not easily filled. Bluntly put, most of those unemployed Britons will not be qualified through education or experience to do those jobs. I would even dare to posit that at the top of the global labour market, there is a perpetual shortage of appropriately trained, intelligent people with lifestyles flexible enough to permit migration. Even if that weren’t true, however, the maths don’t work. Assume that every person who comes in on a Tier 1 visa stays for the maximum of three years and then leaves. At any point, there are 60,000 Tier 1 migrants employed in Britain. That’s it. Even going to the extreme solution of deporting all of them and shutting down the scheme will give you a maximum of 60,000 jobs to fill. 60,000 does not equal 2.5 million. This is not going to solve your unemployment problem.

The Migration Advisory Committee (links to a PDF) found that around 20% of Tier 1 migrants were doing unskilled work at the time they were surveyed in late 2009, and that 10% were not working. I don’t believe this means the system is failing, which is the impression that a lot of the aforementioned newspaper articles give. Many people who do skilled work often use unskilled work as a stop-gap measure between jobs. Additionally, highly paid workers, migrant or native, can afford to take six months off to ponder a career change, have a child or even (gasp) have a holiday. (That is still allowed, if I remember correctly. Economic migration is not quite equivalent to entering indentured servitude.) I spent over a year in the UK as an unproductive economic unit. I hasten to point out that I was not a burden on the state, either, as I had no recourse to, or need to use, public benefits. It was a formative, healing experience for me after a long stretch of well-paid overworked unhappiness. It allowed me to reach a state of mind and clarity of purpose to begin skilled specialist work again. I also got to learn how to integrate into another culture - an ongoing process, I have to admit, even as a native English speaker.

I worry about these cuts in skilled migration from an objective as well as a personal perspective. I worry that barring migration helps to create insular societies in which young people never come into contact with educated representatives of other cultures. I worry that barring migration will stifle creative industry, since having access to employment opportunities across the globe gives skilled workers the chance to experiment with their careers. I worry that barring migration will compromise Britain’s position as a leader in scientific research and technological innovation.

The UK’s small number of Tier 1 migrants have no recourse to public benefits. They pay a good deal into its national institutions because of their high salaries and they take very little out. They are a light burden. Of course, since I am one myself and cannot vote, I can speak only as a helpless observer. I already knew I was one of a very few. I know I am only welcome here as long as I fulfill the obligations of my visa and so I mostly keep silent. It saddens me, though, that I am to become part of an even smaller minority and one that might even disappear voicelessly into the past.

"Skip to the end" version: I am a migrant on a Tier 1 visa living in Britain. I like it here. I do my job and I pay my taxes. I would like to stay. Please don’t throw me out for the sake of making a miniscule dent in your employment statistics.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: chickenfeet2003
2010-11-29 17:01 (UTC)
Immigration restrictions have never been about jobs. That's just the "respectable" language that's used to justify xenophobia and racism.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-12-02 19:13 (UTC)
I wish I could call you cynical, but it's quite difficult to come up with an argument for immigration restrictions that doesn't boil down to, "We have more resources than most other countries, and we don't really want to share them."
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[User Picture]From: chickenfeet2003
2010-12-02 19:30 (UTC)
I'm more cynical than that. I'm old enough to remember the Tories arguing for relaxing immigration rules for white Rhodesians while wanting them tightened for "people of an alien culture". Monty Python and Rowan Atkinson have both done really good pieces on immigration "I like curry... but now that we've got the recipe do they really need to stay".
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-12-02 19:15 (UTC)
I'm a light user of health services, since I'm rarely ill and the only things I normally go to see the doctor about are birth control and vaccinations. But allow me to sing the praises of the NHS (National Health Service). Socialized medicine is, in my opinion, bloody brilliant. It's really, really wonderful to be able to go to the doctor and not worry about how you're going to pay for it, because you already did - you paid your taxes.
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[User Picture]From: cosmiccircus
2010-11-29 20:35 (UTC)
Sounds like this would be a good letter to send in to the paper!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-12-02 19:16 (UTC)
Much as I appreciate the implied compliment, oh hell no. I wouldn't want to have to cope with the fallout.
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[User Picture]From: smallfurry
2010-11-30 04:12 (UTC)
Tier 1 migrants thrown out. 2 weeks later: Tier 1 migrants sheepishly asked to return as no one can sort out what they were doing because they lack the education. :D
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-12-02 19:19 (UTC)
I don't think that's going to happen, but I suspect there will be an overhaul of the paperwork - which they just, after 5 years of tinkering, finally got into a reasonably comprehensible state. I would be willing to bet that the new system is going to be confusing, riddled with loopholes, and extremely slow to respond to queries and requests.
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[User Picture]From: painted_dreams
2010-11-30 06:04 (UTC)
I would have to agree with you on this. Countries are looking for the wrong solutions to fix something that they broke. It's just a global catastrophe and I assume in the UK they want to blame the non-eu immigrants. What about all the EU citizens that flood the UK? Aren't they taking jobs from Britons?

As I'm sure you would agree the problem isn't migration. It goes well beyond that at this point.

I highly doubt you'll be tossed out of the country. Given what you do, your employer would be unlikely to find a Briton to replace you. In any case I want you to be able to stay in the place you call home. It would be rather unfair of them to knock you out.

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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-12-02 19:22 (UTC)
Oh, never fear, these people hate the EU migrants as well. The ironic thing is that you'll hear people complaining about all these darned foreigners coming over and taking their jobs, and in the next breath they'll praise the services of their cheap Polish cleaner/plumber/electrician/roofer.

My least favourite thing, though, is when people complain to me about immigration and then when I raise an eyebrow, they say, "Oh, I don't mean you." O RLY? What's special about me? Is it the fluency in English or the paleness of my skin that makes me acceptable?
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[User Picture]From: chibaraki
2010-12-02 20:02 (UTC)
I do wonder about the fluency-of-English thing, mostly because I am currently doing language attitudes research re: accents. It would be very interesting if immigrants from English-speaking countries were "better" than ones from non-English-speaking countries. (Of course then you'd get into all kinds of weird confounds because I suspect migrants from English-speaking countries are in the minority and therefore potentially less threatening, and also there are probably class issues, but still.)
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From: pbristow
2010-12-05 21:30 (UTC)
When it comes to dealing with people on the 'phone, I will certainly plead guilty to both accent prejudice and vocabulary prejudice, along with articulation prejudice. My ears run slower than many people's mouths anyway; add in an unfamiliar accent and it gets really tiresome, and I have been known to just give up on a 'phone call to a company helpline and dial again, in hopes getting someone easier to understand. =:o\

And then occasionally, I'll stop and reflect that being able to do so is a privelege that comes with still being able to live in the same land where I grew up.

If the person is a customer standing right in front of me, of course, I have to just bury my irritation deep inside, listen carefully, and ask politely & apologetically for a repeat or clarification of anything I've missed.

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[User Picture]From: painted_dreams
2010-12-04 01:45 (UTC)
They do the same thing here. I hear people muttering about it all of the time.. Yet they continue to use the services of said immigrants over those of citizens. Hypocrisy in its finest form.

I think in the US at least, we complain more about non-English speaking immigrants. Well, excluding Western Europeans. There is a definitive dislike in this country for immigrants from Mexico, Central & South America, Africa & China. Now if you were to ask these same people what they felt about Europeans and Canadians, they have a higher opinion.

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[User Picture]From: cataragon
2010-11-30 07:06 (UTC)
I agree with everything you said. FWIW, which is very little.

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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-12-02 19:19 (UTC)
It's worth a lot to me. It's nice to know that not everyone hates immigrants!
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[User Picture]From: chibaraki
2010-11-30 10:14 (UTC)
Immigration is an ongoing shouting match in the US. The bizarre thing is, people get all heated up over skilled workers being given visas, as if companies are somehow importing cheap labor from overseas.

Let me tell you internet, importing labor from overseas is not cheap. I do not want to think about what it cost Extremely Large Software Company to bring my boyfriend over. They hired a company to do all his visa paperwork and because of the H1B lottery he didn't get a visa the first two times. So they did all the paperwork and paid the requisite fees three times. They also paid to move him from Ireland to the US, from the US to Canada, and from Canada back to the US (and paid for all the paperwork and fees for his Canadian work visa). And it isn't as if they pay him less than his US citizen counterparts now that they have him. Given all the trouble and expense they went to, I'm pretty sure if they'd been able to find an American with an equivalent skill set they'd have hired the American. Probably it is a lot less expensive to hire a bunch of Central and South American migrant workers to pick one's produce, yes, but it is WAY more expensive to bring in an immigrant software developer or electrical engineer than to hire an American one. They are not doing it for funsies.

But no, we don't need any skilled worker visas, those damned skilled workers are just taking jobs from hardworking Americans who deserve them.

tbh in the US I'm pretty sure 90% of the argument comes down to ZOMG BROWN PEOPLE, TAKING OUR WHITE PEOPLE JOBS, HDU, and I suspect it's similar in the UK.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-12-02 19:37 (UTC)
Oh yes. I looked into having someone do my visa paperwork for me once. It turned out to double the cost of the visa, so I did it myself. I think it's safe to assume ELSC must have paid six times what a single visa would have cost for him. The only reason to do that is if it's the only option.

I don't think it's necessarily just brown people to whom those who are anti-immigration object. I think it's pretty much everybody. The amount of hatred for EU migrants (a lot of whom are white as they come) is pretty appalling.
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[User Picture]From: chibaraki
2010-12-02 20:00 (UTC)
Apparently the Irish were pretty cranky about all the people from Poland coming in and getting jobs in Ireland when the Irish economy was booming.

Now, of course, Ireland's economy is in the toilet and apparently Poland is doing pretty well, so they've all gone back. Somehow I do not think this was the solution Ireland had in mind.
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