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Our immigration paranoia drives skilled labour out of the country

Pic: Piotrus

The writer of this piece completed a postgraduate course as an international student three years ago. He now works for a major British company doing a highly skilled job. He has asked us not to use his name.

Despite popular perceptions, getting a visa to stay in the UK after completing your studies is incredibly hard, and keeps getting harder each year. After the latest reform to immigration law by the coalition, students can no longer get a post-study work visa after completing their course – a category of visa that was meant to attract the brightest and most talented students.

This means that any non-EEA student who wants to stay in the UK must have a permanent job with a company that has registered itself with the government to be a sponsor under the Tier 2 category of visa. This creates two problems: 1) A company may be willing to offer you a job but isn’t registered with the government, so cannot sponsor you for a visa. The registration process isn’t quick or free of red tape either, so for students who usually only have a few months to find a job this effectively means you can’t get a visa. 2) Any freelancers are automatically barred from getting a visa. The rationale behind this was supposedly stopping people from going onto the dole after failing to find enough work, but non-EU migrants are, as a rule, not allowed to claim benefits so barring freelancers is asinine – if they can’t find enough work to pay for their food and shelter, they will leave the country themselves.

Nor does the ordeal end when you are lucky enough to get a job that is willing to sponsor you. Under the new regime, a maximum of 20,700 skilled workers can apply for Tier 2 visas (there are exceptions for sportspersons and religious ministers). This cap does not apply to people earning an annual salary of £150,000 or more, but clearly there aren’t many students who would get jobs paying that well straight out of university. So even if you have a job you have to hope the cap for this year hasn’t been filled, or you could be denied a visa despite meeting all the requirements. As a foreign student who pays significantly higher fees that British students do, it’s also a slap in the face to be told that you can buy your way into the country if you are a high earner, but you aren’t welcome if you’re not.

Some companies openly refuse to sponsor non-EEA employees for visas, but for the rest it can be nerve-wracking to go to a potential employer and have to ask for a visa before you can accept any job. Job interviews are stressful enough without having to worry about whether you will be instantly overlooked – no matter how qualified you are – because of the country you happened to be born in. I can vividly remember my hand shaking and my voice cracking as I brought the subject up at a few job interviews, because I just knew I was stacking the odds against myself. And that’s before we even get into a discussion about how you are completely at the mercy of your employer if they do sponsor you for a visa, because you lose the visa when you lose the job.

No one doubts that there are people abusing the system, but somehow it always seems to be those who follow the rules and play everything by the book who pay the price.

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8 Responses to Our immigration paranoia drives skilled labour out of the country

  1. Anitrex

    September 4, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Was holding UK as my No1 destination for my Post Graduate Studies.
    Was looking to come over,study get a job and live a better life.
    Whats wrong in the desire for a better life?
    GIVE PEOPLE A CHANCE!

  2. PSW Holder

    September 5, 2012 at 8:22 am

    I do not want my email / name to be used, thus not providing the real name.

    I was working for a couple of years in the Middle East before I came to UK for my post graduate degree. I completed my master’s course in Sep 2009. I had a job offer from a company in June 2009 itself and hence stopped looking for other opportunities and declined a few interviews as I could then concentrate on my dissertation. But due to the temporary cap put in by the govt in 2009 meant that the company had to cancel my job offer 2 weeks before the start date!! Luckily that was the day I submitted my dissertation so it did not effect my final project in anyway. They offered a 6 month placement instead or £4000 in compensation. I was totally devastated at the time with no option left but to take up the 6 month placement.

    Before the end of my work placement with this company, I had another two job offers of which one I’ve taken up and currently working as a Project Manager due to my previous work experience!

    However, my company isn’t a sponsor yet. On paper it looks all straight forward. I am entitled to ‘Unrestricted Certificate of Sponsorship’, UKBA website states that 65% of the Tier 2 Sponsor License is decided within 4 weeks. However, this isn’t anywhere close.

    My company had applied for a sponsorship License back in May 2012. UKBA is still processing application made end of March and have been stuck there for over a month!!

    So from the looks of it to get a sponsorship license it could take anything up to 4 months plus!!

    UKBA can’t give any timescale on how long it would take to process ‘Unrestricted Certificate of Sponsorship’. But based on some of the comments left on http://www.immigrationboards.com/ – it would take 2 to 3 months. I don’t understand that. It’s an unrestricted COS. People applying for it are not affected by the cap, then why the hell should it take so long!!

    It’s still not the end of the story after this I’ll have to send out my visa application, which if done by post should be done within 2 months or so. To get an appointment for premium service is almost impossible. Most of the appointments are blocked out by law firms when I’m more than capable of submitting my own application. It’s daily sitting down on the computer close to 12 midnight as that’s when new slots are released everyday and are snapped up within minutes (some time seconds)!!

    So all in all it’s more like 10 months + or so for a Professional skilled person to get a work permit in the UK!! If I apply for a new job now, within two weeks I can get a couple of job offers. There is shortage of skilled people in my field of work. If I’m declined, it’s because of the visa issue.

    My Tier 1 PSW visa is due to expire in January 2013. I don’t think the application will be processed in time and I am fed up with new government and deliberate delay from UKBA’s side to discourage companies from employing Skilled Migrant workers that they need. They’ve even shut down Tier 1 General which if it was there I could have applied for that as I surpass the salary requirement for it.
    It’s a small company (less than 10 employees) that I work for. They won’t go for the “Premium Service” for sponsorship license which would cost them £25,000 every 3 years for just one employee!!
    So although companies no longer need to go for ‘Resident market labour test’ for employing international students who might be looking for a job. There is no way a company that isn’t a sponsor yet can even think about hiring a student before their visa expires.

    If international students are thinking about getting some work experience after finishing their degree – FORGET ABOUT IT!! I personally have started looking for work in the international market now where skill matters more than what passport you hold.

  3. Matt

    September 25, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Paranoia?! Ha! The UK has felt the brunt of mass immigration policies more than anywhere else..take a look around in London. It is not paranoia..

  4. Ming

    October 1, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    I’m facing a similar situation. I came over to UK 3 years ago, worked for 2 years with my tier-5 visa first and then went back to college for a 1-year master degree (and even gave up the chance of getting a tier-2 sponsorship from my previous employer because I wanted to study more). Now I just completed my degree and found that it’s almost impossible to secure a job and a visa now even because companies are reluctant to go through the process. I’m seriously frustrated because I got loads of interview invitations. Apparently there’s a shortage of my skill set in the market. Well, I can only blame myself of not born in this country.

  5. JapManc

    October 16, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    The “post-study” visa category was initially called “science and engineering graduate scheme”, which made a lot of sense. Then, some half-wise PPE graduates in the government decided to allow graduates of any kind to stay on. The end result was boat loads of film studies, media studies, BA in HR management and other crap course graduates signing up for it, defeating the initial purpose of allowing science and engineering graduates to stay and work in the UK. Similar mess happened to Tier 1 (General) visa, which so many people from the sub-continent applied for as “self-employed” while they were actually just “providing service” to their family businesses back home, i.e. their work being altogether bogus. Too many of them came over to the UK with T1(G) visas, then failed to get any “highly-skilled” kind of jobs. The result is, well, the government abolished both schemes, thus industries and genuine applicants both suffered. I paid £1500 about a month ago to extend my T1(G) visa and it seems I won’t even see my passport back till next year due to severe delays at UKBA.

  6. Ray Shah

    December 1, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    I agree with Matt. My point is if you come here to study and finish your studies then why UK need to provide you with work experiance?? and why do big companies giving jobs to these foriegners when thier locals are unemploeyed? If these students are so ‘intelligent’ they should be able to find job anywhere or better built better sturcture in thier own home.
    @ Anitrex, Give locals ( British) a chance, they are also people.

  7. kkm

    January 12, 2013 at 4:50 am

    I came in the UK since I was 17 years old to study and have a better life. I have been here for 8 years, started at college then went to university. I have just completed my Master in Ocyober and have a job offer from a company who has no sponsorship. The company isn’t willing to go through the stress and the red tape so I feel lost. I came to this country as a teenager, learned a lot and now I feel like it is kicking me out with nothing. I would feel completely lost if I go back home, I wouldn’t know where to start. As much as I love my country, UK has become my home…the thought of going back and facing the unknown scares the hell out of md, I’m having nightmares and sleepless nights…I feel so lost.

  8. Acro

    December 13, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Matt and Ray Shah

    The problem is that UK degree has no value anymore in the international market (except Oxbridge) without relevant work experience. I’m from India and the Indian business Schools are beginning to surpass British Business Schools in the League tables (you can check for yourself). So when I take my degree back to India, it gives me no additional value. So whee’s the return on investment??

    And to be honest, Britain needs skilled migrants- coz the locals dont/can’t goto University. If Britain wants to fall behind the rest of the counterparts like US- this regime should continue. And I often wonder- Britain doesn’t want migrants in the country from India, but they are happy to take our money, conidering the largest private sector employer in UK right now is an Indian company that has added more jobs than any British firm.

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