Migration doors closing, windows opening

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CRISPIN R. ARANDA

CRISPIN R. ARANDA

DONALD Trump got to be President-elect on a platform of making America great again, building walls and bringing back jobs to Americans, not foreigners.

Across the Atlantic, Theresa May replaced David Cameron as Prime Minister as the Brexit (vote to leave the European Union) won on the platform of taking back control of the border, stopping the flow of immigrants/refugees, and giving British citizens the first shot at jobs.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton have announced a crackdown on temporary work visas for foreigners (Subclass 457), especially among hospitality workers, focusing on chefs and cooks.

New Zealand has increased the total points required to be invited to apply for permanent residency through the Expression of Interest (EOI) route–from 140 to 160. Even before the increase in the required points, applicants from overseas need a job offer or at least 12 months of employment in New Zealand to get the previous 140-point threshold.

Europe–not just the UK and Ireland–are wary of immigrants even as the stream of refugees from the Middle East/Syria has abated. And, compared to the other four countries with permanent migration programs, a foreign national in Europe (including UK) generally must have worked for at least five years before being eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain, long-term residency or as an immigrant.

Student to resident pathway
Increasingly, the most viable option for Filipinos and other foreign nationals with the intention to pursue permanent residency in any of the countries with migration programs in place, taking up further studies is the practical choice.

Of course, studying abroad is not for everyone.

The costs and benefits involved are within reach of those in the country with available funds as well as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who want a better future for their children, and overseas Filipinos (such as in the US, Canada, UK, Australia) willing and able to pitch in to help their relatives get out of a never-ending cycle of poverty and corruption.

Taking up a one- or two-year post-secondary academic program in Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the UK will require paying the required tuition (full tuition in the case of New Zealand–but only after a student visa application is approved in principle).

Then there is the need to provide evidence that the study permit/student visa applicant has sufficient funds for the duration of the course, at least for the first year.

The initial investment is usually recovered since Canada, Australia and New Zealand allow international students to work part-time (20 hours a week while in school and 40 hours or full time during breaks or off-school season). Australia’s work authorization is measured by fortnight (two weeks) and the official description for employment while a student is 40 hours a fortnight.

Selection system in place
Unlike the United States, the four countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK) assign points towards residency. In the case of the UK, points are assigned for workers in the Tier 2 category.

Since students-turned-workers need to have five years of legal employment before being eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain, it can be argued that the UK’S permanent residency is likewise points-based.

For each selection system in place, a minimum points-total is required to be invited to apply for permanent residency based on age, education/qualifications, experience, English or language proficiency. Bonus points are assigned for studies completed or previous legal employment in the country of intended migration.

For Australia‘s SkillSelect selection program the applicant needs 60 points. For New Zealand’s Expression of Interest route, the applicant must have at least 160 points. In Canada, the threshold score varies for each draw, conducted usually twice a month. The last draw–held November 16, 2016–the lowest score of the ranked candidate was set at 470 points.

Skilled workers and professionals overseas must compete with applicants who are onshore (or already in the country of intended migration). Since students are authorized to work and temporary workers already have access to potential sponsoring employers, applicants from overseas face a great handicap.

In recent months, the three countries–Australia, Canada, and New Zealand–have fine-tuned their migrant-selection system to favor those who are already in the country as students or workers.migration-doors20161128

In the case of New Zealand, even a tourist visa holder may apply for change in status or visa condition. While Australia also allows the same privilege, an applicant must apply for a bridging visa to be in legal status while applying for the work or immigrant visa. In Canada, an applicant is not allowed to change status. Instead, he or she may apply for the student or work permit at the border.

In practice, this means that one with a visitor’s visa, for example, who has been admitted into an academic program in a Canadian college or university may apply for a study or work permit at an immigration border station, such as in Vancouver or Buffalo, New York. In some cases, the applicant must return to his or home country and apply for the specific visa at the Canadian Embassy.

Certain educational institutions in the United States such as the Truckee Meadows Community College benefit from the relatively more liberal immigration regulations of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, allowing visitor visa holders to change their status to student or working without leaving the US.

And the tuition fee for international students at Truckee Meadows is very competitive compared to a similar course in Hospitality at Bay State College in Massachusetts.

If the intention is to have a brighter future, better chance for career advancement and have greener–as opposed to a grim–pasture, then studying abroad is the best option.

As long as the Philippines values politicians and the padrino system for worker and professionals to get ahead, the country’s treasure trove of skills and talent will burn the midnight oil at home for a better tomorrow overseas.

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