THE Romans could not have imagined that the month they named April—the fourth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar—would not only symbolize the opening of a new season we now call spring but also usher the suffering of migrants and refugees with the closing of immigration doors in 2017.
Nor would the honorable and wise men realize that the first day of the month would be reserved for April Fools, and that cuckoo birds arrive in England signaling the arrival of spring, The first of Aprilin the US today also coincides with the opening of a new period to accept H-1B temporary working visa applications. The H-1B visa selection is by lottery and only a fool would say that selection could be guaranteed.
In fact, this year, H-1B applications were accepted on April 3 because April 1 was a Saturday. In four days, the 85,000 visa allocations were filled.
Okay, so what else happened in the migration world this month?
Australia: repeal and replace
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection did a Trump-like announcement by abolishing the Subclass 457 temporary working visa and replacing it with the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) explained that the TSS visa program will be comprised of a short-term stream of up to two years and a medium-term stream of up to four years.
Some of the changes included the compression of occupation lists; 457 occupations lists were condensed from 651 to 435 occupations, with 216 occupations removed and access to 59 other occupations restricted. Also, prioritizing regional Australia.
Of the 435 occupations, access to 24 occupations has been restricted to regional Australia (e.g. occupations relating to farming and agriculture).
On April 20, came the announcement of a longer residency requirement to be eligible for Australian citizenship. The current rule only requires that an Australian permanent resident have 12 months of residency to be an official Aussie.
The other requirements include passing a stand-alone English test;permanent resident for at least four years (instead of one year at present);and new and more meaningful citizenship questions, among others.;
Canada is down
To become a permanent resident in Canada, a skilled worker submits a candidate profile through Express Entry, the current immigrant selection system. A drawing from among the qualified candidates—selected according to their scores in the comprehensive ranking system (CRS)—is made approximatelyevery two weeks. The score of the lowest ranking candidate becomes the threshold.
On November 30, 2016, only 559 candidates were selected andthe threshold score was 786. This week, 3,665 candidates were invited on April 19, 2017 and the threshold score was the lowest since Express Entry began – 415.
This really opens up doors of opportunities for skilled workers outside Canada. Since January 2015 when Express Entry began, candidates who were already in Canada as international students or temporary workers had the advantage. Since they are already working in Canada (yes, international students are allowed to work) an offer of employment gave them 600 points.
Physical presence in a Canadian province also gives an applicantan edge towards being nominated by the province and get an additional 600 points. In October last year, the points for having a job offer were reduced to 200 (for managerial occupations) and only 50 for non-managerial job offers.
After an initial jump, the threshold score continued a downward trend until this week.
New Zealand is up
A day after Australia issued its repeal and replace policy, New Zealand announced it is increasing the minimum income required for skilled workers applying for permanent residency through the Expression of Interest program.
This came on the heels of a previous announcement raising the total number of points an applicant needs to be invited to apply for permanent residency.
The previous minimum points-total was 140. Now it is 160.
After increasing the total points needed to be invited to apply, the selection system has been “realigned” giving preference to characteristics that would enhance “better outcomes for migrants:” hence the emphasis on increasing the minimum income required for jobs being offered to support a migrant’s application for permanent residency.
The New Zealand median income (NZMI) for jobs considered skilled had been set at $48,859 a year. An NZMI of 1.5 times the median income of $73,299 a year is required for “jobs that are not currently considered skilled, but are well paid.”
UK and Europe up and down
While UK and Europe are locked in the Brexit barnacle, Ireland had taken its share of Syrian refugees and granted 96,000 non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationals permission to remain in Ireland for longer than 90 days.
In addition, the European Migration Network Ireland reported that the Philippines was among the top five nationalities granted citizenship – seven percent of the 10,044 Irish citizenship certificates issued in 2016.
While there is no immigrant selection system such as those in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, Ireland has become the country of choice for students and workers, replacing the UK as the English-speaking gateway to Europe.
With Ireland’s economy’s continued growth—more than 26.3 per cent in 2015, largely as a result of “corporate restructuring,”—international students have discovered that further and higher education in Ireland opens doors to global corporation workplaces. Since foreign students are allowed to work, access to multinational companies enhance career progression and pathways to residency and subsequently, citizenship.Ireland is the European hub to over 1,000 leading multinational companies that require a skilled, educated and highly capable workforce.
While Ireland has lowered the bridge for migrants to cross, the UK has fortified its immigration policy structures, not only separating from the European Union but also making it extremely difficult for international students and foreign workers to obtain permission for leave to enter, much less remain.
Drawn into a corner after promising to lower migration numbers to the UK, Theresa May and Amber Hudd, the former and current Home Secretaries were forced to include international students among the groups to be restricted from coming – and staying in the .UK
As for migration issues in the US under Trump, the H-1B visas are under the gun, expedited processing is on hold and the Republican-dominated Congress abounds with legislation seeking to radically reduce immigration numbers, enhance enforcement, bring back jobs – all under the mantra of “Buy American, Hire American.’
Visitors, permanent residents and even U.S. citizens face the prospect of being asked their social media passwords. Refusal to do so could result in being sent back to their country of origin. For citizens, hours of interrogation, secondary inspection becomes a harrowing probability.
Welcome to a new season.