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UK is shifting to a points-based immigration system and it is good for Indians

The new immigration regime would help STEM students & professionals get permanent residence faster.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Feb 25, 2020, 09.01 AM IST
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The UK system is a welcome change for students looking at higher education followed by work opportunities.

Indian students and professionals in the United Kingdom have a reason to cheer amid the uncertainty brought in by Brexit. On Wednesday, UK’s British Indian home secretary Priti Patel announced a points-based immigration system that aims at attracting the brightest and the best from around the world. The new regime, which starts January 1, 2021, would help science, technology, engineering & math (STEM) students and professionals from India and China get permanent residence faster. This is in line with the immigration systems in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, which award points for specific skills, professions, salaries, qualifications and age profiles for highly skilled workers seeking permanent residency.

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The UK system is a welcome change for students looking at higher education followed by work opportunities. “A points based system modelled on Australian, Canadian and New Zealand’s systems will help Indian students going to study in the UK make suitable career choices,” says Ravi Lochan Singh, MD of Global Reach, an education and immigration consultancy. “Students will have a guidance to opt for courses related to professions facing skill shortage. This would help students get jobs faster and earn an adequate income while waiting for permanent residency.” The US system, in contrast, offers a more difficult path to permanent residence for Indians. Students who complete their higher education in the US are eligible for non-immigrant H1-B visas if they can find jobs. But they are often left in the lurch after that as the time taken to get a green card or a permanent residence could range from five years to several decades, depending on the job. In comparison, the average time taken to get permanent residence status under the skilled points based system in Australia, Canada and New Zealand is less than a year. Another challenge for Indians on green card queues is that they face a 7 per cent country quota.

Thousands of Indian IT professionals employed in the US have little chance of getting a green card in their lifetime, according to a study by Skilled Immigrants in America, an advocacy group. This will change if the US also moves to a skills based points system of immigration.

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“Several of my clients in the US have faced great frustration due to the long wait in green card queues,” says Mumbai-based immigration lawyer Sudhir Shah. “They have opted for the Canadian Express entry route and received permanent residence status within six months of filing their application.” This is a win-win situation for them because those with permanent residence status in Canada enjoy the freedom to work and live in the US as well, he adds.

“The proposed changes to the UK immigration rules affirm the fundamental policy to promote and sustain managed migration by attracting qualified skilled talent, who will not in any way be a potential drain on public benefits, says Ranjit Malhotra, a Chandigarh based lawyer who specialises in private international law. The new system will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally, giving priority to those with the highest skills, such as scientists, innovators and academics. But the minimum general annual salary threshold of around Rs 23.8 lakh could become a problem for skilled immigrants. "Though the threshold was brought down from the previously proposed level of Euro 30,000, it could still be a problem, especially in fields not mentioned on the skills list," says Shah.

For international students, however, the recently announced graduate route provides an option to stay in the UK for two years after studies to work or look for work. The graduate route will be introduced from the summer of 2021.
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