AUSTRALIAN LAWYERS looking to find work in the United Kingdom are not only facing disappointing job prospects in light of the global economic downturn, but also some surprises embedded within changed visa requirements.
The British Home Office made some significant changes to its skilled visa system on 30 June this year. The reform saw the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme close as the central route of entry for Britain, to be replaced by the Tier 1 (General) Skilled Migration scheme — a new points-based system that allows the process to be completed in Australia instead of the UK.
The problem for some Australians is that the popular transfer from the Working Holiday Visa over to a skilled migrant visa allowing full-time work in a profession can no longer be undertaken in the United Kingdom alone. Instead, Australians applying for the skilled visa must now remain in Australia, or in some cases return to Australia, and wait out the entire process.
Melanie Pitt, a registered migration agent for 1st Contact, told Lawyers Weekly that she had already seen some Australians disappointed by the changed visa scheme, with some professionals unable to begin working full-time Britain as soon as they had originally planned.
A common problem, said Pitt, was that not only is it more difficult to gain employment on a working holiday visa, but that a failure to abide by the rules could be grounds to be refused the superior visa. “If you don’t abide by the conditions of that visa and come home to apply for a superior visa like a skilled visa, the British Government can make checks on just how much time you spent working over there.”
Another surprise is in the new requirement — on top of the points-based system calculating profession, age and earnings — which is that Australians must have had £2800 ($6000) in the bank for at least three months before their application.
Meanwhile, Pitt said that with the new system approaching, a number of Australians had rushed to submit applications before the scheduled deadline, which left a backlog of applications to be processed. “This means anything submitted under the old rules is still a work in progress and has been for the last four or five months. That has affected a lot of Australians,” Pitt said.
Still, the changed visa system holds possibilities for flexibility. According to Pitt: “The beauty of the skilled visa is that it’s all based on the person, with earnings, qualifications and age determined. There’s no requirement to have a job lined up in the UK.”
And by assessing the visa in one country more predictability can be seen in applications.
“It is more efficient and more streamlined and it hasn’t changed the points in making it any easier, but made it more straightforward to submit an application in your own country,” Pitt said.