More clamping down on UK immigration

It’s not just Paddington bear who faces a tougher time hanging out on the island that is Great BritainAnother BBC article, another list of immigration “reforms” meant to keep the non-English out of England.  Highlights include:

  • Shortening the visitor visa from six months to three months
  • Requiring payment of one thousand pounds (GBP) for family members who wish to visit loved ones in Britain.
  • Note that these are in addition to previously announced “reforms” (quote from the BBC article):
    • The government has already announced other changes to the visa system which Mr Byrne described as the “biggest shake-up of the immigration system in history”.  They included a points-based system for economic migrants and the tightening of procedures for people bringing spouses into the country.

It’s not just me, right?  This really reeks of xenophobia.  I know I have complained previously along these lines as I have discovered the many ridiculous rules for non-EU persons living in the UK; my favorite is still the one where I would have to get home office permission to marry.   I guess based on the point mentioned above, I would also have to do some fast-talking to marry back in America and then bring a spouse back “home” with me to the UK.

I know that immigration law and reform are hot topics in many countries, my own native America included.  There are many places in the world that people would like to leave for very good reasons, and there is certainly no question that wealthy, developed countries cannot afford to take in all of the potential refugees and migrants who would like to enter their countries.  That said, I really do feel a substantial difference in my experiences in the UK and America.  In the US, even though I was from the midwest, I had friends of many races and cultural backgrounds, truly representing the great “melting pot” that is America.  In the UK, at least where I have been for the last year and some change, I know mostly English, Irish, continental EU types (especially French and German), and other Americans.  I find that in general the diversity is underwhelming, and it’s becoming something that I miss about America–even about Minnesota.  Continuing BBC reports on the clamping down of immigration policy (for political reasons, apparently) is a hint at the greater problem of poor integration of the non-English already in Britain.  It’s hard to see how things could improve any time soon.

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    3 responses to “More clamping down on UK immigration

    1. Interesting topic.

      Sure, there are lots of differences in how immigration is handled in the US and UK — never mind Continental “Schengen” Europe. One thing they have in common is the bureaucratic nightmare. If you were to marry in the UK, you might need Home Office approval, whereas when I did so in the States, there was no such requirement. However, if I’d actually used my marriage as a basis for applying for a Green Card, I’d have had to submit to intrusive interviewing to make sure my marriage wasn’t fake. A certain level of Big Brotherhood seems to be inherent in developed countries’ immigration systems.

      Yes, diversity is more limited here, and the English in particular have a rather insular view on things, but by EU standards the UK has actually been at the progressive end of the spectrum. About half of the workers in the lab next to where I work are foreigners (Indian and Chinese). I see plenty of colour on the streets, mostly attributable to ex-Commonwealth nations, but still. The substantial migration of Eastern Europeans to the UK may be less visible, but creates no less cultural friction and xenophobic angst, but I haven’t seen nearly the level of backlash that I might expect if the same happened in Germany.

      The current tightening of UK policies may be in response to specific scandals from the last days of the Blair Premiership. Apparently, foreign nationals who had committed crimes normally deemed worthy of deportation were prematurely released and allowed to stay in the country, and this was picked up by a populist press. I haven’t followed the link to the story that prompted your blog entry, but I assume that any policy change is based on some attempt to compensate for inept enforcement of existing rules by tightening the rules — big mistake, and we all get to pay for it. A bit like the current response to terrorist threats coming from infants’ breast milk and such.

      To cut a long story short, expect to see more of this, as developed countries hunker down and the declining resource base on this planet will trigger more conflict and migration in developing countries. But just because you haven’t been up against the US immigration system doesn’t mean it’s not every bit as Byzantine; and just because colour, nationality and class are interlinked differently in this country and in the US doesn’t mean that blanket accusations of greater xenophobia here are valid.

    2. These rules are mainly proposed for those from the Indian subcontinent who make up the largest % of visa applications. In other words, white people and their white relatives are welcome; but brown people’s relatives have to undergo scrutiny and pay deposits to get a visa. So I am sure your family and relatives are safe esp if they travel under visa waiver.

      On some things, I have to agree with RB. You have not experienced the US’s immigration system as an outside and it is equally difficult.

      As for marrying in America: here is a real story for you. A 67-year old (white) British friend of mine, married to an American woman for nearly 20 years, is trying to apply for his green card but while it is being processed he cannot even enter the US while his wife keeps her job in California. The retired man is waiting for his papers here in the UK. I know of many Indians who have waited for years for a visa although they had been married much before one of them moved to work in the US.

      As for relevance: when a few years ago, I applied for a J1 for MIT, I was advised that even though my mother had been dead for over 20 years, somehow the last address she lived at – or to be more precise, died at – was a piece of relevant information for my application.

      So I would say I have been reading your blog off and on, so I know you do not like the United Kingdom.

      But do be fair! The United States deserves no less to be labelled xenophobic than the UK. And whatever it is, the UK does not finger-print its visitors like criminals, as the US does.

    3. I did not say or imply that there was not a burden of silly paperwork placed on immigrants or visitors to the US, or that it was any different, better, or worse than that in the UK (except for the marriage thing). My point was about diversity and how I found it to be lacking in the UK. My follow-up point would be that perhaps this is one place where I’m willing to admit that affirmative action practices in the US have done some (though not pure) good. I miss diversity, I miss having friends from all over the world, and I miss the melting pot culture that I think makes this work in America. My family came from Norway and the Netherlands only a few generations ago, both of my grandmothers grew up speaking non-English as their first language. And here I am two generations later with a proud cultural heritage, a few words each in Norwegian and Dutch, but in general a proud part of the American immigrant melting pot. This I miss. And it’s not like modern immigrants to Minnesota are all white and northern European–the last two waves have been from Asia (Laos) and Africa (Somalia) respectively. And I think that’s cool.

      I have heard plenty of nightmarish green card stories from the US as well, but you don’t see as much protectionist immigration policy news on the front page of the American newspapers or news websites. I find this interesting. In fact, the most recent article I read on American immigration policies and attitudes was in the Economist, which is of course a UK publication. I think that’s interesting and telling too.

      I am not in favor of much recent post-9/11 knee jerk US policy including the fingerprinting (although last I heard that will start in the UK soon as well) and I would not try to claim that all Americans are as interested in diversity or welcoming of migrants as I am. Especially in some parts of middle America, things and people that are different are scary. I’m lucky that my life has had me hanging around cities and Universities in the US that are quite diverse. And I miss that in the UK, and unlike RB I don’t seem to find as much of it at work as I’d like.

      Shefaly, I take issue with your comment that “I do not like the UK”. That’s not true. I’ve had a rough few months in England and I am certainly not going to deny that. But life is tough wherever you are. I might have ended up this depressed and frustrated in another country including America. I am glad I moved to the UK, I am glad I am more aware of the issues that face globalization, and I would do it all over again even knowing what I know now. Do I think some days that perhaps I will not stay forever? You bet. But that does have more to do with other factors than the ones I’ve talked about openly on this blog, most of which are minor annoyances rather than large life issues.

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