Restrictions on high skill immigration to Britain

by on December 31, 2012 at 5:21 am in Science | Permalink

From The Independent:

Russian-born physicist Professor Sir Andre Geim said new restrictions on non-European Union immigrants, including minimum salary requirements of at least £31,000 and tighter student visa rules, are blocking the brightest academics from working at British institutions. He told The Independent on Sunday that the restrictions would have prevented him and his team from identifying the revolutionary “super-material” graphene, which earned him the Nobel Prize in physics in 2010.

Sir Andre warned that future scientific breakthroughs at British institutions were at risk because of the tighter controls, introduced this year to bring down annual net migration from more than 200,000 to “tens of thousands”.

..Sir Andre, 54, first arrived in the UK in the early 1990s as a Russian citizen with a permit to work as a post-doctoral fellow at Nottingham University. His salary would have been around £27,000 in today’s money, meaning that he would have been barred from entry under the minimum salary requirement.

FYI, Geim is one of my favorite scientists of all time. He is the only individual to win both a Nobel prize, for graphene, and an Ig Nobel prize, for frog levitation. Awesome!

Andrew M December 31, 2012 at 6:44 am

The real shocker is that a post-doctoral fellow in physics at a good university can only expect to earn £27,000 ($43,500) a year. Even a Java developer could expect to earn £30,000+ in Nottingham. Perhaps cutting-edge research just isn’t that important to society.

Tomasz Wegrzanowski December 31, 2012 at 7:53 am

Entry level developers tend to be paid less than £30k, especially outside London.

Andrew M December 31, 2012 at 9:40 am

A quick hunt online reveals wages of at least £25,000 even for “junior” roles. Besides, in the 4+ years that it takes the academic to gain a PhD (while earning a pittance), the junior Java developer will have become a mid-level developer, and will have earned quite a bit more over the same time.
The overall point remains: hard science simply isn’t a lucrative career option. I’ve met many a former physicist now working in computing. Generally they have no great love for their work, but the wages are good and the employment is secure for what is (to a physicist) fairly straightforward work.

Peter Schaeffer December 31, 2012 at 12:02 pm

See “My Life as a Quant: Reflections on Physics and Finance” by Emanuel Derman. He added at least one zero to his income by leaving physics for Wall Street. He may have added two.

boba December 31, 2012 at 9:24 am

Oh the pain, the pain! I know an Ivy league school in a major metropolitan area that pays post doctoral medical researchers about 35K per year. They provide housing (on a nearby island) but cap – yes restrict – PI’s from paying the postdoc’s more than 38K. (They start at 35 and may receive just a little more, more not much more.) These are the people working to find treatments for all the nasty diseases. They are expected (read demanded) to work 60- 80 hours a week, receive 2 weeks vacation, and generally work as slaves for some pompous blowhard because they are receiving “training” to join the ranks of the unappreciated and underfunded. This isn’t new, and there’s a reason why the director of the MD/PhD program complains that all the graduates are going into dermatology, plastic surgery and ophthalmology (the lucrative medical fields) – it’s because we allow know-nothing nabobs to rule and generously reward pirates.

ad*m December 31, 2012 at 12:41 pm

I am one of those pompous blowhards, and believe me it gets worse higher up, where there are additional layers and layers of pompous blowhards. One of the underappreciated ‘beauties’ of funded research is that the pompous blowhard also has to pay the indirects, often 60-70%, on top of the money available for research, to support all the diversity officers and human rights directors at that school. I wish I could pay that money to postdocs instead.

CZ December 31, 2012 at 10:20 am

Sir Andre is right in the general thrust of foolish restrictions the UK gov is placing on skilled migrants. However in the specifics in this case he’s mistaken, PhD qualified persons and roles are excluded from the £31k minimum.

Agree with Andrew M about what this says more generally.

The Anti-Gnostic December 31, 2012 at 11:08 am

My cynical view would be that the British elite don’t want the competition they insist is so healthy for everybody else.

Peter December 31, 2012 at 12:08 pm

It appears that similar restrictions must already exist in the U.S. given the inability of the authors to understand that intent and consequences of the new British rules. The £31,000 limit is a floor, not a ceiling. The new rules are

“Restrictions on low skill immigration to Britain”

Why overtly misrepresent the new rules? Because at this point high skill immigration is still generally viewed in a (more) positive light while low skill immigration is almost universally regarded (sotto voce) as a disaster for the receiving countries (most assuredly including the U.S.).

Chris Purnell December 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm

For an ideologically biased Government such as ours (I’m a UK citizen) the idea that we miss out on hugely talented people is a triviality. What is at stake is an incoherent sub- Nazi ‘racial purity’ concept, which was debunked by no less than Sir Winston Churchill- iconic Tory Leader. The same people that created our immigration laws also don’t believe that the UK is a European country

The Anti-Gnostic December 31, 2012 at 1:12 pm

It’s not. In fact, I’ve yet to hear anybody from Europe tell me they were “European.”

Also, the UK’s capital city is majority non-Anglo, twelve percent of the island is immigrant, the immigrants are the ones having most of the babies, and I recall an estimate of around 100,000 of your countrymen converting to Islam. If you’re worried about Anglo ‘racial purity’ getting popular in the UK, I’d say you can sleep long and deeply.

Marton January 28, 2013 at 12:41 pm

I am European. I live in London because it is one of the most diverse spots in Europe.

Still, London is only majorly “non-Anglo” if you count neither the non-British-born UK citizens nor the non-White but British-born 2nd/3rd/4th generation Londoners. And if you do that, you are closer to the EDL than to sanity.

Peter Schaeffer December 31, 2012 at 12:53 pm

CP,

You need to find yourself (and the UK) a different Churchill. A few quotes should make it clear the Enoch Powell was a multiculturalist compared to Churchill.

“I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.”

“How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.
Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen; all know how to die; but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.”

According to Churchill, Indians were “the beastliest people in the world, next to the Germans.”

Finally…

“Why should we Anglo-Saxons apologize for being superior?” Winston Churchill once growled in exasperation. “We are superior.”

tio December 31, 2012 at 4:04 pm

From my experience studying in UK, there are four categories of student: local, EU, common-wealth, and international student. International students pay way higher school fee but often treated as the lowest class, especially when it comes to visa and finding job. For instance, I had to report and provide all documents 3 times (one of them was 3 weeks after I submitted my dissertation) for visa checking during my master. This year, there was cases where students were not be able to go home for christmas as the immigration office hold their visa.

Secondly, the UK immigration rule is sort of chicken – egg policy. International students are given the opportunity, 3 months, to apply for working visa after completed their study (with the sponsor of company/organisation). In reality, companies/organisations try to avoid paper (immigration) work. Hence, they require applicants to have working permit at the first place. Automatically, international students are out of the list. Personally, with all these burdens, I wouldn’t recommend any international students to study in the UK.

TR W December 31, 2012 at 10:49 pm

The goal all along should have been to foster British talent. Instead of creating a dependence on foreigners.

Matt January 1, 2013 at 7:52 am

More information on how tighter student rules are preventing skilled immigration would be interesting.

The problems, historically, with student visas in the UK come from the fact that a person does not require to being doing a degree level course, from a reputable university.

They simply have to be doing a course, perhaps English language skills, which is high school level in some “institution” which may be a couple of rooms.

This is a simple problem to solve – simply make it the case that persons are required to do a degree level course, from a reputable university.

This would, of course, cripple the cheap labour provided by “students” and would make a lot of people with interests in dubious educational institutions unhappy.

The problem with the UK’s educational visa system, historically, is that it has simply been a bad, fraudulent version “pay for entry” scheme which has enriched a lot of fraudulent educational providers and has produced false evidence of a “British success story” in providing international education (flattering of course to the egos of our successive Labour governments).

If the UK is to have a student route, it should be genuinely focused on genuine education.

If it is to have a pay for entry system, like it basically has had historically for much of the 90s and 00s, then the government and British people should actually get paid*, rather than fraudulent British based businessmen with connections to poor countries.

* which I have no problem with. If a person inherited a house from their parents and then rents it out to people who do not live locally so that they can work in a nearby business, then no one ever grouches and gripes that this is “interfering with market activity”. In the same way as the house is property of the person, so is the country the property of its nation, and if they derive benefits from location, location, location then that is as fair as it is for any private property.

With regards to “purity” –

I am a mixture of my mother and father, and thus am “impure” (because I am constituted of a mix).

Yet, that does not mean that I should be deprived of any choice over what I may become.

It also does not mean that, if I decided and was able to clone myself, perhaps while selectively removing negative mutations, if such a thing were possible, that I would be a bad person for deciding to do this rather than the existing random mix, bi-parental children method.

UKBA-drove-me-away January 2, 2013 at 3:01 am

> More information on how tighter student rules are preventing skilled immigration would be interesting.

I am non-EU person who spent the last 8 years in the UK. The first four, studying for a PhD in a hard science field at one of the UK’s (and worlds) most elite academic institutions, and then 4 years of post-graduate research. I am grateful for the wonderful supported by study bursaries from private foundations, for specific research grants from state-funded research councils of the UK, and for huge underwritten subsidy of the national investment in aforementioned institution. Not to mention the free NHS medical care.

I am tired of the merry-go-round and ever increasing stress of visa renewals, periods which the UK Border Agency is processing such claims so slowly that one can be without a passport for months at a time (which makes it impossible to make reliable plans to submit papers to & attend conferences, let alone travel home occasionally to family). This problem can only be avoided by paying extravagant fees to the UKBA for premium one-day appointments — so few of which are available they are almost impossible to obtain, or gross fees above and beyond that to immigration brokers/agents — something which cleaves all too closely of the systemic rent-seeking, bribery and corruption I have experienced in similar circumstances in sub-Saharan countries.

I am tired of UK visa rules which fiddle and change and tighten every time you look away. The last straw was the imposition of a ‘cooling off period’ if you have any period of time not in work — something which can happen in academia for a month or two between research grants — when you have to leave the UK regardless for 12 months before coming back. After all this superb UK investment in me, sadly I have had enough and am leaving. The UK visa regime is fickle, it is clearly under-resourced, it is pointlessly over-bureaucratic, it is a waste of everyone’s time and talent.

Tony January 3, 2013 at 7:55 am

The problem with UK and US immigration rules is that if you don’t meet these extensive requirements you are done but if you are an unemployed vagrant with brothers and sisters you will get priority processing and quick citizenship. The emphasis on family reunification is ruining immigration.

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