The decision will mean an increased cost for visa applicants from these countries, as, for other countries with similar checks, there is an additional fee for the tests required. A spokesperson from the Home Office told Language Travel Magazine that the charges would be kept as low as possible. "We expect our tests to be significantly cheaper than those in the USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand," they said. "Charges will vary according to operational costs in individual countries."
Visa applicants to the UK who are found to have infectious TB will not be granted entry to the UK until they have been successfully treated. "[The initiative] is part of our firm but fair policy on immigration, and will also support the Department of Health';s TB Action plan," stated the UK immigration service.
Meanwhile, as the UK government ushers in more aspects of its five-year strategy for asylum and immigration, it has also announced that a 16-week consultation is taking place on a new points-based migration system. The consultation is targeting employers, educational institutions and prospective migrants, and results are expected in spring next year.
Immigration Minister, Tony McNulty, said the new system would include a web-based self-assessment programme so that visa applicants could understand if they met the criteria or not. "Our proposals would mean that those who benefit from migration employers, educational institutions and migrants themselves must play a part in helping to ensure the system is not abused," he added. "This country needs migration tourists, students and migrant workers make a vital contribution to the UK economy."
The government hopes the resulting system will ensure fair entry to the UK, that visa applicants stick to their terms of entry, and that they leave at the end of their stay. McNulty explained that it would be a five-tiered system and only those applicants in the suggested top two tiers (skilled and highly skilled workers) would be granted settlement rights after five years of work increased from four.
Meanwhile, France is considering tightening its own rules on settlement. Catherine Vautrin, State Secretary for Social Cohesion and Women';s Rights, said that the government wanted a link between linguistic competence and a 10-year residence permit, because language aided integration. France has also announced its intentions to set up a 600-strong immigration police force, in charge of chasing up and exposing visa overstays. An overseeing body will also liaise between police, local authorities and government departments.
Malta gets tough on Chinese students
Maltese immigration authorities have amended Chinese visa procedures, in response to the incident in which six Chinese and Mongolian immigrants were drowned off the coast of Sicily after allegedly entering Europe in Malta to study, before heading to Italy (see Language Travel Magazine, June 2005, page 7).
Language schools in Malta will now be subject to surprise inspection visits, and language school staff will be required to inform the immigration authorities about any absenteeism among their students. Departure details of Chinese students must now also be sent to the immigration authorities one week before their departure, and visa extensions will only be granted to Chinese students with good attendance records and sufficient funds to remain.
In China, students applying for a visa to enter Malta will be interviewed by more than one person at the Maltese Embasy in Beijing, and police checks on the applicants will be carried out prior to interview. The Embassy will also maintain lists of agents working with local schools in order to blacklist those that are unregistered or who deal with students who discontinue their studies on a regular basis. Language schools in Malta with consistent attendance discrepancies will also be blacklisted.
At language school association, Feltom, the association';s President, John Dimech, said that he welcomed the new regulations and hoped they would not just bring the situation back to normal, but enhance it. According to a report in The Times of Malta, very few visas have been issued to Chinese nationals pending the police investigation. Dimech also underlined that Feltom advocates the introduction of a specific student visa, which does not currently exist for Maltese immigration purposes.
The Minister of Justice & Home Affairs, Tonio Borg, commented that he felt language schools should restrict their student recruitment to preferred regions in China, as there was a growing problem with students not returning to China after entering Malta. Visa applicants who have had a visa request to another European Union country turned down will also not receive a Maltese visa.
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