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China Conducts Multi-level Communication with the UK on New Visa Measures
2011/04/06

Recently, the British government introduced new immigration restriction measures to further raise the threshold for immigrants from non-EU countries to work and study in the UK, causing widespread concern. Some Chinese-funded institutions, overseas students and Chinese restaurant owners in the UK expressed their worries about these immigration policies in various ways. Their main points are: First, the INTRA-COMPANY TRANSFER (ICT) visa, which impose a higher requirement on the annual salary of the applicants, will considerably affect the investment and development of Chinese enterprises, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in the UK. Second, the introduction of the new regulations on international students, such as the abolition of POST-STUDY WORK (PSW) visa, brings many inconveniences to international students graduating after 2012 and raises the threshold for Chinese students to study in the UK. Third, Chinese chefs applying for visa face many difficulties including English proficiency, annual salary requirement and quota, presenting a blow to the Chinese catering industry in the UK.

The Chinese Government and the Chinese Embassy in the UK attach great importance to these worries and have made efforts in the following aspects at multiple levels, through multiple channels and in multiple forms since the second half of last year:

First, we have expressed concerns to the British government. Last November, Premier Wen Jiabao expressed to the visiting Prime Minister David Cameron that the Chinese government encourages domestic enterprises to expand investment in the UK and hopes the British side to simplify procedures for approval and provide more targeted services to address the difficulties in visa application for the Chinese people travelling to the UK. Prime Minister Cameron responded that the UK welcomes Chinese enterprises to invest in the country and is willing to work with the Chinese side to achieve more positive results in the personnel and cultural exchanges between the two countries.

Ambassador Liu Xiaoming has met with or written to the British Home Secretary, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office, the Acting Chief Executive of UK Boarder Agency, FCO Permanent Under Secretary of State and other senior officials and Minister Qin Gang has respective met with the heads of Border Force, International Group and Immigration Group of UK Border Agency, the head of FCO's Migration Directorate and other competent officials to urge the British side to take full account in the opinions and concerns of the Chinese people on the immigration quota when making policies and avoid affecting the normal personnel exchanges and cooperation between the two countries. The British side expressed their attention to the concerns of the Chinese side, and said they would seriously treat and consider them when developing new immigration policies. The British side is willing to strengthen communication and cooperation with the Chinese side to promptly and properly address relevant issues.

Second, we have widely introduced the changes in British immigration policies. Since last September, Ms. Lu Xu, Counsellor & Consul General of the Embassy, has led consuls, education officers and British police officers and lawyers to Imperial College and other universities and colleges to introduce to Chinese students the knowledge on British visas, immigration policies and security. The Embassy has also hosted a seminar on the changes in British immigration policies, at which officials from Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Border Agency were invited to give presentations and the attending representatives from 60 Chinese-funded institutions participated in discussions and expressed reasonable concerns and demands. In addition, the Embassy has also promptly released the information on the changes in British immigration policies on the websites of the Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China.

Third, we have supported overseas Chinese in the UK in expressing their concerns to the British side, and have given support and encouragement to the Chinese restaurant owners, employees in Chinese-funded enterprises and overseas students in the UK in attending the public consultations held by the British side on the policies about work and student visas and expressing reasonable concerns to safeguard their legal rights and interests.

With the joint efforts of all parties involved, the British government has adopted transitional or buffer measures for the immigrants from non-EU countries who work and study in the UK, including deferring the abolition of PSW visa for one year to April 2012 and providing for exemption of ICT visa from quota restrictions. Moreover, the new visa measures of the UK provides that if university students just graduating in the UK hope to stay and work in the country, they may transfer their valid student visa to TIER2 without being subject to quota restrictions or the "local labour market test."

The Chinese Embassy will continue to do whatever it can to uphold the legitimate rights and interests of the Chinese compatriots, overseas students, institutions and legal persons in the UK, and will urge the British side to create favourable conditions for the normal personnel exchanges and friendly cooperation between the two countries with concrete actions. We also hope that the Chinese compatriots in the UK will pay attention to and understand the adjustments and changes in the British immigration policies and make corresponding plans of work and study in advance.

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