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UK citizenship fees for children bring legal challenges

The fees charged by the Home Office to offer UK citizenship to children brought legal challenges to the institution. According to the critics, the fees “destroy the futures of children who’ve grown up British for profit”. To obtain UK citizenship, the law requires thousands of children living in the UK, who were born in the country or came at a young age, to pay £1,012. A judicial review is being sought by the PRCBC (Project for Registration of Children as British citizens) and Amnesty International UK. The purpose is to get these fees lowered and scrapped for those who cannot afford them. The review will be heard by the high court. UK citizenship fees for children force families into destitution According to the campaigners, the extortionate charges are forcing families into destitution. A mother was even forced to choose between food and saving money for her child. They explained that profits which come from children’s applications are used to outweigh unrelated immigration costs, despite the fact that many children affected were born in the UK and have never left. Solange Valdez-Symonds said that, to register their citizenship rights, authorities charge unaffordable fees to an estimated 120,000 children in the UK who have grown up British. “The futures of these children are slowly and silently being chipped away. Such barefaced profiteering from children by the Home Office is utterly shameful” she added. Solange Valdez-Symonds is the PRCBC director. The current registration fee applies to all children. This includes those living in poverty, the disabled and those in local authority care. Under the judicial review, the Home Office was requested to set the registration fee at £372. This covers administrative costs. The authority was also requested to introduce a waiver for children who cannot afford it and for children in council care. Profit from UK citizenship fees for children According to Valdez-Symonds, the Home Office profit reached hundreds of pounds. She said the PRCBC’s main legal arguments are that nobody should not be profiteering from children entitled or with right in law to register as British citizens. As soon as children reach the age of 18, they may lose the right to register. However, Valdez-Symonds said many individuals only realize that they need to raise the huge fee shortly before they become adults. She added that the PRCBC’s concern is also to see children who cannot afford such fees. She explained that, when these children become adults, they are then prevented from applying everyday rights such as travelling and going to university. The fees were a big issue for 15-year-old Daniel who came to Britain with his mother when he was 3. He had to struggle to afford them. Charitable donations were made to raise the money for him and he was also given legal advice. Daniel would not have been able to afford the costs without the help he received. He said that his mother saved what she could. However, sometimes she didn’t eat properly in order to do this. They had some support from the council at the time. His mother was not allowed to work, only as a volunteer with a charity, but unpaid. “It has been really difficult for my mother” he said. Reactions over the high UK citizenship fees for children According to Chai Patel, the Home Office was willing “to destroy the futures of children who’ve grown up British for profit”. Chai Patel is the legal policy director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. On the other hand, Stuart McDonald said that, when he asked the new home secretary about the issue, he acknowledged that the fee was very high for children to afford. The Home Office declared they keep all fees under regular review. It added that fees legislation allows the institution to consider the wider costs when it comes to running the UK border, immigration and citizenship system when setting immigration and nationality fees making those who directly benefit from it contribute to its funding. It added that the fees are approved by parliament and that this reduces the burden on UK taxpayers.

Brits spend more money on passport application

According to official data, hundreds of thousands of British citizens are paying a bigger price when submitting a passport application either to obtain a new one or replace it. Reports show that is has become more expensive to make a standard application by post than online. The price increase resulted from the changes made to passport pricing in March this year. However, other figures show that, despite the changes, some 415,874 standard adult applications and 277,445 child applications were made by post in the 9 weeks since the changes were made. Overall, this represents about 75,000 a week. These figures were released under the Freedom of Information Act. All together, these applicants have paid an additional £6.5 million compared to what they would have paid if they'd applied online. At the moment, applying online is £9.50 cheaper. Some might be applying by post to use the Post Office's Check & Send service. However, it's likely that many applicants simply aren't aware of the fact that they are paying more than they need to. Currently, the official website of the UK government is the cheapest way to apply for a passport. Its options include obtaining a 1st passport, renewing an old one or getting one for a child. Data on passport application costs Applications submitted to the Passport office are more expensive than online applications. However, the Passport Office was asked about how many people are still paying for postal passport applications. The office reported receiving 415,874 adult applications and 277,445 child applications between March 27 and May 31. Each adult postal application costs £85, while each child postal application costs £58.50. In the same period, 535,661 adult applications and 245,989 child applications have been submitted online. An adult online application costs £75.5, while a child online application costs £49. Since the prices for passport applications have been changed, the proportion of people applying online has significantly increased. Data from the FOI shows that the proportion of people applying for an adult passport online went from 38% to 56%. The cheapest way to submit a passport application The official website of the UK government is the cheapest way to renew or apply for a new passport. It helps applicants save £9.50 on postal prices. A passport is available for 10 years. However, certain countries require the holder to have at least 6 months left on the passport. In this case, the holder may need to renew it after 9.5 years. Otherwise, certain countries may deny entry. Not all passport renewal websites can be trusted. Some of them look like the official Government site for passports, but charge applicants an additional £20-£100 besides the official passport fee. Using the Post Office's Check & Send service for a passport application Applications via the Post Office's Check & Send service cost a further £9.75 on top of the postal application fee. The service ensures that the applicant has included the correct documents, that the photos eligible and that forms have been correctly filled in. However, the service is currently available only on postal applications. According to the Post Office, they are currently working on a digital alternative, but no further details have been given. There was no official statement from the Post Office on the number of applicants currently using the Check & Send service. However, it is likely that some of those paying for postal applications are doing so in order to use it. The institution said that standard applications are 2.5 times more likely to be delayed due to basic errors than applications via Check & Send. Therefore, it may be worth using Check & Send, even though it'll cost more, especially for applicants who are in a hurry, as it helps them avoid mistakes. There are some preliminary checks that will be done on the applicant’s photo before the application is submitted online.

EU leaders meet to discuss over immigration issue

According to the leaders of the European Union, they have reached a deal on the way to deal with refugees and irregular migrants. The deal was struck following a marathon session that took place in Brussels. A report was released on what was agreed. The report analyzes if the result will be enough to stop the political crisis over immigration affecting the European bloc and save Angela Merkel’s fragile coalition government in Germany. The discussion over EU’s immigration issues The EU27 leaders showed up on the 29th of June at 4.35am from almost 9 hours of talks. When showing up, they announced that they had reached an agreement on the migration issue. Reports have shown that the number of immigrants arriving in Europe has decreased by 90% since their 2015 peak. However, a political crisis between and within EU capitals has been fuelled by the fallout. The new populist government in Italy has demanded the rest of the bloc to take “concrete steps” to share its burden as most migrants land in Italy if they make it across the Mediterranean. The Italian government was actually prepared to veto any deal if the European bloc did not act consequently. At the same time, anti-immigration leaders in countries such as Hungary and the Czech Republic have rejected the slightest idea of automatic quotas. Angela Merkel’s conservative coalition partner had threatened to shut the border to migrants who had applied for asylum elsewhere in the EU, except Germany. The move was capable of triggering the collapse of her government. It could also mark the end of the EU’s totemic passport-free Schengen zone. According to the German chancellor, migration could “decide the fate of the EU”. In 2015, Germany took in over one million migrants. Result of the EU immigration debate Similar to other agreements within the EU, this one was a carefully but vaguely worded fudge to satisfy divergent views. Even if it stopped well short of solving the problem decisively, it may have raised enough of a platform to start building on. EU member states have agreed to send rescued migrants on European territory to “control centers” across the bloc. The locations will be decided shortly. At the same time, only countries that volunteered to receive immigrants will have them. This decision satisfied Italy. At the control centers, economic migrants would be sifted by “rapid and secure processing” from refugees with a potential right to asylum, “for whom the principle of solidarity would apply”. No relocation measures would be compulsory, appeasing some of the central Europeans. Some plans to tighten the EU’s external border, give more money to countries such as Turkey and Morocco to help prevent migrants leaving for Europe, and set up processing centers in countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia have been broadly agreed by all members. At the same time, in an apparent lifeline for the German chancellor, the agreement said European governments should “take all necessary internal legislative and administrative measures” to stop refugees and migrants crossing Europe’s internal borders. Reactions following the EU immigration debate On behalf of Italy, Giuseppe Conte was pleased by the agreement. Giuseppe Conte is the prime minister of Italy. He said that the country was “no longer alone”. Also, Angela Merkel claimed that the agreement was “a good signal”, but added that there is still much to be done. On the other hand, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said it was an important step which had provided a “European solution and cooperation”. Probably more importantly, a senior politician from the Christian Social Union said that “something has moved in the right direction”. The Christian Social Union is Angela Merkel’s rebellious coalition partner. At the same time, Italy’s pugnacious, anti-immigration interior minister, Matteo Salvini, said that “real progress” had been made. Experts consider that the deal’s eventually following actions are not enough to heal Europe’s migration issues. However, it may represent a step forward, at least for now.

More Indian immigrants invited for Canadian permanent residency

Canada has become one of the favorite destinations for Indian immigrants. They have hailed the country’s Express Entry programme, Canada’s flagship programme for key economic migration. Under the country’s point-based immigration system, the programme invites top ranked candidates to become permanent residents. A total of 86,022 invitations have been sent in 2017. Under the scheme, almost 42% (or 36,310) were sent to Indian citizenship holders. There were more than 2 times more invitations sent in 2017 compared to 2016, when there were only 33,782 sent. Also, a mere 11,037 invites have been sent to Indian citizenship holders in 2016. This showed an increase by over 200% a year later. More Indian immigrants became Canadian residents The Express Entry Year-end Report of 2017 showed that a little over one lakh applications were received for permanent residency under the programme in 2017. A total of 86,022 invitations were sent, while 65,401 permanent residents and their families were admitted into Canada. The report was issued recently by the Canadian government’s immigration division. More than 26,000 (almost 40%) Indians became permanent residents in Canada. The charts were topped by occupations like information system analysts, software engineers and designers, among those applicants who had job offers and were admitted as permanent residents. The statistics show an increasing number of Indians applying for Canadian permanent residency.  They strengthen the belief that many H-1B visa holders are now heading towards Canada. It is believed that they are tired of the backlog and infinite wait for a green card in the US, which grants permanent residency in the US. Indian immigrants waiting for US green card According to the CATO Institute, there are over 3 lakh Indians in the US waiting for a green card at the moment. The institute states that, considering the green card backlog, the waiting period for Indians holding an advanced degree (those in the EB-2 category) could reach 151 years. The CATO Institute is a Washington-based think tank. Vikram Rangnekar said: “I lived in the US for six years on H-1B visa. I had a great life in California, lots of friends, an awesome job, and enjoyed the outdoors. Then, I realised that I didn’t want to continue living my life on a restrictive visa. I wanted more freedom, I wanted to work on my own ideas and that was just not possible under the H-1B visa”. Vikram Rangnekar is among those who made the move. Currently, he is an entrepreneur in Toronto. Express Entry programme for Indian immigrants The programme requires candidates to complete an online profile and gives them a comprehensive ranking system (CRS) score. Based on their CRS scores, they are then placed in the Express Entry pool and ranked relative to each other. A candidate’s rank can change as others join and leave the pool. It can also change when the criteria are adjusted according to ministerial instructions. The score can also be revised on various grounds. For example, it can be revised if the candidate obtains more qualifications or skills. Only top-ranked candidates are invited to apply for permanent residence. The CRS score has 2 portions. The core score can go up to a maximum of 600 points. Among other criteria, it is based on the candidate’s age, education, official language proficiency and work experience. The maximum 600 points are awarded to candidates who meet policy or other objectives such as having a provincial nomination, a qualifying offer of arranged employment, Canadian educational credentials, proficient in French and a sibling in Canada. A person can get a maximum score of 1,200. Results of the most recent draw for Indian immigrants The Express Entry draws are held periodically. The most recent one was held in June and had a CRS cut-off threshold of 451 points. As a result, 3,750 candidates will be invited for permanent residency. Out of the 86,022 invitations to apply for permanent residency sent in 2017, 38,932 (45%) were sent to candidates with a CRS score between 451 and 500. At the same time, 39% (33,252) of the invitations were sent to candidates with a score between 401 and 450. For those aspiring to move to Canada, this relatively low cut-off is good news.

Everything to know about the UAE visa scheme amnesty

The UAE government has given a 3-month general visa amnesty to expats with expired visas and who are illegally living in the country. It will come into effect on August 1st and will help them sort out their status and put their lives together. The scheme is called 'Protect Yourself via Rectifying Your Status'. Under the scheme, foreigners who violate the residency law will receive a 3-month grace period. In this time, they must either leave the UAE voluntarily without suffering prosecution, or rectify their legal status by paying the required fees. The measure will encourage illegal expats to solve their status’ legal situation or voluntarily depart, without being banned. It will also lift the fears of over-staying foreigners and reduce the burden on those facing hefty fines. Their deadline will be on October 31st. It is not the 1st humanitarian visa initiative reached by the UAE government. In 2013, over 60,000 foreigners violating the residency law benefitted from the previous 60-day visa amnesty. The government offered 3 other amnesties in 2007, 2003 and 1996. The Ministry of Interior issued 61,826 exit permits, during the 2-month amnesty in 2012-2013, to people of different nationalities. A total of 341,958 illegal UAE residents benefitted from an amnesty, in 2007. On the other hand, only 95,259 legalized their labor status and remained in the UAE. UAE visa scheme amnesty praised by officials The UAE government’s decision was praised by Muhammad Imran who said foreigners without a visa status will no longer face legal consequences. Muhammad Imran is the Bangladeshi Ambassador to the UAE. He highlighted the fact that the embassy will ensure a quick process of the papers and issue out-passes to those who want to benefit from the amnesty. The envoy said that, in 2013, almost 20,000 Bangladeshis benefitted from the amnesty. Charitha Yattogoda told the UAE press that the Sri Lankan government “welcomes the commendable decisions taken by the leadership of the UAE”. Charitha Yattogoda is the Consul General at the Consulate General of Sri Lanka. Facilitating easy exits for overstayers would be a very generous move in the benefit of many helpless people. At the same time, Yattogoda said that new one-year visa extension for widows and divorcees will ensure family stability and social cohesion. Rowena Pangilinan Daquipil advised those working part-time who have overstayed their visas to legalize their stay in the UAE. After that, they can eventually look for appropriate employment. Rowena Pangilinan Daquipil is chargé d' affaires at the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi. On the other hand, Sagar Prasad Phuyal said the embassy will start setting up arrangements for their citizens staying illegally in the UAE. Sagar Prasad Phuyal is the Charge de Affairs at the Nepalese embassy. It is estimated that around 225,000 Nepalis are living and working in the UAE. A big part of them is employed in the unskilled and semi-skilled sectors. Pakistani Consulate hail the UAE visa scheme amnesty As a response to the decision, a Pakistani Consulate spokesperson also said that the new rules will surely have a far-reaching impact, easing penal and financial burden on all expatriates, including the UAE’s Pakistani community. The resolution was adopted by the UAE Cabinet, chaired by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President, and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Under the resolution, foreigners of countries facing war and natural disasters are granted a one-year stay or residency permit. This would improve their living conditions, until they can safely go back to their home countries. Moreover, the period will coincide with the one-year visa extension given to widowed or divorced women and their children. According to the UAE Cabinet, the decision is aware of the humanitarian conditions of widows and divorcees. It also facilitates their stay in the UAE after the loss of spouse.

Lost or stolen UK passports to be reported to prevent identity fraud

UK residents have been urged by Her Majesty’s Passport Office and Action Fraud to report lost and stolen UK passports. The move prevents unrecovered and unreported passports from being abused and used for identity crime or facilitating illegal travel across international borders. Out of nearly 50 million UK passports, less than 400,000 are reported lost or stolen each year, which represents less than 1% of all passports in circulation. However, people are waiting an average 73 days before making a report, despite the risks associated with lost or stolen passports. After reporting a passport as lost or stolen, HM Passport Office immediately cancels it. Within 24 hours, the information is shared with the National Crime Agency. The agency then records the loss or theft on Interpol’s stolen and lost travel document database. Reporting lost or stolen UK passports helps law enforcement agencies’ task Sharing the details of lost or stolen passports helps law enforcement agencies keep ahead of criminals attempting to get a UK passport illegally. It also helps border and immigration control officers. At the same time, it makes sure that action can be taken against anyone identified as having obtained a passport fraudulently. Caroline Nokes said: “When you lose your bank card, the first thing you do is contact your bank and have it cancelled, yet people don’t treat lost or stolen passports with the same urgency. But not reporting a lost or stolen passport can have severe consequences, such as people using your identity or attempting to use your documents to try to enter the country illegally”. Caroline Nokes is the UK Immigration Minister. She concluded that reporting a lost or stolen passport immediately is absolutely vital to help law enforcement agencies prevent people from entering the UK illegally. It also protects the lost passport holder from becoming a victim of identity crime. Inspecting UK passports at the border Border employees inspect all passports before letting holders enter the UK. Passports are inspected either in person by Border Force officers or through e-Passport gates. Border Force officers are very well trained to prevent those holding fraudulent documents from entering the UK. E-Passport gates use facial recognition technology to provide identity and security checks in just a few seconds. Border Force officers denied entry to more than 144,000 people, between 2010 and March 2018. Pauline Smith declared: “I know we can all get excited about going on holiday, and it can be easy to forget to take care of your passport, but the consequences of losing your passport can be severe. Not only will you find you have to pay the costs of replacing it, you may also fall victim to identity fraud”. Pauline Smith is the Director of Action Fraud. He said that passports include all the information that can be used by fraudsters to steal the holder’s identity. He urged people this summer to protect themselves from fraudsters by looking after their passport. This way, they don’t have to worry about it falling into the hands of criminals during the holiday season. With fraud and cyber crime increasing, now is the most important time to protect identity from falling into the hands of criminals. Immigration Enforcement in charge of UK passports security Emerging threats in relation to the production and supply of false travel documents are also constantly monitored and identified by Immigration Enforcement. The authority even supervises internet use to facilitate the trade in passports and identity cards. It also uses a range of interventions to target the criminals involved, including prosecution of crime groups in the UK and overseas. Passports that have been lost and stolen can be reported online. This makes the process quick and easy to use. At the same time, the Home Office will be sharing images and animations across its social media platforms. Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, supports the campaign.

Indian passport application can be submitted from anywhere in India

UK’s refusal to issue X passports backed by High Court

Christie Elan-Cane has lost a high court challenge against the UK government’s refusal to issue gender-neutral passports. Christie Elan-Cane is a campaigner for gender-neutrality on UK passports. The gender-neutral passports are also known as X passports. The Home Office policy was upheld by Mr. Justice Jeremy Bake after the court was told that it would affect other legislation. The court was also told that the cost for changing computer records would be too high and the move would increase the need for consular support abroad for gender-neutral British citizens. Elan-Cane has been involved in the issue for over 25 years and claimed that non-gendered people deal with discrimination and are being deprived of their “legitimate identity”. The sex option on UK passports is limited to male or female. At the moment, only 10 countries allow their citizens to choose a 3rd category, X, or unknown. Canada was the last country that allowed its citizens to own X passports. The ICAO approves X passports. The ICAO is the UN agency that regulates international air travel. Other countries that issue gender-neutral passports are Ireland, Denmark, Australia, Malta, Germany, New Zealand, India, Pakistan and Nepal. Denying X passports breaches the right to respect for private life, says Elan-Cane’s representative Representing Elan-Cane, Kate Gallafent QC argued during the hearing that HM Passport Office policy breaches the right to respect for private life. Gallafent added that the policy goes against the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of gender or sex, adopted under the European convention on human rights (ECHR). Kate Gallafent declared: “For the claimant, obtaining and using a passport currently involves making a false declaration as to the nature of the claimant’s gender identity, which causes the claimant considerable distress”. On behalf of the home secretary, Sir James Eadie QC, submitted that the policy did not interfere with rights under the ECHR. He explained that, if the policy interfered with article 8, it was justified by the need to keep an administratively coherent system for gender recognition. It would also be justified by the need to maintain security and prevent identity theft and fraud, and “to ensure security at national borders”. Article 8 refers to the right to respect for private life. Baker said that the UK government is currently collecting research material to undertake a comprehensive review of the issues that surround and have been raised directly by the claimant involved in the case. Therefore, Elan-Cane will be entitled to carefully scrutinize the results of the government’s current review. It will be required to be undertaken without any undue delay. Elan-Cane disappointed about the decision on the X passports issue Elan-Cane claimed to be bitterly disappointed that case for the judicial review of the UK government’s passport policy was not upheld. Elan-Cane added that the application process for a UK requires applicants to specify it they are either male or female. “It is inappropriate and wrong that someone who defines as neither should be forced to make that declaration” Elan-Cane said. The law firm that represented Elan-Cane did it pro-bono. On the other hand, Elan-Cane is considering whether or not to appeal the decision. According to Narind Singh, gender identity is a fundamental part of an individual’s intimate, personal identity. This makes X passports a crucial step in protecting the human rights of this group of individuals. Otherwise, these individuals would face an unacceptable choice between forgoing a passport, and making a false declaration, and using a passport which misrepresents their identity. Narind Singh is a partner at the law firm that supports Elan-Cane in the case. Tom Mountford also said that, with this decision, the UK courts have recognized that the right to respect for an individual’s private life “includes the right to respect for the fundamental identity of non-gendered, intersex, trans and non-binary people identifying as neither, or not exclusively, male or female”. The right to respect for an individual’s private life is guaranteed by article 8 of the European convention on human rights. Tom Mountford is a barrister who also represented Elan-Cane.

Identity fraud prevented by smiling in passport photo

A new study suggests that travelers should be encouraged to smile when they take their passport photo. This can help them prevent an identity fraud. According to results of a previous research at the University of York, it is difficult for people to match a pair of unfamiliar faces in photographs. This presents significant issues for authorities trying to spot false passports. The university’s Department of Psychology has searched for means to improve accuracy rates. It looked into the possibility that an image of a person smiling could be more easily matched to a different image of that same individual. At the same time, it could be more easily distinguished from an image of a similar looking person. Research project comparing facial expressions in passport photo A total 40 of people were requested by the team to match 60 unfamiliar pairs of images when people's facial expressions were neutral, as it is asked for in passport photos. After that, the same individuals were asked to match the pictures by smiling. Researchers analyzed the results from study 1. Thus, when comparing 2 images of the same person, they found a 9% improvement in performance for smiling images. They also found a % improvement when they compared images of 2 different, but similarly looking, people. Dr. Mila Mileva said: “Our research suggests that replacing the neutral expression we usually use when taking identification photographs with an open mouth smile, can make face matching an easier decision”. Dr. Mila Mileva is the research leader. She said that the researchers also had success in proving that an open mouth smile can help people to tell 2 similarly looking, but different people apart. This is a critical aspect when checking photo identification. Dr. Mileva then added: “Identity fraud is a real problem on many levels, so it is important that we do more research in this area to see how we can improve methods of identification”. Australia bans glasses from passport photo Rules on passport photos have been adopted by the Australian government as well. They say that people who wear glasses will have to take their passport photos without wearing them. The measure will come into effect on July 1st. According to the Australian Passport Office, research results have shown that glasses adversely affect passport facial matching. When people don’t wear glasses, the accuracy of matching is even higher. Only new passport applications will have to comply with the new passport rule. However, passport applicants could be exempted from the new passport rules in some cases. For example, people suffering from a severe sensitivity to light or those who recently underwent an eye surgery may be allowed to wear glasses. On the other hand, vision impairment alone will not be accepted as a reason for medical exemption. The same measure was adopted by the US Department of State in 2016. Glasses were the main reason why pictures were rejected, which caused the department to reach this decision. British government can ban passport applications if the applicant is divorced Other reasons for passport rejection are divorced applicants or those known to be promiscuous. This led to people applying for British passports being turned down. According to a British publication, failing to fit into the 'good character' clause is the most common reason for being denied British citizenship. In 2016, 44% of passport applications were rejected as the applicants were deemed to be 'out of character'. The term mainly includes those who have committed illegal offences as well as those who excessively drink, gamble or are divorced and promiscuous. It also refers to those who have any kind of “eccentricity, including beliefs, appearance and lifestyle”. The measure means that authorities may theoretically deny British citizenship to a person if he or she is deemed notoriously promiscuous within their community.

Main benefiters of the new rules on UAE visa and investment

In May, authorities in the UAE announced that restrictions on foreign business ownership and residency rights would be eased. The move is meant to increase investment and attract fresh talent by extending the UAE visa. The changes are expected to be implemented by the end of 2018. They will allow businesses outside of economic free zones to be controlled by foreign investors. Also, they include long-term residency visas of up to 10 years for skilled professionals and students. This is the latest change in a series of reforms implemented by Gulf nations in an effort to diversify their economies and boost growth. Such measures have been adopted by nations trying to decrease their reliance on oil. Bahrain allowed 100% ownership to certain foreign companies in 2016. A green card-like program helping expats was announced in Saudi Arabia in 2017. Also, Qatar approved a law granting permanent residency to certain skilled workers. Tim Fox said: “The region is competitive, you need to stay ahead and move with the times”. Tim Fox is the chief economist at Emirates NBD. Under the current legislation, skilled workers and students are allowed to stay in the UAE if they are employed. Also, all businesses outside of a special economic free zone require a local partner to own 51%. Tim Fox believes that the government was determined by the rivalries in the Gulf to abandon some restrictions on foreigners. His beliefs have been strengthened by a period of sluggish growth in the non-oil sector. Students to benefit from UAE visa extension Once residency visas for students will be extended from 1 to 5 years, universities expect an influx of new talent. Visas for academically “exceptional” students will be extended to up to 10 years. Predictions from Cedwyn Fernandes say that, in the 1st year of the new visa policy, the number of students in his university will rise by at least 10% from the current 3,200. The increase will be caused by a combination of more students coming from overseas and young expatriates deciding to stay in the country for higher education. Cedwyn Fernandes is the pro-vice chancellor of Middlesex University in Dubai. Under the new policy, students could complete a 3 or 4-year course in just one visa process. UAE visa extension to attract doctors With a state-of-the-art technology and generous salaries, Dubai is already a popular destination for doctors. Because it is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, the population is increasing at an annual rate of 10.7%. Therefore, healthcare services are racing to keep up. According to a recent Knight Frank report, Dubai has also become a hub for medical tourism and ranks 1st in the Middle East. The emirate aims to attract 500,000 medical tourists by 2020. In 2016, 325,000 medical tourists came to Dubai. The government has introduced a number of initiatives to lure in investment and medics. Such initiatives feature healthcare free zones and compulsory health insurance. The 10-year residency visa for specialists in medical fields is the latest pull by the authorities. More foreign investment resulting from UAE visa extension Global investors are the other big beneficiaries of the new reforms. With the new regulations, non-Emiratis are allowed control 100% of the company anywhere in the country. Also, they don’t need to find a local partner or a free zone. For several years, foreign direct investment in the UAE has remained stagnant. Even though it tops the Gulf region, foreign investment in the UAE went from a peak of $14.2 billion in 2007 to $8.9 billion in 2016, according to data from the World Bank. Ray Dargham agrees that the changes will benefit fast-growing startups with limited funds. Ray Dargham is the CEO and founder of Step Group.

Australian citizenship approvals massively decreased

A new report shows that the processing of Australian citizenship applications has been very slow this year. During the first 8 months of 2017-2018, the Department of Home Affairs approved 54,419 applications. In comparison, 139,285 applications have been approved last year. The information was released to the Federal Parliament on June 18th. According to the Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, a total of 141,236 citizenship applications were received as of February 28, during this financial year. In May, the Department of Home Affairs told the Federal Parliament that, as of April 30th, more than 200,000 people were awaiting the outcome of their citizenship applications, 2018. The average waiting period for processing applications went up to 16 months. It was reported that the period of April-October 2017 caused the relatively low number of citizenship grants. At that point, the Department held on to new applications after announcing the citizenship reforms. The reforms were meant to increase the general residence requirement and introduce a standalone English language test. After its proposed law was defeated in the Senate, the Government is planning to bring back a reworked version of the Bill. While attending a Senate Estimates hearing in May, Luke Mansfield said that an increased number of applications along with tightened national security requirements had led to an increase in the processing time of citizenship applications. Luke Mansfield is the Home Affairs officer. Uncertainty among Australian citizenship applicants According to Atul Vidhata, many migrants have been waiting much longer than the estimated 16 months. Atul Vidhata runs an online forum called ‘Fair Go for Australian Citizenship’. Alan Tudge was questioned by MP Julian Hill about the criteria applied for applications that require ‘thorough analysis’ or ‘further assessment’. Alan Tudge is the Australian Citizenship Minister. Mr. Tudge explained: “All applications for Australian citizenship are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the legislative criteria”. Speaking to the press, Atul said: “When these people contact the department, they are told it’s not a service standard to process the applications within this timeframe. There’s a lot of uncertainty due to a lack of clear communication. In our experience, some applications that were made in 2018 are being processed faster whereas applications made in 2017 are still held up”.   Mr. Tudge also responded to questions from Victorian Labor MP, Julian Hill. The citizenship minister revealed the country-wise break up of citizenship statistics. Most Australian citizenship applications come from Indians For the last 5 years, India has been the top source of citizenship in Australia, overtaking the United Kingdom. More than 118,000 people born in India have pledged their allegiance to Australia by becoming Australian citizens, since 2012-2013. At the same time, Indian migrants are at the top the list of country-wise visa recipients in Australia’s annual immigration program. Since the 28th of February this year, Australian citizenship was granted to a total of 10,168 migrants born in India. During the same period, 25,408 Indian-born people applied for Australian citizenship. The figure of the 2016-2017 period stood at 22,006 citizenships granted to Indian migrants with 29,955 Indians applying for it. Changes to Australian citizenship bill At the beginning of the month, authorities were set to make a comeback of the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment Bill 2017. Peter Dutton’s department assigned ‘a priority status’ on the bill which will be introduced to the Parliament this month. Peter Dutton is the Australian Home Affairs Minister. The subject was raised by Greens Senator Nick McKim at the recent Senate Estimates hearing of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee. The hearing took place on May 22nd. While attending the hearing, Ms Linda Geddes said the bill had been assigned ‘a priority status’ and will be introduced in the winter parliamentary sitting period. Ms. Linda Geddes is the Department of Home Affairs Deputy Secretary of Policy. The winter parliament session for June 2018 is scheduled to take place between June 18th and June 21st followed by another session between June 25th and June 28th. However, the bill has not yet been listed on the notice paper for Senate Business.

UAE Cabinet grants and extends visas for people with tough social situations

A decision recently reached by the UAE Cabinet extends the visa of the widowed or divorced women who reside in the UAE. The decision also extends the visa for their children. Visas will be extended for one year from the date of the divorce or the death of the spouse. At the same time, the authorities will also offer one-year visas to people whose home countries are affected by war. The decision is part of the latest legislative facilitations approved by the UAE Cabinet. UAE Cabinet extends visas for widows, divorced women and their children The decision grants widows and divorced women and their children a one-year residence without being requested a sponsor. The decision’s aim is to give women the opportunity to adjust their social and economic status. The resolution will come into effect as of the 4th quarter of this year. It is part of the continuous efforts of developing government decisions and legislations. Such measures cater for larger segments of UAE's residents and visitors and must make sure that they meet their main needs. Before reaching the decision, authorities have taken into consideration the humanitarian conditions of widows and divorcees. Therefore, the decision facilitates their stay in the UAE after the loss of the head of the family. At the same time, the move aims to maintain family stability and social cohesion. Also, it affirms the UAE's position as a welcoming country to all nationalities in line with its history and values of extending a helping hand. UAE Cabinet offers one-year visas for people affected by war Under another decision, the UAE Cabinet has adopted a resolution that grants nationals of countries facing war and natural disasters a one-year stay or residency permit in the UAE. This decision was reached as a form of solidarity with the people of affected nations. It offers them a chance to improve their living conditions until they are ready to go back to their home countries. The UAE Cabinet is chaired by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Under this new decision, many nationals of affected countries will receive an extendable permit available for 1 year. They will receive the permit regardless of the conditions of their visa. The permits will be offered between August 1st and October 31st, 2018. The targeted nationals will also benefit from an exemption from any imposed fines. With this decision, the UAE is making efforts to help all those in need around the world and strengthen its position as an incubator of all nationalities and acts as a 2nd  homeland. At the same time, the decision is part of the UAE's principles and responsibility to support the most vulnerable people of the world as an active supporter of international peace and stability, especially in the Arab and the GCC region. UAE Cabinet to make the country a global model The UAE is a global example of economic development, cultural values, and political and social stability. Under its foreign policy, the UAE is based on firm strategic principles of maintaining relations with all countries. Therefore, the country stands by the most vulnerable and needy citizens of the world and contributes effectively to the promotion of international stability and peace. With wisdom and moderation, the UAE foreign policy was developed by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Speaking about the visa decisions that have been recently reached, Major-General Mohammed Ahmad Al Merri said to the UAE press: “It is a humanitarian decision to enhance the stability of these citizens who seek a safe place to live until their conditions improve or have a chance to live in peace in their home countries. The UAE is a safe country and it’s a dream for many people to live”. Major-General Mohammed Ahmad Al Merri is also the director general of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA).