We’ve been banging on about it for ages (see – and sign – our petition to simplify the visa application service, right), then, last week Boris Johnson swooped in like a heroic fop, and summed up what we’ve all been thinking: let’s make it easier to allow Aussies and Kiwis to remain in this country.
Writing in The Telegraph – in a piece that soon went viral – the London mayor said: “It is time for Britain and Australia to set up a bilateral Free Labour Mobility Zone.”
Citing the case of Aussie teacher Sally Roycroft who had given him a letter during his trip Down Under, Johnson called the problem “actually rather simple. It was disgraceful”. Roycroft had told how she had worked as a teacher for the past few years in Harringay and Tower Hamlets in London, helping to raise standards in literacy and numeracy, only to be “effectively kicked out of Britain”.
Johnson wrote: “What is her crime? That she isn’t French. Nor is she German, or Polish, or Croat, or Italian, or Greek, or Portuguese. She isn’t a citizen of any of the 27 countries of the European Union. She is Australian; and she has been told to bog off by the authorities in our country because it was, they said, too much of a palaver to go through the business of ‘sponsoring’ her to stay.
“That is the infamous consequence, as we all know, of a historic and strategic decision that this country took in 1973. We betrayed our relationships with Commonwealth countries such as Australia and New Zealand …”
Johnson added: “This country is now quite properly approaching a renegotiation of that decision.” The mayor goes on to discuss the “microclimate of economic gloom” that is Europe, on which he writes the UK has focused, overlooking “the very Commonwealth countries that British negotiators so snootily disregarded in 1973”, where economic growth has been happening. “It is time to undo the damage of 1973, and give her [Roycroft] exactly the same freedom of establishment that we give – say – a French teacher trying to find a job in London…” he said.
He added: “It is outrageous and indefensible that Sally Roycroft is deprived of a freedom that we legally confer on every French person. She ends her letter with these plangent words. ‘I am a bloody good teacher, I worked hard to ensure that your children were given the best opportunities and I just want to come back.’ It is time she was given a fair suck of the sauce bottle, as the Australians say.”
And TNT couldn’t agree more. It is ludicrous that while Europeans can easily enter and stay in the UK, our Aussie and Commonwealth counterparts are being penalised. Let’s hope Boris’s words resonate with the PM and Home Secretary – and that these overdue changes are made to benefit the UK and our bilateral relationship with Australia. Here, we speak to three Aussies who also agree with Johnson.
‘Constant state of panic’
TNT reader Louise is in the same situation as Sally – and welcomes the mayor’s proposals. Currently back home in Sydney, Australia, the 26-year-old is waiting for her sponsored visa so she can return to London where she’s been working as a primary school teacher for the past two years.
Louise said: “If there was a Free Labour Mobility Zone as Boris proposed, it would mean that I’m not in a constant state of stress and panic that I may get kicked out of my job, my home and have to leave so many people that I hold dear.
“It would mean that I wouldn’t have to return to Australia for visa purposes, with an unknown return date… I would have saved over £1200 in visa application fees and the cost of changing flights due to visa bureaucracy.”
Louise said it “does not make any sense” why the UK government would make it so difficult for someone of her profession – that “benefits the country” – who has a guaranteed job, to stay in the country. “It definitely makes it more difficult to get permanent work as employers know your stay is uncertain,” she said. “I am lucky enough that my school wanted to sponsor me, but it is still really hard to go through the process.”
‘A tense time’
Nicole Fuller, who’s 29 and works in the media industry in London, called the sponsorship process “a tense time for any Australian”. She added: “London has the potential to afford lifestyle, travel and employment opportunities to many Australians …. It freely welcomes workers from the EU, yet the much-lauded Commonwealth of Nations has no bearing on free movement.
“My British ancestors sought the same opportunities, as the first free settlers arriving to Sydney Cove, but my connection to the First Fleet, my university education, my disposable income and earnings, and my contribution to the UK economy won’t afford me the reciprocal opportunity offered to our ancestors in 1788.”
‘I was kicked out’
John Kachoyan said he agrees with Johnson following his being “kicked out of the UK” after studying and working in London for nearly five years from 2007. He graduated with an MA in film directing, was subsequently offered work and stayed in the UK on a Highly Skilled Migrant visa – which was abolished six months before he could apply for residence.
“There was the sponsorship angle, but a cap has been introduced – even then, it’s incredibly hard to get sponsored as a theatre director. So I was essentially forced to move back to Australia after … creating dozens of productions involving UK artists and crew and co-founding a company (IronBark) – there was no recourse to me that didn’t involve great expense and uncertainty.”