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Commonwealth Exchange need TNT volunteers to help with their project on Commonwealth visas. Can you help them?

Despite the intense sporting rivalry and the strong cultural ties between the UK and Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa there is one aspect which has a huge deficit - visas and immigration.

The rumblings were given a voice by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, last September when he highlighted the case of Australian teacher, Sally Roycroft who struggled to remain working in the UK. He branded it “absurd discrimination”. The Mayor’s solution was the establishment of a “bilateral labour mobility zone” which in effect gives Australia and New Zealand the same rights as citizens from the EU to live and work in the UK.

The decline in the numbers of Australians, New Zealanders, and South Africans living in the UK are striking. In 1999, 40,000 Australians lived in the UK whereas in 2011, 26,000 remained.  The figures for New Zealand paint a similar picture with 18,000 New Zealanders living in the UK in 2000 having more than halved to 8,000 in 2011, while 29,000 South Africans resided in 1999 with a peak of 37,000 in 2004, then dropping to another concerning 8,000 in 2011.

Commonwealth Exchange (CX) are eager to explore this through a Commonwealth context in order to improve and enhance wider Commonwealth relations as a set of proposals for the Government to consider. These will range from extending the Tier 5 Youth Visa; the reintroduction of the Tier 1 two-year post-study component; more flexible Tier 2 general visas; the establishment of a Commonwealth business visa; and a reduction in cost or elimination of tourist visas for more Commonwealth nations such as South Africa.

As a think tank they will do so through a research project. However, they can not do this on our own.

A key pillar to their research will be via case studies. Migration is about individual people and their families; therefore, their work demands a distinctly human touch. they require the voice of Australians, New Zealanders, and South Africans who have valuable and interesting stories to tell about their experience in the UK. You may be concerned about being sent home if your visa is not renewed despite setting up a life in the UK. You may have experienced frustration at the Home Office over the cost, time, and delay over your visa.

However, you are not alone.

Hundreds if not thousands of individuals from Commonwealth nations such as South Africa, India, Jamaica, and Malaysia are disadvantaged by the current unfair system, which has a distinctly European bias. Not every Commonwealth nation is the same. CX's recommendations will reflect this.

Australians and New Zealanders are fortunate that they do not need a tourist visa to visit the UK; however, South Africa does require such a visa and other Commonwealth nations are in a similar situation. In addition all Commonwealth nations outside the EU still need a work visa sponsored by a UK business which is costly in terms of time and money.

CX share the Mayor’s sentiment that Australians and New Zealanders should be conferred the same working rights as those from the EU. They would also argue the same for South Africans.

It appears tragic that such arrangements are not already in place when we all share the same language, similar legal systems, and customs. CX acknowledge that a lot centres around reciprocity. Each nation would have to also provide favourable free movement to the UK in return, which notably South Africa already does for tourism and business.

CX desire even stronger relations between Britons and these Commonwealth nations. Freedom of movement to live and work is a significant part of this. That is why they want this research paper to be about your words not theirs.

If you would like to put yourself forward and participate in our project anonymously as a case study then please contact CX at tim@commonwealth-exchange.org. They would love to hear from you.

Image credit: Thinkstock


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