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The United States and the European Union continue to negotiate visa-free travel for all EU Member States. This week, Estonia and Latvia signed agreements for their citizens. Hungary, Lithuania, Greece and Slovakia are all expected to sign "memorandums" that may result in visa-free travel for their citizens this year.
There is some controversy about the U.S. negotiating individual agreements with countries. The European Commission would rather negotiate blanket arrangements for all EU members.
Research published by the National Foundation for American Policy claims that hiring people under the H-1B visa program is associated with increases in employment at United States technology companies. The study undermines a common position of critics that H-1B visas take jobs from Americans. According to the study, for every H-1B position, U.S. technology companies increased their employment by 5 workers, thus new H-1B professionals are complementing other U.S. hires, rather than displacing them.
In January, the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced an enormous backlog of immigrant petitions for naturalization and other services. The increased demand was caused by the announcement of sharp increases in fees that went into effect during summer of 2007.
It was originally expected that naturalization petitions in particular would take 16-18 months to be processed. However, the Director of USCIS announced on March 11th that they have shortened the estimate to 14-16 months, but which is still up from the previous 7 month wait.
During a recent Budget Speech, Canada's finance minister highlighted Canada's advances in supporting immigration. He took the opportunity to announce plans to speed up the application process for migrants and to increase funding to support programs that assist newcomers. As part of the initiative, Canada will provide $22 million in new funding to support immigration initiatives over the next two years.
According to statistics released by Canadian immigration authorities, Canada accepted the highest number of temporary and permanent residents in its history in 2007.
Canada admitted 429,649 permanent residents, temporary foreign workers, and foreign students. This is more than 60,000 higher than four years ago. 2007 saw a 12% increase in temporary foreign workers, which provided most of the boost in immigration numbers. There was also a 4.6% increase in foreign students.
The chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission stated in a recent interview that the United Kingdom's new points-based immigration system should be "tilted" to allow more flexibility for foreigners who will work in Scotland. He said that added points could be introduced under a work permit system - presumably Tier 2 - which would encourage prospective migrants to choose Scotland as a destination.
Scotland currently uses the Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland immigration scheme to encourage foreign students of Scottish educational institutions to stay in Scotland upon completion of their studies. That program has now become part of a sub-category of Tier 1 for general UK foreign graduates, reducing the specific advantage for Scotland.
The Australia Needs Skills expo took place in London on March 15th and 16th. Employers and government agencies set up shop in an attempt to lure British skilled workers to Australia.
Australia, whose economy and labor growth depend heavily on immigration, uses a highly successful points-based system called the General Skilled Migration program for skilled professionals and trades people from overseas to come in for work and permanent residence. A job offer from an Australian employer, while helpful, is not required.
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