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How have new immigration policies affected you?

As new political parties sweep into office across the world, local, national and international policies inevitably change. Have any changes affected your international lifestyle?

woman in front of a world map
Global borders open and they close, affecting refugees, asylum seekers and expat migrants too

The recent upheaval in global politics, from France to the USA, is having a significant impact on the globally migrating population’s freedom of movement.

Although we expats or migrants, whichever term you prefer to be called, may not be able to vote in national elections in the countries we have adopted or moved to for work, the outcome of those elections can have a significant effect on our lives.

Last year, Belgium ruled that new immigrants must sign a ‘European Values Newcomers’ statement’. The ruling means that people moving to Belgium for more than three months will have to sign the statement, which also includes a pledge to report and prevent any attempts to commit “acts of terrorism”. Campaigners claim the move will cause further tension in the community and fuel the growing anti-immigrant sentiment.

In France, Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche movement won the general election, though the electoral turnout was the lowest in modern French history, with just 48.7% of the registered voters casting their ballot. Monsieur Macron appears to have an open-door view of immigration, telling reporters: “We are in the world; France is not a closed country”. However, his pre-election campaign promised to make the ties with other EU countries stronger and to strengthen the common border forces.

Before the French elections, M. Macron said his party would implement integration programmes for foreigners, to teach them about the French language and culture. He also plans to reduce the amount of time it takes to obtain a “talent visa” – which allows skilled workers to work in France based on their profession.

Geert Wilders – the so-called Dutch Trump – ran an election campaign in the Netherlands in February, based on pledges that included a ‘de-islamification’ of the Netherlands, a ban on the Koran, a plan to close mosques, a plan to deport repeat offenders who hold dual nationality, and a closure of borders to immigrants. As it turned out, Mark Rutte was re-elected, but not before taking a stronger stance on immigration and telling the electorate that if immigrants “don’t like it here, then leave”.

USA immigration form and flag
Trump’s Executive Order restricting Muslim citizens will affect every kind of migrant trying to get into or back to the USA

Wilder’s name sake – President Trump – continues his campaign to expel and deter certain groups of migrants. On 27 June, Trump had his first legal victory towards pushing through a controversial travel ban, when the Supreme Court ruled that key parts of the executive order preventing citizens from Syria, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya entering the US, could be allowed to take effect. Citizens from those six countries will not be allowed into the USA unless they have a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity” in the country. Full details of the executive order can be found on the U.S. Dept of State website.

Changes to skilled Southern Hemisphere immigrant visas

Historically, Australia has managed its skilled migration programme based only on the country’s needs. However, earlier this year Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s prime minister, announced that changes were afoot and it was important that migrants “embrace our values and positively contribute”. He said in a video report on Facebook that the 457 Visa temporary work visa was being abolished and replaced with a new temporary visa that would be restricted to recruiting the best and most skilled workers so that Australians are not kept out of the job market. The highest number of migrants applying for the 457 are from India and the UK.

Is this change a direct result of international events? Who knows, but Turnbull said support for migration had “disintegrated” in countries without strong border controls, and he said irregular migration had “threatened the social fabric” of European countries. Turnbull plans to make it harder for non-Australians to move to Australia temporarily or permanently unless they have an investment to make or have a specific talent or skill that’s needed in Australia.

Collection of small colourful globes
International living can be like a juggling game

In April of this year, New Zealand changed its skilled migrant category rules. The government says it’s to  “ensure we are attracting migrants who bring the most economic benefits to New Zealand”. Read more about NZ’s changes here.

And in the UK… Brexit rumbles on

As we all know, the UK voted to exit the European Union in 23 June 2016. More than a year down the line, nothing has changed yet, though threats and promises a plenty have been made. Commentators of all colours seem to agree that there will be a bilateral agreement when it comes to EU/UK expats and if/how long they can stay in their respective locations.

The day after the UK’s recent general election result, Dr Richard Niblett CMG, the director of the think tank Chatham House, wrote in an article (‘UK Election Result May Lead to a More Democratic and Accountable Brexit’), “The most difficult political question for the EU27 is how to ensure that the UK pays some form of cost for leaving.” No mention of the EU/UK expat conundrum, perhaps because it’s one of the simpler (?) “problems” to resolve.

Read regular updates on all the latest Brexit news on Angloinfo’s Brexit Watch.

Your chance to speak out

It’s never clear who politicians are talking about when they say “migrants”, but in most cases, they seem to be talking about asylum seekers and refugees, rather than migrants of the temporary kind, often referred to as expats.

Either way, border controls and controls within borders are changed by geo-political events and shifts in power and they can affect everyone on the move – some obviously more than others. Have you experienced a forced change in your circumstances due to a recent election? Do you have news of impending governmental changes that could affect the expat population where you live? Please do share any information you have below.

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