The Australian government is expressing its concern about changes to UK visas expected to be implemented next year, which it says will force thousands of Australians working in Britain to leave the country.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has drawn up a report into the expected impact of the new policies, which will affect international transfers for companies and the right for workers’ spouses to find employment when they are in the UK.
The report was commissioned by Australia’s High Commissioner to UK Alexander Downer. It found that if the changes are implemented, around six in 10 UK businesses would be less likely to employ Australians.
The report said: “The UK’s visa changes are making this country a less welcoming destination for Australians. This potentially harms the UK’s image and reputation in Australia, and might even, in the long term, undermine the unique Australia-UK bond.”
The number of Australians migrating to the UK has seen a major fall since the turn of the century and the expected visa changes are likely to lead to even fewer Australians making the move. Between 1999 and 2011, the number fell by half to 26,000 a year and has dipped by a further 14 per cent in the past four years.
London Mayor Boris Johnson said he would speak to Prime Minister David Cameron about the importance of preserving the special relationship between the UK and Australia.
The mayor’s office said: “He believes that Commonwealth citizens should be given more freedom to contribute to London’s economy, culture and communities, particularly given the strong cultural connections between our countries.
“As a start, the Mayor has proposed an agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom that allows greater movement of skilled people between both countries in order to address skills shortages.”