Actuaries are in a good position to meet the relevant immigration criteria of many popular migrant destinations, says Tim McMahon. But in todays increasingly global employment market, actuarial professionals who want to take advantage of overseas opportunities need to be aware of frequently changing immigration rules
With employment opportunities growing worldwide, actuaries wishing to work overseas should keep up to speed with immigration regulations in various destinations. Here is a look at how things work in Australia, Canada and the UK, and how this impacts on actuaries.
Actuarial professionals looking to move to Australia for work should be aware of the option to secure permanent residence and not rely on an employer-sponsored visa.
In the last few years, the Australian government has reduced the numbers of occupations that are eligible for skilled independent migration and instead are moving to steer their migration programme towards employer sponsored visas. This allows an applicant to work for a specific employer in a specific position. But here's the rub - it does not readily allow an applicant to move from one employer to another, or indeed, even to switch positions with the same employer. In effect, the applicant is 'tied' to the sponsoring employer and position.
Despite the reduction in the number of occupations on the skilled occupation list - the role of 'actuary' is still present for skilled independent migration. The main entry requirement is a relevant degree and at least one year of work experience.
Importantly, professional actuarial exams or membership of a professional actuarial body are not mandatory to migrate to Australia under the nominated occupation of 'actuary'. So this can include actuarial graduates, part-qualified actuaries or fully qualified actuaries.
Before one can apply for skilled independent migration, an applicant must have received a positive skills assessment and meet the basic entry requirements on age and English language. The skills assessment remains a vitally important and time-consuming part of the process for actuaries. This involves an assessment of the applicant's qualifications and work experience. Once the skills assessment is passed, the next stage is to apply for permanent residence through the skilled independent subclass. This is a points-tested system, with the main points awarded shown in the table on page 37.
Getting full marks
The required pass mark to attain for an application is 60 points.
Applicants can also be awarded extra points for: Australian qualifications, Australian employment experience, state/territory sponsorship, partner skills, or sponsorship by an eligible relative living in Australia.
The main advantage to skilled independent migration is that it allows the applicant to secure full permanent residence at the outset without needing an offer of employment.
It can be seen that many actuaries (including those not fully qualified with a professional actuarial body) will score highly on this points test providing a pathway to permanent residence in Australia.
The overall timeframe to secure permanent residence is about 6-9 months.
Obviously, occupations are present on the skilled occupation list for Australia due to a recognised demand. Therefore, actuaries can be confident that their inclusion on the list means very good employment prospects 'Down Under'.
In January 2015, Canada launched its 'express entry' system to select immigrants.
Express entry involves applicants submitting an electronic profile form to be considered under the main immigration programmes such as that for federal skilled workers. Applicants are ranked according to a points-based system called the comprehensive ranking system. Points are awarded using the information in the applicant's profile relating to age, education, language ability in English/French and employment history. Additional points are awarded for an offer of employment in Canada.
Regular selections are made from the system, inviting the highest ranked applicants to then apply for permanent residence. Such a permanent residence application has to be submitted within 60 days.
Actuaries are included on the Canadian national occupational classification and are eligible to apply under the express entry system. Although it is too early to review its merits, the system certainly seems to be meeting one key goal - the process to secure permanent residence is now much quicker than before.
UK immigration changes
May 2015 saw the election of a new Conservative majority government with its pledge to reduce net migration. While the focus now seems to be more on low-skilled EU migration, it should be remembered that in April 2011, an annual cap of 20,700 Tier 2 (general) visas was introduced. The cap created an annual limit on the number of workers that UK employers could sponsor to come from overseas.
However, this annual cap has not resulted in anyone being denied entry to the UK since it was introduced. This is because many applicants are not subject to the cap, such as:
? UK university graduates on student visas
? High earners
? Those in the UK on a current work visa
? Those coming to the UK on an intra-company transfer visa
The 20,700 available places are issued on a monthly allocation (as certificates of sponsorship) but demand has not yet exceeded the available places, so the cap has never been reached. Indeed, most months see a rollover of available places to the next month.
However, while the new government has pledged to continue the annual cap - it is important to note that in recent months the demand for available places has been increasing, month-on-month. So, for instance in May 2015 there were 2,277 granted out of 2,285 allocations available.
Once demand exceeds supply, the available places are allocated on a points system. This point system has not yet been relevant but as demand for overseas workers increases with the growing economy, it could soon be very important.
The points system is heavily biased towards offered salary, meaning that, in time, those who are paid more will get priority in the allocation. This gives an advantage to actuaries and other finance professionals who typically would be paid more than other sponsored workers in sectors such as healthcare, education and others.
UK employers can be confident that actuaries can continue to be sponsored for Tier 2 (general) visas within the annual cap.
Some other UK visa options include:
? Tier 5 (youth mobility scheme)
Citizens of the following countries are eligible for this two-year visa: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Monaco, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. Applicants must be between 18 and 30 (so not have reached their 31st birthday) when they apply.
It is not possible to switch from this visa to another work visa category while in the UK. The applicant would need to return to their home country to submit a fresh application.
? Ancestral visas
If you have a UK-born grandparent and you are a citizen of a Commonwealth country such as Australia or Canada, then this visa can allow you to work in the UK and later to obtain settlement. The visa is issued for five years. A sponsoring employer is not required and the visa holder has freedom to work on a self-employed or employed basis.
? European Union (EU) nationals and spouses
Although EU nationals do not require a visa to work in the UK, their non-EU spouses do.
This includes those who are married or in a civil partner/unmarried partner relationship with an EU national.