Friday, December 09, 2011

Google Accent

I tried the Google App voice search for the first time after installing it a year ago.
I searched for something more recent, something the world talks about, so I tried, "Libya oppression".

The result was "lesbian operation".

Fine, it's my accent. So I cleared my throat and pressed the microphone icon again, I spoke up "li-bi-ya o-preh-shen", this time in a clearer and slower voice.

The result was "legion operation".

Tried again, it was "Libya operation".

Ah..getting there. So I tried again, it was, "Beautiful person".

"Beautiful person" from "Libya oppression"

I gave up in the end, knowing that I will never get there. Or was Google actually telling me these are the outcomes of the Libya oppression? I doubt it's as intuitive as that yet, but who knows.

A moment of realisation, I resorted to typing them out in the search bar and got 2.87 million results in 0.20 seconds.

Monday, December 05, 2011


Today I received my Biometric Residence Permit which means I am in the last leg of my stay before being granted an indefinite leave to remain in the UK - or commonly known as a PR. Okay I am already counting the chicken before the eggs hatch. I am assuming I am still around for the next two years; gainfully employed and not tainted by a criminal record.

Immigration rules have certainly changed a lot in the span of four years. I first started with the International Graduate Scheme (IGS) which gave me the opportunity to work here for a year after Cambridge. Six months later, the IGS was scrapped and replaced by the Tier 1 - Post Study Work Visa. The switch was to facilitate the points-based system. The T1-PSW does the same thing as the IGS, except that it is valid for two years.

After a year with the IGS, I applied to be a highly-skilled migrant. I applied to this new form of visa, known as the Tier 1- General, also a points-based system, to remain in the country. At the time engineers were a great commodity. There weren't enough of people like us in the country. We were in the list of skills shortage group. T1G was easily available to almost anyone with the right qualification, age, salary, skills and some money in the bank. As long as you fulfil these criteria, you're in.
Biometric Residence Permit

Things have changed a lot today. Apart from the application fee increasing from £750 four years ago to £1000 today, the T1G is now abolished. The Biometric Residence Permit (basically like the MyKad) is also a new invention to replace the vignette stamp in the passport. The only way to come into the UK is through a Tier 2 route which requires you to be in the skills shortage list and an employer who is willing to support your application. Yes, lots of odds stacked against newcomers.

Tier 1 is now only for the rich or super-smart. As long as you have £1mil in cold hard cash, or exceptionally talented (such as some award winning mad scientist), you're in. That too is based on a quota. Because I neither have £1mil in cold hard cash nor a noble prize to prove my exceptional talent (running a marathon, blogging and youtube videos don't count!) I wouldn't have gotten a visa if I applied one from Malaysia today!

The skills shortage list now suggest that my type of engineering profession is no longer needed in the country. But we're not alone. We join other professionals such as pharmacists, biology teachers and musicians. Doctors have been banned long time ago. The doors are closed, at least for newcomers in these sectors. Those who are in might have to follow new rules.

Recently the government was embroiled in a bit of an action with regards to border controls. The moribund economy further exacerbated feelings of xenophobia among jobless British people. Whenever statistics of unemployment are published, immigrants are to blame for "taking jobs" from the locals. Some politicians find it a great opportunity to make popular decisions to the detriment of immigrants in the country. One report suggested that the government will want to break the link between staying for five years and automatic conversion to PR. In the proposal, immigrants will now have to cross the threshold earning of £35,000 in order to become a PR. Anyone earning less will have to leave.

Imagine the disruption to businesses. But that's an example of what I meant by politicians "making popular decisions to the detriment of immigrants..." and may I add...businesses as well.

It's been a cracking five years witnessing the ups and downs of the immigration rules in this country. After going through so many hoops and considering how difficult it is for others to come in now, I am beginning to think if I should ever leave in the near term or even at all.