HSMP Forum’s Press Release

UK Government’s unfair retrospective changes victimise skilled migrants

Dt – 5th April 2011 

 

A new set of controversial retrospective changes is going to be applied from 6th April 2011 to migrants coming from Non-European countries which will deprive them of their right to settlement after fulfilling the rules under which they entered the country. Campaign organisation the “HSMP Forum” wrote to the Immigration Minister Damian Green[1] earlier urging him for a rethink on the proposed changes but the government is adamant on disqualifying migrants. This move has come after the Government’s own Migration Advisory Committee was reluctant to suggest retrospective changes for migrants already in the UK[2].

In the past migrants had to show economic activity for the period of their residency and stay clear of criminal convictions in order to be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR / settlement / permanent residency). The new changes from 6th April 2011 now requires skilled migrants on HSMP / tier 1 and work permit / tier 2 visas to fulfil an income requirement which needs them to show the same salary as drawn during their last extension. Due to the current recession, many migrants accepted salary cuts in order to keep their jobs. While some who have been working consistently in a highly skilled position for four and a half years were made redundant a few months before their eligibility for ILR. The changes also introduce a new criminality threshold which requires migrants to be clear of unspent convictions such as driving offences with a court fine. The new rules state that anyone who is applying for Settlement must not have any unspent convictions. As per the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, it takes five years for even a fine to be a spent conviction.  

Tier 2 and work permit holders used to qualify for indefinite leave to remain when they completed a residency period and remained employed by their immigration sponsor. The government from 6th April is expecting them to meet an income requirement assigned to their particular job title by the Codes of Practice (for sponsored skilled workers) to qualify for indefinite leave to remain. The current rates of salary defined by the codes of practice are comparatively much higher than the salaries mentioned in the work permits when approved by the Home Office.  

Migrants who do not qualify for their ILR will be forced to leave the country or in some cases will have to obtain further visa extensions. Delay in settlement can lead to innumerable hardships, as it affects tier 1 and tier 2 migrants’ job prospects, career progress and overall their future plans as employers and mortgagers prefer individuals with permanent residency. Tier 1 and Tier 2 dependants aspiring to study in universities will be eligible for tuition fees of a home student if holding an ILR, which is comparatively much lesser than they would pay as overseas student. 

Amit Kapadia, Executive Director of the HSMP Forum said, “The changes will cause undeniable hardship. The government’s approach is not only unfair but is both short sighted and heavy-handed. The government should stop targeting the very people who are required by Britain. Such changes will give a wrong picture to migrants and investors that even after they fulfil the rules, they would not be treated fairly. It will discourage investors and skilled migrants from coming to Britain. We urge the government to review the changes urgently and exempt existing Tier 1 & Tier 2 migrants from these changes.”  

These changes have real consequences for real people as the examples below show: 

Ravi Kumar Oruganti, an IT consultant who came from India in 2007 and is currently on a Tier 1 visa, was convicted of a traffic offence in February 2011 with 5 points and a fine after hitting a lamppost. Although he was eligible for ILR in a year’s time, he would no longer be eligible under the new rules. Mr Oruganti says “I am very depressed by these new changes being applied retrospectively. I strongly feel it’s unfair to change the rules for existing migrants. It causes great misery and uncertainty to hard working people like me who contribute so much to the UK economy but live in the constant fear of last minute changes.” 

Mr John Paul is from Uganda and he used to work under the United Nations High Commission. He left his established career and uprooted his family and believed that they would be able to permanently settle in the UK. Mr Paul was working as a teacher for the local council and successfully obtained further visa extension. He said, “After the recession hit UK, we lost our teaching jobs as the local councils decided to scrap off the temporary teachers.” Although he has managed to stay economically active, he would not be able to show the same salary as his last job and therefore would not qualify under the new rules for settlement. 

Mr Fawwad Khawaja came from Pakistan in 2007 and had to take up a second job to ensure he earned the required income criteria to obtain his HSMP extension. Due to the recession he now has only 1 job and cannot fulfil the same salary criteria as his last visa extension. He said “I and my family are undergoing extreme stress and mental torture due to these changes. We were promised that after getting the extension we had to stay economically active to be eligible for ILR. But now these changes have crippled us financially, morally and emotionally and it only seems to get worse.” 

Rajiv Jain came from India on a work permit in May 2006, he is an IT manager. He was expecting to get his indefinite leave in a few days’ time but not anymore. Mr Jain said “the right to work was issued by the Home Office at a certain specified salary per annum and in the current economic climate I cannot get a big salary increment. Since I am on a work permit I do not have much flexibility to change jobs either. At a time when people are losing jobs and accepting pay cuts, people like me are being asked for an unreasonable amount of salary increase to qualify for settlement. When the work permit was issued there was no Codes of Practice comparison and the salary mentioned was approved by home office. It is very unfair to be asked to earn as per the new rules now. I have paid my taxes regularly and after working for so long, we will be unfairly uprooted from here. It feels like home office officially allowed our employers to take advantage of us.”  

Mr Praveen Maan, a Digital Strategist, is worried about his future. He says “I cannot plan my future even after meeting extension requirements after 3 years of stay and proven capabilities.” 

Mr James Varghese completed his MBA from a top ranked UK university and is on a Tier 1 visa, says “I am a business person, however, I cannot make any big commitments in the country as long as I have visa restrictions. Even for commercial or residential mortgages, banks are not favouring people with visa restrictions. The government has new plans to attract the wealthy investors. However, if the government’s rules are going to change so often, even they might re-consider investing here.”

Nirmala Neerukonda who is from India and a dependant of a Tier 1 migrant said, “It is unfair to deny settlement for the whole family just because a person has one minor driving offence conviction.”

Notes for the editor;

Website – www.hsmpforum.org / www.hsmpforumltd.com

Media Contact - Amit Kapadia # 07830374629, 02087373623 ,

                          email - info@hsmpforum.org / amit@hsmpforumltd.com

The HSMP Forum took its name from the UK's ‘Highly Skilled Migrant Programme’ which was introduced in 2002.  HSMP Forum represents immigrants coming from non-European Union countries and as well those settled here and campaigns on various immigration issues, it represents people of all nationalities and cultures. It is an immigrant support organisation and campaigns for immigrants cause. The organisation's aim is to support and assist immigrants under the world-renowned British principles of fair-play, equality and justice and believes in challenging any unfair policies which undermines migrants’ interests.


[2] p.226, "Limits on Migration", Migration Advisory Committee report.

 

 

 
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