Immigration lawyers representing major UK employers have called an emergency meeting today to discuss changes to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP), Personnel Today has learned.
Immigration minister Liam Byrne gave just 24 hours notice last week that the HSMP rules would be deleted and that the programme would be suspended for 27 days.
The new criteria, a pilot for the points-based system, includes a mandatory English language test and an earning and age assessment. Highly skilled migrant workers should also demonstrate participation in a recognised MBA course at an English speaking university.
But members of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA) have expressed major concerns that the additional regulations would be "time consuming" and "onerous" for employers.
Caron Pope, head of business immigration at Reed Smith UK law firm and an ILPA member said: "They [the Home Office] have not taken employer's considerations into account at all. This is going to cause huge issues in terms of recruitment and bureaucracy."
Pope said she was highly surprised by the limited timescale."Immigration lawyers cannot understand why the government has not given a grace period for applications. The rug has been pulled from under our feet," she said.
Phillip Trott, partner, immigration and employment at Bates Wells law firm and joint chair of the ILPA business and employment sub-committee, said: "There was no consultation at all and the new criteria is shabby and poorly thought-out."
The CBI, however, supported the announcement.
CBI deputy director-general John Cridland said: "Employers want to see a streamlined and transparent points-based migration system that will attract highly-skilled migrants to the UK for the benefit of the economy."
Byrne said speaking English was an "integral" part of the UK labour market.