Immigration minister Liam Byrne rules out any changes on Highly Skilled Migrant Programme amendments

Immigration minister Liam Byrne has broken his silence over controversial changes to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP)  – and has ruled out a U-turn.

Byrne told Personnel Today that he would not backtrack on amendments to the programme, describing them as a “dry run” for the forthcoming points-based system.

Campaign group the HSMP Forum had been chasing the minister for a decision since he promised in March to “review and reflect on” the changes.

But Byrne said: “I make no apology for tightening the rules. What I said to the forum was quite clear – we will review the way the changes were introduced so we can learn the lessons for when we bring in the new points-based system.”

The forum claims that up to 40,000 migrants who entered under the previous programme could be forced out of the country because they have to reapply for their visas after one year. Employment success is crucial to gaining an extension.

But Byrne said: “I do not believe you can be a highly skilled migrant if you have been in the UK for a year without a job. This was a dry run for the points-based system, and we wanted to test some of the changes.

“We will reflect on the lessons learned so we can get the points system right in the new year.”

The Australian-style points system will manage migration into the UK through five tiers from early 2008.

The result of a judicial review into changes to the programme is still pending.

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