Immigration lawyers representing major UK employers have written to immigration minister Liam Byrne expressing serious concerns about changes to the government’s Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP).
The Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA) said it was considering calling for a judicial review of this month’s Home Office decision.
The new HSMP criteria include a mandatory English language test and an earnings and age assessment. Highly skilled migrant workers without a degree from an accredited English-speaking university will also be automatically excluded.
But the revised standards could limit recruitment opportunities for UK businesses at a time when skills shortages are rife, the ILPA has warned.
Phillip Trott, partner, immigration and employment at law firm Bates Wells, and joint chair of the ILPA’s business and employment sub-committee, labelled the changes as “pathetic”.
“The regulations have been very poorly thought out and will be onerous for employers,” he told Personnel Today.
The government gave just 24 hours’ notice that the HSMP rules would be deleted and the programme suspended until 5 December.
“There was a legitimate expectation that the government would consult on the rules,” said Trott.
“The association is now considering whether the Home Office should be held to judicial review.”
Caron Pope, head of business immigration at law firm Reed Smith, said: “The [Home Office] has not taken employers’ considerations into account at all. This is going to cause huge issues in terms of recruitment and bureaucracy.”
The government has insisted that speaking English is vital.
Announcing the changes, Byrne said: “It is right that those who come to work in highly skilled jobs should be able to speak English, which is integral to labour market success.”