Experts warn government against appealing HSMP verdict

Immigration experts have told the government to accept defeat on changes to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) and concentrate on getting its new points-based system right.

The High Court last week ruled that the Home Office acted unlawfully when retrospectively applying changes to the HSMP in November 2006 to those who entered the UK before that date. Campaigners claimed that more than 40,000 migrants working as doctors, engineers and IT experts could have been forced out of the country.

However, despite a judge turning down the Home Office’s request for an appeal, immigration minister Liam Byrne remained defiant and said he was considering filing for one.

But Ansar Ali, senior solicitor at law firm DWF, said Byrne should move on: “The government should draw a line under this matter and focus on clarity in the new points-based system. It needs to consider what it is introducing when phasing in the tiers, to make sure there is no room for a legal challenge. And if the government is considering any retrospective rules, it needs to examine carefully what impact they would have.”

The ill-fated changes to the HSMP were a precursor to the government’s much-heralded points-based system, being phased in throughout this year.

Campaigners celebrated victory outside the court last week. A judge ruled that HSMP permit-holders who entered the UK before November 2006 should have their renewal requests assessed under the old rules. Those who gained HSMP visas under the new rules are not affected.

Amit Kapadia, director at HSMP Forum, which brought the legal action, told Personnel Today: “The government might continue its obsession with the changes and try to go to the Court of Appeal. But this will just cause more embarrassment.”

The Home Office said it was right for a judge to examine the case and it would now decide whether to appeal against the ruling.

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