Thousands of skilled foreign workers and their employers were holding their breath last Friday as a judicial review of controversial changes to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) finally began at the High Court.
Before the hearing, campaigners insisted they were confident the judge would rule that ‘retrospective’ changes made in November 2006 were unlawful.
The government last year brought in tougher criteria for eligibility for HSMP visas, introducing minimum salary thresholds for renewals, disregarding previous UK work experience, and scrapping priority points for much-needed professionals such as doctors.
Up to 40,000 immigrants who were granted HSMP visas before that date have been forced to re-apply for their visas under the stricter rules. Many have been made to leave the country because they could not meet the new criteria.
Amit Kapadia, director of campaign group HSMP Forum, told Personnel Today: “Our lawyers are very confident that we will get a positive result. We hope the judge will say that all HSMP holders who entered before November 2006 have a legitimate expectation to remain in this country under the rules they came here on.”
Campaigners have long complained that people gave up promising careers and home lives in their native countries to move to the UK on the promise of permanent settlement.
HSMP Forum committee member Mohammed Khalid Javed said: “Britain acted like a salesman globally to bring highly skilled migrants to the UK with promises of permanent settlement. When the time came to honour that commitment, it backtracked.”
London mayor Ken Livingstone, the Conservative Party, the Commission for Racial Equality and the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), have all spoken out against the changes.
But last week, the government maintained that it had done nothing wrong. A Home Office statement seen by Personnel Today said: “We do not accept the JCHR’s recommendations. We put in place substantial transitional arrangements to enable those who were making a skilled contribution to the UK to remain here.”