Highly Skilled Migrant Programme Home Office u-turn adds to its woes

Further evidence of Home Office migration policy confusion has emerged with an apparent U-turn by the department on the controversial Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP).

Several HSMP visa holders facing ejection from the UK have been given stays of execution after the government admitted it gave out lots of wrong visas originally.

It has emerged that many skilled migrants were granted two-year HSMP visas, rather than the standard one-year visas, in the six months before tough new rules were introduced in November 2006. Now the Home Office is offering those on one-year visas an extra year before they have to qualify for an extension under the new rules.

One official letter seen by Personnel Today said: “Your application would normally fall for refusal. However, as we have identified that you were only granted one year’s entry clearance instead of two… we will be issuing you leave to remain until June 2008.”

Campaigners claimed the Home Office had been forced to backtrack over the rule changes it introduced a year ago because many migrants were winning tribunals against their extension refusals on human rights grounds.

Under the old-style HSMP, skilled foreign workers were supposed to be given a one-year visa, which they could extend for a further four years by proving economic activity in the UK. But since November 2006, HSMP visa holders have had to prove they earn above certain salary thresholds to qualify for renewal.

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