Highly skilled migrants could claim compensation over law changes

Up to 10,000 highly skilled migrants may be eligible for compensation after the High Court ruled that changes to the rules under which they originally entered the UK were unfair.

It is the second time the court has ruled that the changes which occurred in 2006 – forcing highly skilled migrants to wait five instead of four years to settle permanently in the UK – were unlawful. An estimated 10,000 migrants are likely to be affected by the ruling, which the Home Office said it will not challenge.

At the High Court yesterday, Judge Cox said the changes were still unfair and the court must intervene. She said: “It would be unlawful for the [home secretary] to withhold indefinite leave to remain from all those members of the highly skilled migrant programme who were already on the scheme before 3 April 2006, by reference to a qualifying period of five years’ continuous residence.”

Last April, the High Court ruled that changes made by immigration minister Liam Byrne in November 2006 were unfair because they meant foreign workers already in the UK under the programme were effectively required to reapply under the tougher rules. At the time, campaigners estimated this could have affected 40,000 migrants.

The Highly Skilled Migrant Programme forum, which brought the initial challenge against the government, remained unsatisfied that the changes were fair, and went to the High Court again.

Amit Kapadia, executive director of forum, described yesterday’s ruling as a “landmark victory”.

“The Home Office’s continued attempts to apply policies that cannot withstand legal scrutiny suggests that there is a dearth of skilled policy makers and ministers,” he said in a statement.

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