Home Office response fails to calm immigration lawyers’ unease over migrant rules


Immigration lawyers representing major employers are “bitterly disappointed” with the Home Office response to concerns raised over changes to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP).

The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA) wrote to immigration minister Liam Byrne last month (Personnel Today, 21 November) to express serious doubts over the revised programme.

The association said the changes were “morally wrong” and would damage the UK’s ability to compete globally by deterring highly skilled migrants from applying to work here.

The new criteria automatically exclude overseas workers with a Masters degree from any university not included on a pre-set list, and include a mandatory English language test and earnings and age assessments.

Chris Randall, co-chair of ILPA and an immigration solicitor at law firm Bates Wells & Braithwaite, said: “The Home Office has changed the rules and created distrust. It could make the UK much less attractive for migrant workers.”

Randall said that he hoped to meet with Home Office officials to discuss the matter further.

“There will be some interesting legal arguments and we can certainly challenge parts of the policy,” he said.

Chris Magrath, head of immigration and employment at law firm Magrath & Co and a member of ILPA, said the minister had refused to address important issues.

“It’s an irritation and an inconvenience for employers,” he said, adding that entrepreneurs, such as Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates, would be prevented from working in the UK under the new regulations.

In a letter to ILPA, Byrne said he could “understand the concerns raised”, but the changes would make the programme more “robust against abuse”.

“I am satisfied that these changes strike the correct balance between the need to address the concerns of HSMP applicants with the need to carry out policies that are in the interests of the UK,” said Byrne.

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