A ruling by the Court of Appeal could benefit thousands of overseas professionals who have come to work in the UK under the controversial Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP).
The Department of Health (DoH) had said foreign doctors could only be considered for a training post if there was no suitable graduate from the UK or European Union.
The doctors were initially promised permanent residence after four years. However, this status was changed retrospectively by immigration minister Liam Byrne last year. This effectively put doctors who did not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK at the back of the queue for training posts.
Amit Kapadia, director of campaign group HSMP Forum, said the decision could benefit migrants in other professions such as accountancy and engineering.
“Employers will have to stop unlawfully applying such discriminatory rules of restricting HSMP holders from applying for permanent positions due to their limited leave to remain, and also because of the draconian extension rules introduced by the Home Office,” he said.
HSMP Forum estimates changes to the way HSMP visas are handed out could force up to 40,000 people to leave the UK.
Ram Moorthy, chairman of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee, said: “Doctors on the HSMP came to the UK in the honest expectation of careers in the NHS. The chaotic implementation of the new immigration rules left overseas doctors exposed to potential discrimination.”
The DoH guidance was challenged by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, which argued it was unfair to its members.
The group also appealed against a High Court ruling that the government did not have a legal duty to consult overseas doctors before tightening immigration rules last year. This appeal was unsuccessful.