HSMP Forum’s Press Release

            Economic Downturn and harsh Immigration Rules       

Dt – 22nd January 2009

In the present economic downturn migrants in the UK are subjected to further victimization by the UK government. Hardworking skilled migrants who have left their careers, uprooted their families and come to the UK to contribute to the economy are now left in the lurch. The economic downturn and recession have caused major turmoil for businesses and consequently unemployment has affected one and all. This has led to highly skilled migrants finding themselves in unforeseen difficult circumstances due to surprise redundancies and bankruptcies in business sectors across the board.

A number of well-known companies have gone into liquidation in the last few months and every economic indication is that many other reputable companies are headed for similar dire straits as reports of major job cuts are now an almost daily occurrence.  Reports from various professional bodies forecast more difficulty ahead with clear indications of frozen remuneration packages, wage cuts and further job losses. Under these circumstances, particularly migrants from outside the European Union are the first to face such salary cuts and redundancies.

In order to obtain extensions to their visas, those on Home Office's new Tier 1 immigration category must demonstrate a high level of income during their stay in the UK. The government unfortunately does not take into account the current credit crunch and the effect it has had on migrants. Some migrants are falling foul of the visa extension criteria due to economic factors entirely outside of their control. The government should offer some concession to skilled migrants in the UK from the unrealistically stringent extension criteria which does not take into consideration the present economic crisis.   

Amit Kapadia, Executive Director of the HSMP Forum said “The (UK) Government needs to realize the ground realities and should not blindly subject skilled migrants to the existing visa extension rules as this would be unfair considering the present economic circumstances. Highly Skilled Migrants on Tier 1 visas and particularly those who need to obtain a points-based extension, are finding it extremely difficult to obtain their further extensions due to the present stringent rules which does not take into consideration the current economic downturn and the resulting difficulties faced by hardworking migrants. To avoid further penalising the migrants it will be only fair if those immigration rules are somewhat relaxed by acknowledging the difficulties that migrants are undergoing in the present economic climate. The credit crunch affects everyone from natural born citizen to immigrant.” 

The government intends to introduce further harsh rules in the upcoming Immigration and Citizenship Bill. There are indications that this new Citizenship bill will be applied retrospectively to migrants who are in the UK already while the government has the mandate to change the law as required to changing times and apply such laws to new immigrants, changes in law cannot and should not be applied retrospectively. The Home Office has already wasted tax payers money by fighting and losing a Judicial Review in the High Court pertaining to a previous attempt to implement retrospective immigration legislation. The new bill seeks to penalize migrants by forcing them to spend additional time to obtain their indefinite leave to remain (ILR) and citizenship, by introducing a new “Probationary Citizenship” programme. Economic migrants from outside the EU are not allowed to claim public money or benefit as part of their visa condition on entering the UK. Notwithstanding this, the intention is to force migrants to pay extra “local impact” taxes and to do community service in addition to their already extant contribution to PAYE tax, national insurance and council tax.

Amit Kapadia replies: “We feel that it is important to remember that this new legislation is to be applied to Highly Skilled Migrants, not casual, temporary or unskilled labour. The profile of our members is that of a professional with at least a university degree, typically working as doctors, nurses, architects, accountants or consultants. Quite simply, they cannot even enter the UK if they do not have a degree and a professional job with the commensurate high level of income demanded by the new points-based system. How would the Home Office expect that a doctor, working long hours as it is in a high-pressure career, would be able to find the time to do additional community service over and above the already excellent health care that the many foreign national doctors in the UK provide to the NHS?”

The government implemented similar retrospective changes to law in 2006 by extending the ILR qualifying criteria from 4 years to 5 years and also changing the extension criteria for Highly Skilled Migrants who were already in the UK. These retrospective changes were successfully challenged in the High Court by the HSMP Forum. However, the Home Office has failed to implement the High Court's judgement fully and to restore justice to highly skilled migrants. This has forced the HSMP Forum to file yet another case in the High Court to make the Home Office adhere to the terms of the original judgement which is scheduled to be heard on 13th March 2009.  Already, many highly skilled migrants have successfully won their appeals in immigration tribunals against the home office’s decision to apply the new rules retrospectively by refusing ILR applications after 4 years of legitimate stay. It seems that at a time of record government spending in an economic recession, the Home Office is recklessly engaged in fighting further expensive legal battles with tax payers' money rather than to abide by the lawful original decision of the court and take heed of numerous independent immigration tribunal judgements.

Dr Ramnik Mathur, a training pediatrician who recently won his appeal in the immigration tribunal said: “My wife, a General Practitioner, and I gave up our careers and settled life in our home country when the UK Government promised that we would be given settlement after 4 years of qualifying stay in the UK. As a result of this promise we established our careers, bought properties and made investments in Britain. But when we applied for settlement after 4 years we were refused and instead my family and I were asked to leave the country or face deportation. We have been paying taxes, national insurance and made a significant contribution to the UK, but even so we were unfairly treated in having to leave the country.”

 
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