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Changes in skilled labour rules scrapped, compensation now open

Compensation for thousands of highly skilled migrants open after High Court rules 2006 migrant rule changes unlawful 07 April 2009. In a major legal victory, nearly 10,000 non-European Union professionals, the majority of which Indian, will be able to claim compensation for hardship caused by the 2006 changes to immigration rules that were struck down by London’s High Court.

The court on Monday evening ruled that the changes to the rules, extending the number of years required for indefinite stay in the UK from four to five years under which they originally entered Britain, were unfair.

It is the second time in a year that the retrospective changes to the programme for the "brightest and best" migrants have been declared unfair and unlawful by the court.

In a jarring ruling, Justice Cox declared that the five-year rule imposed by the Home Office on people already in the country was unlawful.

"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 April 3, 2006, by reference to a qualifying period of five years’ continuous residence," she said.

The judgment directs British government to honour its original commitments made to participants of Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP), which is no longer in operation.

The ruling paves the way for the Indian and other non-EU professionals who entered the UK under the programme to claim compensation for the inconvenience and extra costs endured by having to wait an extra year before settlement.

The migrants suffered financial difficulties because of the inability to secure a competitive mortgage without indefinite leave to remain.

There was also a continuing lack of good employment or promotional opportunities, including an inability to travel potentially resulting in career setbacks, and the migrant’s children’s education would also have been more expensive.

In October 2008, HSMP Forum, a campaigning body, representing about 50,000 highly skilled migrants, mostly Indians, filed a Judicial Review application challenging the Home Office on changes to the terms of settlement.

Amit Kapadia of the forum said instead of addressing the issue of illegal and burdensome immigration, government has been penalising the legal and desirable section of Highly Skilled Migrants, who are making a valuable contribution to UK economy by offering requisite skills, paying all the taxes and at the same time not availing public funds.

Accepting the ruling, a Home Office spokesman said: "This case was about an old set of rules that have been swept away by our new points-based system. We believed we had fully implemented the previous judge’s findings relating to the changes we made to the HSMP in 2006.

"The high court took a different view and we accept its findings. We will now carefully consider the judgment before publishing our remedies."

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