After doctors, other highly skilled professionals from India in Britain also face the prospect of returning home with the Home Office deciding to challenge a judicial review of recent changes in immigration rules.
Thousands of those affected by changes to the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme (HSMP) in November 2006 filed a judicial review application on Feb 6. Its admissibility is likely to be decided later this week.
<b1>In a letter to the Home Office, lawyers representing the HSMP Forum said: "There could be no greater unfairness than enticing people to come to the UK and to commit their future lives here for the benefit of the UK, only to change the rules under which they entered."
The Home Office responded to the notice by saying that the secretary of state would contest the judicial review, adding: "It is important that those who pass the test at the extension stage are those who will make 'the greatest contribution to the UK economy'."
The letter added that those in Britain under the HSMP would be entitled to a permanent settlement after completing the qualifying period, but that there was "no guarantee of this".
The November 2006 changes affected thousands of highly skilled professionals from India and other non-European Union countries. Other skilled professionals under the work permit category were also affected by changes made in April 2006 that raised the qualifying period of settlement from four to five years. Those affected under the work permit are also preparing to file a judicial review petition.
Amit Kapadia, a coordinator of the HSMP Forum, said: "The UK Home Office in order to make HSMP immigrants lives miserable in the country have been coming up with stringent new rules and expectations. It clearly shows their attitude to drive immigrants out of the country by making things very difficult.
"It is preposterous that a programme that was initially promised to be for settlement is being converted into just a moneymaking spree for the Home Office and immigrants are solely treated as cash machines and not human beings."
Kapadia added that the new points-based system (PBS) for the HSMP category stipulated the capacity to earn high salary and younger age. Many employers do not consider HSMP holders for permanent employment because their visa is for a limited period.
"People below 32 years don't get any points for age. This is contradictory to the fact that 80 percent of the HSMP holders in the UK have been above 28 years old at the time of entry into the programme and can't grow younger everyday. Also, the new PBS ignores any points for experience when most of the HSMP holders initially qualified for the programme because of their experience," Kapadia added.
In discussion boards and chat-rooms, those affected have been lamenting the changes and animatedly discussing the possibility of any relief from the judicial review. Several have already initiated plans to return home or to other countries.
Kapadia cited the instance of Prabhakar Rao from Mumbai who was employed with the UTI Bank and completed his post-graduation from a reputed British university and opted for the HSMP visa. But his extension was refused recently under the new rules. He is in Britain with his wife and a four-year-old daughter.
According to Rao: "We are in middle of a crisis. I could have continued my career in India but for the false promises made by the UK Home Office. Due to the new changes, all my plans got jeopardised."
Inayat Saiyed, an IT professional from Ahmedabad, said: "Due to the new rule changes, I was not able to call my wife and kids to join me in Britain. My family members back home are paranoid. I don't know what will happen to us. We are undergoing the worst phase of our lives."