In a major policy change, Britain has decided to allow thousands of Indian professionals, who left the UK after being adversely affected by the November 2006 changes to immigration rules, to return and work in Britain.
Over 5,000 highly skilled migrants, most of them Indians, left Britain following the changes that were challenged in the High Court. The court ruled on April 8 this year that the November 2006 changes could not be applied retrospectively.
Amit Kapadia, executive director of the HSMP Forum that successfully led the legal challenge, told PTI: "We are happy to have fulfilled our commitment in ensuring those affected by the November 2006 illegal changes are able to return back to UK with due honour.
"Even the time they spent in their home country after the changes would be counted towards the settlement criteria on their return to UK."
He said the forum will closely monitor the implementation of the court's judgement and would work with officials to ensure that all affected professionals were treated with respect and dignity in restoring their status as highly skilled migrants in the UK.
Kapadia added that the government's positive decision announced on Thursday was a "great achievement" in the context of new measures being implemented to curb immigration from outside the European Union.
Thousands of Indian professionals had to leave Britain since they did not qualify under the new criteria introduced in November 2006.
Many who applied for extension to stay were refused, and were instead served deportation orders. Many more chose not to apply since they could not meet the new criteria, and returned home.
All such Indian and other non-EU professionals would now be allowed to return to Britain and continue under the criteria under which they first entered as part of the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme.
Moreover, such professionals who now apply to return to Britain will not have to pay application fees to process their papers.
"The new policy guidance covers not only migrants who were approved before November 7, 2006, but also those who were refused extension under the unlawful rules, including those migrants who did not apply for extension and migrants who have either switched immigration categories to more restrictive visa regimes or left the UK as a result," Kapadia said.
Following the April 8 judgement, the HSMP Forum wrote to the Border and Immigration Agency to ensure that various categories of affected migrants were given their HSMP status back, including those who left the country.
Camillus Osubor, head of Policy & Resources, HSMP Forum, said: "HSMP Forum would continue to support and assist migrants under the world-renowned British principles of fair-play, equality and justice and we would continue to challenge any such policies which undermine migrants' interests."
The November 2006 changes to immigration rules were opposed by MPs across the political spectrum and leaders of industry.
The HSMP Forum organised public protests against the changes, and offered support to professionals who were adversely affected.
The Indian high commission and visiting ministers, including Commerce minister Kamal Nath had taken up the issue with the British government.