(Representative photo)
(Representative photo)

Indians among key UK visa victims seeking change under Sajid Javid

On Wednesday, hundreds of Indian professionals – such as IT experts, teachers and solicitors – joined the third such public protest outside Parliament since January against what they called “inhumane” policies preventing their stay in the UK.
By Prasun Sonwalkar | London, Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON MAY 03, 2018 12:10 AM IST

At least three categories of Indians adversely affected by tough UK visa conditions – doctors, students and professionals – are hoping new home secretary Sajid Javid will undo “unjust” policies that were the focus of recent protests and legal action.

On Wednesday, hundreds of Indian professionals – such as IT experts, teachers and solicitors – joined the third such public protest outside Parliament since January against what they called “inhumane” policies preventing their stay in the UK.

The group is taking legal action against the Home Office for refusing indefinite stay on the ground they rectified their income tax returns.

The rectification, the group says, is allowed by tax authorities but the law allows officials to construe it as evidence of dishonest conduct, leading to their applications for indefinite stay being refused.

Aditi Bhardwaj, one of the protest’s organisers, said several MPs supported their cause: “Tax rectification is the main issue. We have all contributed taxes, many have been here for over a decade under the Tier I visa category, but now we are told that making changes in tax returns amounts to misconduct and a security threat.”

Elsewhere, nearly 100 doctors recruited in India to fill vacancies in the National Health Service (NHS) have been denied visas to travel to the UK to take up their jobs because the monthly quota for recruiting non-EU professionals was filled for the last three months.

The denial has become a major issue, with senior members of Prime Minster Theresa May’s cabinet reportedly in favour of lifting the quota for doctors and health professionals, but the move has reportedly been shot down by Downing Street.

On Wednesday, Jon Ashworth, the opposition Labour Party’s shadow health secretary, demanded that doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff be treated separately from other foreign skilled workers covered by the cap.

In a letter to Javid, Ashworth warned that denial of visas to Indian and other non-EU doctors showed “the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy is now directly damaging NHS patient care”.

There are also growing demands that Javid address the plight of thousands of Indian and other non-EU students deprived of their visas due to concerns of fraud at an English-language test centre uncovered by a BBC investigation in 2014.

May was the home secretary at the time, when many of the affected students were allegedly asked to leave the UK midway through their courses or deported. Thousands of genuine students who passed the same test were affected, when systemic cheating at some centres led to cancellation of their visas.

The NHS has been facing a severe staffing crisis, partly due to many EU professionals leaving because of uncertainties spawned by Brexit.

Chaand Nagpaul of the British Medical Association said: “Given that the government has recognised the importance of a long-term solution to address the current workforce crisis in the NHS, the suggestion that the prime minister has blocked requests that would enable overseas doctors to practice in the NHS is deeply concerning.”

However, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “It remains essential we have control of the immigration system and it works in the national interest. We are monitoring the situation in relation to visa applications for doctors, including the monthly limits through the Tier 2 visa route.

“Around one-third of all Tier 2 visas go to the NHS and investing in our workforce will continue to be a top priority.”

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