Indian doctors and other professionals in UK can breathe easy now. The London high court on Tuesday ruled against recent changes in the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme (HSMP).
It was not "open to the government to alter the terms and conditions upon which the pre-arranged stages were to be implemented," Judge Sir George Newman declared, while upholding a revision petition filed by the HSMP forum against the retrospective changes effected in November 2006. The judge noted, "The old scheme constituted an integrated and entire programme."
The HSMP Forum claims to represent 49,000 highly skilled workers, including doctors, engineers and technocrats, mostly Indian.
Under the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme, introduced in 2002, non-EU workers such as doctors, engineers and financiers were originally given UK entry for a year. They could apply for a two-year extension, then a further three years before applying for settlement.
This was judged according to qualifications, experience and earning ability. They were provisionally granted entry for a year, with eligibility for a two-year extension and then a further three years.
But in November 2006, the Home Office changed the rules by which anyone applying to extend their work visa would have to score points based on their education, salary and age.
The Forum argued that about 90% of those who came in on the HSMP rules before 2006 would have to leave the country. Speaking for the HSMP Forum, Michael Fordham QC told the high court the government had "moved the goalposts" for those previously admitted.
Apparently agreeing with him, the judge insisted that good administration and straightforward dealing with the public required the honouring of the original terms of the scheme.
Sir Newman added, "Not to restrain the impact of the changes would, in my judgement, give rise to conspicuous unfairness and an abuse of power."
Amit Kapadia, Executive Director of the HSMP Forum said that the judgement vindicated their belief that justice would prevail despite sustained "unfair" and "discriminatory" treatment by the Immigration Ministry.
The Home Office, though, is reported to be considering an appeal against the judgement.