Court ruling on UK immigration rules prompts emergency action from UKBA

The UK Home Office announced immigration rule changes after a recent supreme court ruling threatened to render illegal thousands of decisions made under the UK's skilled migrant programme.

The supreme court declared that recent changes to the UK Border Agency's points-based system of skilled migration, visitor's visas and family migration rules were unlawful because they had not been directly approved by parliament.

The ruling also said that changes to lists of shortage occupations, salary and skill levels, and advertising requirements had been set out in codes of practice that had not been laid before parliament and so could not be relied on by UKBA to refuse work permits or visa applications.

The Home Office reacted to the ruling by announcing that they were issuing a statement of immigration rule changes, before parliament on 19 July to come into force by 20 July, "in order to safeguard their lawful operation".

Home Office ministers said the immediate rule changes means that the position has not changed for those currently making applications for visitor, skilled migrant or family visas. Guidance is to be issued shortly on visa applications that were refused under the previous rules. This could involve cases that date back to 2008.

"The changes will not affect the way we consider applications. They support our ongoing work to simplify the immigration system and ensure that existing policy and guidance is transferred into the Immigration Rules where necessary," the Home Office said.

The issues came about from a legal appeal made by a Pakistani man who was granted a work visa in February 2005 to work as a physiotherapy assistant. When he went to renew the visa in February 2009 he was denied a new visa on the grounds that his job was insufficiently skilled. However, his lawyers argued that the list of skilled occupations drawn up by the Home Office was not part of the Immigration Rules because it had never been laid before Parliament. The appeal was then unanimously upheld by five Supreme Court judges.

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