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UK agrees to review HSMP changes

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Britain has agreed to review changes to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) that have affected a large number of skilled migrants who are currently working in the UK.

Immigration Minister for the United Kingdom, Liam Byrne, held a meeting with the HSMP Forum on 26 March 2007, a group formed to plead the case of affected HSMP visa holders. While he did not take any questions, he stated that he would "reflect" on the information he received at the meeting and the hardships imposed on those affected.

The changes, announced on 07 November 2006, affected how an applicant is scored based on criteria such as age, experience, and past earnings. Controversially, the changes would also be applied to those already living and working in the UK on an HSMP visa when they applied for an extension. If they could not score the requisite amount of points under the new system, they would not qualify and would have to leave the country unless they could move themselves to another immigration scheme.

Recently a New Zealand national who had applied for an HSMP extension under the new rules did not qualify for failure to meet the new earnings requirement. He appealed the refusal on grounds of a violation of his human rights grounds, and the appeal was granted. The Home Office is contesting the ruling.

The British Association for Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) recently won a concession from the Home Office via a lawsuit lodged through Bapio Action Ltd. - a group formed by BAPIO for the purpose of fighting a clause in the new HSMP guidance that would restrict certain overseas doctors from being eligible for interviews for some positions.

Among other odd changes recently to the HSMP, it is now required that the university from which a person graduates must submit an official letter from the institution that an undergraduate degree was taught in English. While the requirement seems sensible from universities that are located in countries where English is not necessarily the first language, the Home Office requires that foreigners obtain such a letter from universities located within the United Kingdom.

For example, a foreign national from Viet Nam who obtained an undergraduate degree from Oxford would require an official letter from the Oxford administration indicating that the degree had been taught in English; failure to do so will currently result in the visa application (or extension) being denied.

An estimated 16,000 migrant workers currently holding HSMP visas may be affected by the changes.


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