London, May 30: Nearly 1,000 professionals from India and elsewhere got a reprieve when the UK government agreed on Tuesday to review their applications for indefinite stay, which were earlier refused using a rule meant for terrorists and criminals.
The government also put on hold any deportations. The decision to review and put on hold applications that would have been turned down was communicated by home secretary Sajid Javid to Yvette Cooper, chair of the home affairs committee of Parliament, sending a wave of relief among many.
The issue has affected a large number of Indian professionals such as solicitors, doctors, chemists and teachers, and their families, who have demonstrated outside Parliament three times since January. Some of them have initiated legal action.
Although Rule 322(5) of the Immigration Act deals with criminals and those considered a threat to national security, it was invoked when applications for indefinite stay by Indian and other professionals showed errors in their income and tax declarations, or if they corrected returns.
Javid, who appeared before the committee earlier this month, wrote to Cooper: “I have asked the immigration minister to conduct a review of the cohort of cases who arrived under the Tier 1 General route and were refused due to discrepancies with their HMRC (tax) records.
“I can confirm that all applications potentially falling for refusal under the character and conduct provisions of paragraph 322(5) in the Tier 1 (General) ILR and 10-year Long Residency routes, where the applicant had previously been in the Tier 1 (General) route, have been put on hold pending the findings of the current review.”
As part of the review, Javid said the Home Office was also checking individual case records to identify any applicants who were removed from the UK after having been refused permanent stay under paragraph 322(5).
“We have identified 19 individuals who were refused indefinite leave to remain and subsequently made voluntary departures from the UK. One has since been issued with a visa to return to the UK, having applied under a different provision of the immigration rules,” he wrote.
Income discrepancies in applications to the Home Office and to the income tax authorities were construed as examples of dishonest conduct, and applications for indefinite stay by professionals under the Tier 1 (General) category were refused. Many were asked to leave Britain or face deportations.
Aditi Bhardwaj, one of the co-organisers of a campaign on this issue, welcomed the development and said: “We have not heard officially but were awaiting a response after we asked the select committee to raise a few questions for us. We will stage another protest on June 5.
“Other pressure groups are supporting us to stop the Home Office using this rule for applications from highly skilled professionals. I am happy things are taking this turn. I hope to see these migrants getting justice after at least two years.”
Commenting on Javid’s letter, Cooper said: “We’ve heard of a series of cases of highly skilled workers, employed in our public services and senior jobs legally for many years, now being told to leave apparently due to minor tax errors. So it is welcome that the home secretary is now reviewing all those cases and putting decisions on hold.” (Agencies)