London: The UK government has defended its controversial decision to deny residency rights to hundreds of highly skilled professionals, including Indians, who made legally acceptable amendments to their tax records, claiming the applicants caught up in the visa row are guilty of misconduct.
Following a long-drawn campaign by the Highly Skilled Migrants Group, the UK Home Office had opened a review into Tier 1 (General) visa cases involving teachers, doctors, lawyers and engineers from countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh being refused indefinite leave to remain (ILR) under a national security clause.
At the conclusion of the first phase of the review, UK minister for immigration Caroline Nokes reported in a letter to the House of Commons’ influential Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) that her department’s decision to refuse applications under Paragraph 322(5) of the UK’s immigration rules due to a discrepancy in reported earnings had been “correct”.
The letter, however, also acknowledged that the review had thrown up 38 cases of Home Office refusals being overturned and allowed on appeal.
“Although the earnings issues were considered on appeal, the majority were overturned solely on human rights grounds rather than because of decision-making errors relating to earnings,” Nokes said.
The Highly Skilled Migrants Group expressed shock at the minister’s attempt to downplay this figure, where applicants won their appeals in at least 38 instances a figure expected to go up once the review into the remaining 1,671 cases is completed in the next few weeks.
“It just proves our point about Paragraph 322(5) being used disproportionately,” said Aditi Bhardwaj, coordinator of the group, which has been lobbying ministers through major protests outside the UK Parliament since early this year.
“The very fact that these appeals are being allowed on human rights grounds should hopefully prevent the future disproportionate use of this clause and prevent applicants having to challenge Home Office decisions in court,” Bhardwaj said.
“It does show they (Home Office) were making mistakes. This should tell them that at the very least not to refuse people where there are serious human rights grounds, such as family ties in the UK and young children involved,” Bhardwaj said.
Nokes confirms in her letter to HASC that the outstanding Tier 1 (General) visa decisions remain on hold pending the outcome of the review, holding out hope for the protesters that Paragraph 322(5) may be used in a “fairer” manner in future Home Office decisions for these applicants.