New immigration rules to hit Indian professionals in UK

London: Several Indian professionals will be adversely affected by Britain`s new immigration rules that come into effect from Wednesday as part of the David Cameron government`s efforts to reduce migration from non-European Union countries.

The new immigration regime includes tighter rules for students, limits on skilled professionals and new restrictions on the settlement of migrants who are already in Britain.

The HSMP Forum, a campaign group espousing the cause of Indian and other non-EU migrants, today said the new restrictions on migrants already in Britain will cause considerable problems for Indian and other non-EU professionals.

Indian professionals already in Britain will face retrospective changes to their visa status from tomorrow, including a higher level of salary necessary for their continuing stay, and the stipulation that any application for settlement should be free of any convictions, including fines for driving offences imposed by a court.

Ravi Kumar Oruganti, an IT consultant who moved to Britain in 2007, was convicted for traffic offence in February 2011 and a court fine after he accidentally hit a lamppost.

Although he was eligible for settlement (indefinite leave to remain), in a year`s time, he would no longer be eligible under the new rules.

Oruganti said, "According to the new rules, I will not qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain until 2016 because the unspent conviction falls within the criminality threshold. I am very much depressed by these new changes, which are being applied retrospectively.

"I strongly feel it is unfair to change the rules for existing migrants. It causes great misery and uncertainty to hard working people like me who contribute so much to the UK economy yet live in the constant fear of a last minute change."

The HSMP Forum wrote to Immigration Minister Damian Green earlier urging him for a rethink on the proposed changes.

The Forum said the changes were announced even though the government`s own Migration Advisory Committee was reluctant to suggest retrospective changes for migrants already in the UK.

The Forum said that applying the rules retrospectively meant that many migrants coming from India and other non-EU countries will be deprived of their right to settlement even after fulfilling the rules under which they entered the country.

Under earlier rules, Indian and non-EU professionals qualified for settlement when they completed a residency period and remained employed by their immigration sponsor.

However, from tomorrow, the government will expect them to meet an income requirement assigned to their particular job title by the Codes of Practice (for sponsored skilled workers) to qualify for the `indefinite leave to remain` status.

The current rates of salary defined by the codes of practice are comparatively much higher than the salaries mentioned in the work permits approved by the Home Office at the time.

Amit Kapadia, executive director of the HSMP Forum said, "The changes will cause undeniable hardship. The government?s approach is not only unfair but is both short sighted and heavy-handed. The government should stop targeting the very people who are required by Britain."

He added, "Such changes will give a wrong picture to migrants and investors that even after they fulfil the rules, they would not be treated fairly. It will discourage investors and skilled migrants from coming to Britain.

"We urge the government to review the changes urgently and exempt existing Tier 1 and Tier 2 migrants from these changes."