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Thanks for publishing the news item “Foreign doctors win High Court challenge over training places.”1 Thousands of migrants who came to the UK in good faith on the highly skilled migrant programme (HSMP) introduced in 2002 suffered because of changes introduced midway. As a qualified clinical epidemiologist, I had an excellent position abroad but migrated to the UK in 2002 under the scheme because of various ties with the UK. I declared the UK my main home and invested my life savings in the country. I was welcomed with open arms by NHS colleagues. When my application was approved, government documents and communications led me to believe that I could apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after four years.
ILR provides a sense of security and certain privileges. When the first highly skilled migrants were close to applying for ILR, the government retrospectively lengthened the qualifying period to five years. This affected many migrants' plans. I had to pay an extra £15000 (€20900; $31000) in university fees for three years. Fees for many applications to the Home Office increased steeply. Many of us travel to meetings and conferences and travel continued to be expensive and difficult as visas were needed for mainland Europe. We felt betrayed and let down by the system.
A joint parliamentary committee concluded that these changes were “not compatible with the right to respect for home and family life under Article 8 ECHR and contrary to basic notions of fairness.” It recommended that the changes should apply prospectively, and that those already granted leave to remain under HSMP should be treated according to the previous rules.2 Now highly skilled migrants experienced the benevolence of the UK system.
This ruling means that HSMP doctors will not be disadvantaged when applying for training positions. The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) should be commended for representing the cause of HSMP doctors in UK courts. On behalf of thousands of highly skilled migrants who have made the UK their permanent home and who work hard and perform their civic duties, I appeal to the UK government to be fair and not to cause enormous misery and hardship by changing the rules of the game midway.
Competing interests: I have been both personally and financially severely disadvantaged due to the changes introduced midway through the scheme while I was on the HSMP visa.