Britian Highly Skilled Migrant Programme: Making a case for a rethink

4 Comments » March 20th, 2007 posted by // Categories: General Articles



UK Revised Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP): Making a case for a rethink

By Dr Olayiwola
Ajileye and Dr Tonye Sikabofori

 

It is the prerogative
of any government to make laws that promote the welfare of their
citizenry, protect the collective interest of the people and support
their policies in various respective spheres of national life. Such is
the effort of the British government through the Home Office in
designing fit-for-purpose immigration rules and updating its contents
to accommodate the changing realities of time. In recent times, the
emphasis has been on illegal immigration in the UK and how to manage
effectively the consequences without jeopardising the interest of the
British government in their efforts in respect of Managed Migration of
Skilled productive workforce. The government is doing a fantastic job
in difficult circumstances in this respect

 

Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP)

The HSMP is one of
these policies of the Labour government designed to achieve this novel
objectives, to encourage legal migration. This system has helped to
attract skilled, law abiding and professional workforce from all over
the globe (particularly from the sub-continents of India and Africa) to
the UK to support the system where there are skill gaps.

 

However, recent revised HSMP immigration rule which took effect on the 8th
of November, 2006 has raised a lot of moral and objective concerns as
to the plans and intention of the British government for these crops of
highly skilled professional, who are now living in the UK. Many cases
have gone to courts for many reasons in respect of this revised rule.

 

From 8th of
November, 2006, in order to extend your leave to remain in the UK after
you have been granted 1-2 years (depending on when you initially
applied) of living and perhaps, working in the UK under the HSMP, an
applicant will require minimum of 75 points aggregate spread over a
number of what is known as point scoring criteria. You will have to pay
£335 to have your documents assessed. The new system gives emphasis to
your education, previous earnings over a period of one year, age,
experience in the UK and English language proficiency.

 

Large proportion of
these points is allocated to your education and previous earnings where
maximum points of 30 and 45 respectively are allocated. Bearing in mind
that in order to be eligible for an extension, you need a minimum of 75
points under the new system. One cannot but wonder whether this is a
realistically attainable point for majority of HSMP holders applying
for an extension of their further leave to remain (FLTR).

  

Journey to a far Country: Analysis and Concerns

Let us not forget some
basic characteristics of any single HSMP holder. Firstly, these are
people who have left their highly paid jobs and careers in their
respective countries based on the information given by the HSMP
guideline.

Secondly, these are
people who have been made to sign that once they migrate they have
chosen to make UK their home and are not encouraged to be out of the
country for more than 90 days at any one time. After 4-5 years of
living and working in the UK, the system promises that they will be
entitled to permanent resident status.

 

Thirdly, these are
people who have left their families and friends, to perhaps relocate to
a strange country with their dependants.

 

Fourthly, these are
migrants who have arrived in the UK with no guaranteed job or any
official system of support other than their hard earned cash, God-given
skills and possibly mother luck to restart a new life from the scratch
with the hope that the traditional British hospitality would be
accorded them to settle in and become productive for the system as they
once were in their respective countries of origin.

 

In order to integrate
into the system, some of these people need to retrain, go to school,
and invest on learning new appropriate skills that puts them in a
competitive stead in the British labour market.

 

Narrowing the Goal Post: Revised HSMP Immigration Rule

Looking at the revised
HSMP rule, it appears that in addition to all these challenges facing
these people, the new rule is by far the greatest barrier to their
settling down and integration in order to achieve the lofty objectives
they have set for themselves and also in order to meet the aspirations
of the UK government in designing such a laudable programme. I suppose
the pertinent question would be how on earth could this constitute a
barrier?

 

The above questions
can best be answered by simple illustration of the practical issues
tied to this extension of leave to remain and also the experiences of
vast majority of HSMP holders who have applied for an extension
unsuccessfully based on this revised rule or its controversial
retrospective implementation.

 

If we focus on the
Previous Earning point scoring criteria for example; to earn the full
45 points, the new rule expects an HSMP holder to have earned £40,000+
in the previous one year. Bearing in mind that you need a minimum score
of 75 points to qualify, then one can only wonder aloud how realistic
is it for a migrant with just one year of living experience in the UK
as an HSMP holder with no pre-arranged job attain an annual income of
£40,000+! According to the UK National Statistic data, for the tax year
ending 5th April 2006 the median gross annual income for
full time employees for both sexes in 2006 was £23,600 and £22,900
in 2005 (First Release: 2006 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/ashe1006.pdf).

 

The question one would like to ask the government or the proponent of this revised rule is:

·        What is the annual income of a Senior Science Teacher in the British Schools?

·        What is the annual income of a Senior Nurse or Biomedical Scientist in the NHS?

·        What is the annual income of a Hospital Manager or Bank operatives, Accountant or Senior Lecturer in the University?

·        What is the annual income of a chartered physiotherapist or pharmacist in the UK?

 

If these professionals
with high level of individual skills have to put in minimum of 10-15
years of meritorious service in the UK to attain this annual income
bracket, how realistic or attainable therefore, can it be for an HSMP
holder with roughly one year UK job experience?

 

If these professionals
cannot earn this much, should the proponent of the revised HSMP rule be
demanding such an unattainable, and unrealistic earning criteria across
board from the HSMP people?

 

Is it morally right
therefore on the part of the government to base an extension of LTR on
these criteria for the very people the system should be seeking ways
and means of supporting towards settling down and integrating in the
economic affairs of the country, bearing in mind that they have no
recourse to public fund?

 

If on that basis,
their application failed, what consequences does this have on them
considering that they have left their careers and jobs in their
countries and migrated to the UK with their family? Their existing LTR
will simply run out and legal migrants by default become illegal
migrants, with no prospect of jobs or consequent job losses and all its
attendant psychosocial consequences.

 

If these criteria were
to be applied to the entire workforce in the UK, or a cross section of
the senior workforce, how many of them would meet up with these set
standards? It would be very difficult to have 20% of the workforce in
the UK in a salary bracket of >£40,000. Yet people who manage to
earn one third or half of this are deemed productive economically by
any standard of the world and credit is accorded to them in what they
do. Why is it not the same for the HSMP holders? Why set an
unattainable earning standard when infact very few jobs pay that much
in the UK labour market in which the HSMP holder will be competing?

 

It is unfair to define
immigrants’ engagement in economic activities by their annual income
earned over their first year of arrival in their adopted home. For
example, a pharmacist with HSMP status would have to spend the first
one and half years upon arrival in the UK, studying in the University
to gain registration as a practitioner and the same goes for a medical
doctor regardless of your level of experience. In the meantime, their
economic activities would consist of any jobs to make ends meet and pay
their ways through their education and retraining programme.

 

There is no way they
can then earn enough to merit 45 points or meet up to 75 points
required for extension of stay as HSMP holders. Lets be realistic and
humane about this, all their investment in their career is what will
yield the economic productivity on a longer term as desired by the
British government.

 

Failed Applications: No more Room in the Inn

Without being too
analytical, based on the above illustrations one would argue for a
rethink by the British government about the whole concept of Managed
Migration under the revised HSMP scheme.

 

Is it really an unfair
system to set unattainable points criteria for continued stay in the
country when people have resigned their jobs in their country? Should
the government be taking responsibility for ruined careers and
aspirations of HSMP people whose bid to extend has failed recently? If
they have once been pronounced highly skilled under the UK immigration
rule, is it not a case of double standard on the part of the government
to now pronounce them unskilled or unqualified once they have migrated
because there have no jobs for them to take up or there no jobs that
can offer them what the new rule expect them to earn.

 

Obviously, people’s
income will vary regardless of qualifications, in view of that, is it
then fair to generalise that all applicants for extension should score
75 points, with 45 points forming substantial chunk of the points
system?

 

One would think that
if there are no criminal records of any sort, the government should
allow the HSMP holder the time and space to settle in, find a job,
integrate in the system and support them to achieve their maximum
potential.

 

With all due respect,
the British government reserves the right to review their law anytime,
however, in this particular instance of the revised HSMP rule, without
a shadow of doubt, it makes migrants feel targeted and as if they are
set up to fail. It also calls to question the intention and genuineness
of the government about the HSMP scheme. Are they really welcome or is
there a policy shift to force them out without taking responsibility
for their woes? Or is it a case of diminished return on the part of the
government having let in so many more than the system can accommodate?
If the latter is the case, then should the government not be thinking
of terminating the programme altogether, abolish the law in the best
interest of prospective applicants and allow those who are already in
the country or who have been granted the status but not yet in the
country, the time and space to find their feet and achieve their
maximum potential?

 

Disclaimer

This article is not at
all an attempt to castigate, malign or unduly criticise the good
intention of the British government through the Home Office activities
in making Britain a better place for all. It is intended to stimulate a
debate on the revised HSMP rule in the light of growing numbers of
failed applicants who have petitioned the Prime Minister (www.petitions.pm.gov.uk/HSMPDoctors)
and have understandably developed very reactionary negative opinions of
the fairness of British system, ways of life and hospitality.

 

 

Conclusion

Our honest view is
that Britain should go the way of Australia, USA and Canada’s managed
migration system by tightening the initial qualifying criteria, using
realistic and objective standards and allowing people who made it to
carry on with their livelihood with no recourse to public fund, in the
best way they know without having to be subjected to periodic
assessment based on unattainable criteria.

 

HSMP holder wants to
work, they are not lazy bunch, if they are given the chance, they will
prove it, if indeed they possess the right skill. If not, it is a
matter of natural law that the unskilled would fall by the way side.

 

The challenge should
be thrown open for them without putting difficult barriers which
further causes psychological disorganisation and hopelessness. This is
what the Home Office need to know!

 

Dr Ajileye and Dr Sikabofori are Psychiatrists, writes from West Midlands

sikabs@yahoo.com

 

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4 Responses to “Britian Highly Skilled Migrant Programme: Making a case for a rethink”

  1. BISMARK says:

    This is a brilliant piece. Well done DOCS. Keep up the fight. We are behind you.

  2. ray says:

    yes, fantastic. to add one more point –
    when we first applied, we had to prove ‘significant contribution’ in the field and got marks for it. Now we got marks for being under 32. How can we expect somebody who contributed significantly four years ago was below 28 years of age?? The criteria contradict each other.

  3. KT says:

    The home office has already overdone this.You have really rightly raised the questions.But does the sense prevail?It’s so uncharacteristic of the govt to be so uncivil in their attittude this time.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Good contributions here is more.

    Some rules regulations of switching visa require people to travel from UK back to the country of origin and lodge an application from there. This is unfair, expensive, disruptive and environmentally unacceptable especially if one has been staying in UK for sometimes e.g. more than two years.

    1. In the first place all the recent necessary documentation and evidence would be UK based. It is much more difficult/cumbersome to gather all your evidence in UK and then submit it in your country.

    2. This would disrupt the activities that the person is already involved in here such as the job, accommodation etc. Many employers may not give you time and wait until your visa problems are solved.

    3. In this wake of carbon footprints and emissions this is not environmentally friendly at all. It could be avoided with a decision made here in UK.

    4. If one has the necessary requirements it

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