The hostile environment continues to be felt by migrants who call the UK their home. The most recent group to be affected are Highly Skilled Migrants. The Guardian reported over the weekend that up to 1,000 highly skilled migrants are facing removal from the UK following the refusal of their applications for indefinite leave to remain.
There is a common theme amongst these applications and that is that the applicant has often submitted a revised tax return to HMRC prior to the submission of the application for indefinite leave to remain. In spite of HMRC not imposing any penalities on the applicant, the Home Office takes the view that a revised tax return is evidence of wrongdoing; either the applicant has inflated their income to facilitate an earlier immigration application, or they have under declared their income to reduce tax liablity. This appears to be the sole basis for the Home Office’s refusal of these applications, even where the applicants have provided an explanation for the earlier error in their tax declaration.
The grounds for refusal of the application for indefinite leave to remain are generally the same across the board; immigration rule 322 is routinely cited by the Home Office when refusing these applications. This discretionary ground for refusal gives the Home Office the power to refuse an application where it is undesirable to permit a person to remain in the UK in light of their conduct, character or associations or the fact that they represent a threat to national security.
The consequences of a refusal for the migrants are very serious. Following the reduction in appeal rights in the Immigration Act 2014, a Highly Skilled Migrant is no longer able to appeal against the refusal of their application which provides for scrutiny by an independent judge. Instead they are left with an administrative review which essentially is asking the Home Office to reconsider their original decision and accept that they made a mistake. It is questionable whether an administrative review provides an effective remedy to anyone seeking to challenge the Home Office, as can be seen from the quality of the decision making witnessed by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration in his post implementation review in 2016.
When an administrative review is refused, the applicant is left with no leave to remain. This means that they cannot work, rent a property, drive a car or hold a bank account. Every aspect of their lives is affected. Many will have spouses and children who have spent many years living in the UK as the applicant’s dependant, and are also feeling the impact. Some are business owners who make a positive contribution to the economy by employing staff and providing essential services, all of which is in jeopardy. For most, the only remedy is to pursue a judicial review of the Home Office’s decision, but this is a costly process which many are unable to afford given they have lost the right to work in the UK. As a result of the hostile environment many will be forced to leave the UK, their jobs and lives they have established without being able to properly challenge the Home Office decision.