London: Thousands of Indians in the UK may get hit by a new law from next month under which they could be deported if their annual salary is below £35,000. The changes will affect professionals living and working in Britain on a Tier-2 visa who earn less than £35,000 a year at the end of five years of their stay in the country.
“The UK government changed the settlement rules in 2012 to break the link between coming to work in the UK and staying here permanently. We were clear that the new rules would apply to migrants who entered Tier-2 from 6 April 2011. Those individuals were aware when they entered that new settlement rules would apply to them," a Home Office statement said.
Indian professionals have formed the largest category of individuals issued such visas over the years.
According to the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS), of the 55,589 Tier-2 sponsored visa applications cleared in 2014-2015, nearly 78% were for Indians (31,058). The exact figure of those affected by the salary threshold requirements remains uncertain but it is estimated to be between 30,000 and 40,000 workers.
“London is my home, I have worked hard and built a life here with my family. We feel very let down by the system. Kicking out tax-paying people like us is not the answer to the immigration crisis," said an Indian marketing assistant, who moved here in November 2011 on a Tier-2 visa.
The visa is issued based on a “certificate of sponsorship" issued to UK-based firms to hire such professionals from outside the EU and allows them a maximum of six years’ stay. At the end of five years, these workers were able to apply for permanent residency or “Indefinite Leave to Remain" (ILR) in the UK. But from next month, those qualifying for ILR under the five-year category must also prove they earn at least £35,000 a year or face the prospect of a rejection, which means they would have to return to their home country or ultimately be deported if they refuse to leave voluntarily.
The other major groups employed under this category include Americans, Australians, Chinese and Japanese nationals. However, the government remains adamant that the changes are essential to tackle the country’s immigration problems.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “In the past it has been too easy for some businesses to bring in workers from overseas rather than to take the long-term decision to train our workforce here at home." “We need to do more to change that, which means reducing the demand for migrant labour. That is why we commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to provide advice on significantly reducing economic migration from outside the EU," the spokesperson said. PTI