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Indian Professionals Stage Visa Protest In London

The Tier 1 (General) visa, meant for highly skilled professionals who needed a minimum point score to qualify, was shut by Theresa May in 2011, when she was home secretary.

LONDON – Indian doctors, IT engineers, teachers and other skilled professionals in the UK joined a demonstration against the Home Office outside Downing Street on Tuesday, protesting against the problems they face on their continued stay in a visa category closed in 2011.

The Tier 1 (General) visa, meant for highly skilled professionals who needed a minimum point score to qualify, was shut by Theresa May in 2011, when she was home secretary. Professionals from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and other countries were also present at the demonstration.

Aditi Bhardwaj, one of the organisers of the protest, told Hindustan Times that the future of hundreds of Indian professionals and their families was uncertain after they spent nearly a decade in Britain, contributing taxes and skills the country needed.

“These are people who have spent over a decade here, working in highly reputed professions, many of which have serious employee shortages. They have devoted their professional lives contributing to the growth of Great Britain,” she said.

“They have made the UK their home, bought properties, invested in businesses. They all are law-abiding citizens. None have been convicted of any criminal offence.”

Apart from inordinate delays in processing applications for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), the professionals allegedly face refusal on grounds such as rectification of tax returns being considered evidence that their “character and conduct” is undesirable.

Bhardwaj said: “Skilled migrants with excellent educational and professional skills are being refused ILR on the ground of ‘tax error rectification’ because of small errors they have made in their tax returns in the past, which they have long ago rectified and paid off.

“Tax error rectification is not illegal or unlawful anywhere in the world, and not even in the UK Financial Act, 2007.”

The protestors also said that the policies of the Home Office towards them were discriminatory, hostile and inhumane.

Overall, nearly 600 non-EU professionals were said to be affected, with more likely to come forward with their cases in the near future.

Some of those affected had applied for a judicial review of the rules being applied to them, but Bhardwaj said they were yet to get a date when it would be heard. Seeking such a review affects a migrant’s right to work, which imposed further constraints.

However, a Home Office spokesperson said: “We aim to resolve all visa applications as quickly as possible and we continue to meet service standards for straightforward applications.

“It is vital, however, that the correct decisions are made, particularly with complex tier-1 applications that require detailed consideration and verification of evidence with HMRC (tax authorities). These robust checks are essential to avoid the potential abuse of our immigration or tax system. Where such abuse is identified, we will act accordingly.”

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