Those placed under this section are deemed as "a threat to national security".
Labour MP Seema Malhotra is calling for the UK government to consider how immigration policies treat highly skilled immigrants. She believes they are treated unfairly and face numerous issues regarding their visas.
She wants Parliament to open up debates on this matter, leading to an investigation into the Home Office.
Seema aired her thoughts whilst joining a protest outside the Houses of Parliament. Held on 21st February 2018, it was formed by the Highly Skilled Migrants Group who are increasing their efforts to tackle immigration policies.
These individuals work in the UK on Tier 1 visas and have applied for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). However, the Home Office has turned down their applications due to either mistakes or inconsistencies in their tax returns.
As a result, they received rejection letters which categorise them under paragraph 322(5) of the Immigration Rules. Those placed under this section are deemed as “a threat to national security” – a term usually reserved for criminals and terrorists.
With this categorisation, this could lead to negative consequences for the recipients of these letters. Protestors believe it will affect all their future visas if they decide to work in different countries as they would have to declare the paragraph.
In addition, there is an inconsistency between what the letter allows migrants to do. Some only had a timeframe of 14 days to leave, while others could stay in the UK but not allowed to work. Only a handful could appeal the rejection and still work.
Protestors also say they had to hand over their passports to Home Office whilst waiting for decisions on their applications. The wait for either an approval or rejection can take years – meaning they are without a vital document for a long period of time.
This prevented them from travelling overseas, whether for personal or business purposes.
Seema told Times of India how the current immigration policies are impacting hugely on highly-skilled individuals. She said:
“There has to be an investigation into why they are using 322 (5). It should not be used in this way destroying people’s livelihood, affecting their reputation and their ability to travel.
“There are ways of dealing with mistakes on a tax return but this rule should not be used in this way. I am going to call for a debate in Parliament about this.”
Fellow MPs Tanmanjeet Dhesi and Alison Thewliss also back the protest. It began after a comment made by Diane Abbott, Shadow Home Secretary. On 21st February, she said:
“The NHS crisis is caused by Tory cuts. One of its features is a huge shortage of doctors, nurses and other workers. And yet this government turns doctors away, in a failed effort to meet its net migration target.”
However, a spokesperson for the Home Office explained: “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.
“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.”
Despite the Home Office’s words, many highly skilled migrants are likely to not accept this explanation. With many feeling undeservedly denied the chance to work and live in the UK, we may see more protests about this issue in the future.