Back on 6 April 2011 the UK Border Agency made a change to the settlement rules for work permit holders who had entered the UK before the Points Based System was introduced. The change required a work permit holder to be paid a certain salary in order to qualify for settlement, or Indefinite Leave to Remain. The salary required is that specified in the myriad Codes of Practice for Tier 2 of the Points Based System.
The problem since faced by many work permit holder seeking settlement after five years of living and working in the UK is that their work permit was approved for one salary, which is what they have as a consequence been paid by their employer, but suddenly, with no individual warning, that salary level is no longer sufficient and the work permit holder neither qualifies for settlement nor for an extension under Tier 2.
An announcement recently went up on the UK Border Agency website that as of 31 October 2011, work permit holders will not only need to be paid the Code of Practice salary but will need to submit certain specified documents in order to demonstrate this. Previously certification by the employer was sufficient, but no longer.
The 6 April change was clearly an unfair one in the moral sense – the rules of the game were changed without notification. Foreign workers have a potentially difficult relationship with their employer in any event, and negotiating a rise in salary might well have been difficult even had they known one was needed. However, in immigration law it is very difficult to succeed on the basis of a legitimate expectation or a fairness argument. The courts have repeatedly held that there is no legitimate expectation that the Immigration Rules will remain the same (see Odelola for example). Cases that have succeeded, like the HSMP and BAPIO challenges, were based on specific assurances that the rules would remain the same, assurances that are not normally given. I have myself struggled to come up with a robust legal solution for those facing this problem. Article 8 ECHR is the best I can offer, but I would be interested to hear if anyone has done better.
Those work permit holders coming to the end of their five years and considering applying for settlement would be well advised to make sure they have checked they are paid in accordance with the relevant Code of Practice.