Fresh immigration questions for May over NHS visas

By Greg Heffer, Political Reporter
Fresh questions have been raised about the Prime Minister's immigration stance after it was reported Theresa May ignored pleas to relax visa rules for foreign doctors.
Amid the continuing fallout from the Windrush scandal, Mrs May was claimed to have rebuffed Cabinet ministers' requests to lift the annual limit of Tier 2 visas for high skilled workers.Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Amber Rudd, who resigned as home secretary on Sunday, were reported by the Evening Standard to have urged Downing Street to raise the quota for special cases, such as NHS doctors.Business Secretary Greg Clark was also said to have pressed for less stringent limits for some workers.A Whitehall source told the newspaper the Prime Minister "absolutely refused to budge" when asked to lift the limit in recent months.It was later reported Ms Rudd had unsuccessfully called for foreign doctors to be excluded altogether from Tier 2 visa restrictions.
Fresh immigration questions for May over NHS visas

Ex-home secretary Amber Rudd 'called for foreign doctors to be excluded altogether'
Last week, health chiefs went public with their concerns that limits on the number of visas issued to doctors outside the European Economic Area are contributing to rota gaps and delays in patients receiving NHS care.The Prime Minister's official spokesman defended the Tier 2 visa system on Tuesday."It remains essential that we have control in our immigration system and it works in the national interest," he said."We are monitoring the situation in relation to visa applications for doctors, including the monthly limits through the Tier 2 visa route."Around one third of all Tier 2 places go to the NHS and investing in our workforce will continue to be a top priority."Responding to the reports Mrs May rejected pleas from Cabinet ministers to relax visa rules for foreign doctors, Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: "It makes no sense whatsoever that the Government is turning away trained doctors who want to come and work here in the UK.
Fresh immigration questions for May over NHS visas

NHS chiefs went public with shortage concerns last week
"Theresa May's hostile environment policy is now directly damaging NHS patient care."He added: "The visa rules clearly aren't working in the best interests of NHS patients."Ministers ought to be doing more to keep patients safe and their priority should be making sure hospitals can get the right numbers of staff in place."
On Monday, the Prime Minister saw her new Home Secretary Sajid Javid distance himself from her as he disowned the phrase "hostile environment" in relation to Government promises to deal with illegal immigration.The phrase was notably used by Mrs May during her six-year spell in charge of the Home Office, between 2010-2016, with the policy it encapsulated blamed for current immigration problems suffered by Windrush generation citizens.Mr Javid instead used the phrase "compliant environment" but Downing Street played down suggestions of a split."The new Home Secretary said it is right that we have a compliant environment and the Prime Minister absolutely agrees with that," Mrs May's spokesman said.
Fresh immigration questions for May over NHS visas

Sajid Javid disowns PM's 'hostile environment'
Further scrutiny of the Prime Minister's time at the Home Office also came on Tuesday when it was claimed the department may have falsely accused as many as 7,000 foreign students of faking their proficiency in English and ordered them to leave the UK.The Financial Times highlighted concerns about the impact of Mrs May's response to 2014 allegations of systemic cheating at some colleges offering English proficiency tests needed to meet visa requirements.As a result, US-based company Educational Testing Services was asked to analyse voice files to discover if candidates had used someone else to sit the test for them.The analysis identified 33,725 invalid results and 22,694 questionable results, but the newspaper reported that when this was checked with a human follow-up, the computer had been correct in only 80% of cases.This meant close to 7,000 students could have had their visa denied in error.The Home Office insisted "a number of steps" were taken to ensure the invalid results were robust, including the use of an independent expert who concluded the number of false matches from the processes would be very small.The department also pointed to courts consistently finding in their favour that evidence for invalid cases is enough to act on and creates a reasonable suspicion of fraud, with individuals entitled to challenge decisions.A Home Office spokesperson said: "In February 2014, investigations into the abuse of English language testing revealed systemic cheating, which was indicative of large scale organised fraud.
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"The Government took immediate robust action on this, which has been measured and proportionate, and so far 21 people have received criminal convictions for their role in this deception."There is no limit on the number of genuine international students who can come to study in the UK, nor is there any intention to impose one."
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