Highly-skilled migrants fiddled tax returns to stay using Tier 1

Highly-skilled migrants are being refused settlement in the UK after they fiddled their self-employed earnings in order to stay, not because they made small mistakes on their tax returns.

In a letter to MPs, the immigration minister said that 249 out of 281 cases reviewed found the Tier 1 (General) applicant had “exaggerated” their earnings to HMRC by more than £10,000.

Caroline Noakes wrote that the likely reason the migrants amended their tax records was so they could score enough points under the system to stay in Britain. If not, it was to evade tax.

“In either scenario, their character and conduct is such that their applications [to obtain leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain] should not be granted,”  she said.

There was no word in Ms Noakes' letter about Sidharth Vijay (not his real name), a freelance computer programmer whose case has been championed by a Liberal Democrat lord.

However, “many of the individual cases which have been raised” by politicians “fall into this pattern” -- manipulating earnings with HMRC to match what they told the Home Office.   

Earnings is one of only three factors which Tier 1 considers, but the vast majority of the migrants had PAYE earnings which were “much lower than they needed”.

So they “topped these up with claimed earnings from self-employment,” added the minister, referring to HMRC’s initial records showing them to have either low or no freelance income.  

“Applicants have made amendments so that their HMRC records match what they claimed in their Tier 1 applications,” the MPs were told.

“In 241 cases, the amendments were made more than three years after the initial submission to HMRC, with the majority looking to amend their records within one year of making a further application to the Home Office.”

When given the chance to comment, most of the migrants (of those reviewed so far) gave no explanation, other than to say that it must be down to errors by their accountants.

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