Entrepreneurs from Turkey who have set up businesses in the UK under rights provided through the European Communities Association Agreement (ECAA, commonly known as the Ankara Agreement) have won a high court bid to challenge the Home Office’s overnight decision to change their settlement requirements and to apply the changes retrospectively to existing visa holders.

Until 16 March 2018, Turkish business owners were able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after four years within the Ankara Agreement visa scheme, without paying an application fee.(1) Following a sudden rule change, more onerous requirements for ILR were introduced (five years of residence, an application fee of £2,389 per person, as well as passing language and culture tests).(2) This means a family of four now has to pay nearly £10,000 in application fees in order to obtain ILR.

At a permission hearing held on 27 November 2018 at the Royal Courts of Justice, the Alliance of Turkish Businesspeople (AOTB) – a not-for-profit campaigning group representing the 12,500 Turkish nationals (3) affected by the changes – were given the go-ahead for a full judicial review hearing by a judge sitting in the high court in London.

The Honourable Mrs Justice Yip granted the group’s legal challenge permission on the ground that the policy changes were arguably in breach of the legitimate expectations of those Turkish entrepreneurs who already held leave under the Ankara Agreement scheme.

A full substantive hearing of the group’s judicial review against the Home Office is now expected to be heard in London on a date to be fixed. A crowdfunding campaign is ongoing to cover legal costs.

Leni Candan, founder of the AOTB, said:

"We are very pleased to get permission to proceed with our legal challenge. The Home Office acted unlawfully in imposing these new rules on us after we’d already entered the Ankara Agreement scheme, and we want to see this issue resolved soon.”

Yaşar Doğan of Redstone Solicitors who’s representing the AOTB, said: “These policy changes are in breach of the legitimate expectations of those affected. A considerable number of Turkish nationals had subscribed to the scheme with the expectation that they would qualify for settlement once they had completed four years’ residence in the UK. With this expectation, some of them sold their businesses in Turkey, some sold their homes; others gave up their established careers or attractive alternative prospects. The sudden policy change which was introduced at midnight with immediate effect has defeated their said legitimate expectations.”

“While we will now wait for a date to be fixed for the substantive hearing, we will still keep the doors open for an out-of-court resolution, with the hope that the Home Office will not want to spend taxpayers’ money on litigating a case in which they are clearly wrong.”

Alliance of Turkish Businesspeople LTD is a registered limited by guarantee company in England and Wales. Company Number: 11368987