The Home Office has told a British Canary Wharf computer expert that he should move to China and live with his PhD-studying girlfriend’s family in Shanghai, after rejecting her visa application.
Robert Evans, 30, from Aberdeen met his girlfriend, Lisa Li, 31, from Shanghai, whilst studying for a master’s degree in computer science at the University of Edinburgh eight years ago.
Today, Li is completing a PhD at the University of York, whilst Evans is a vice-president at Citi in Canary Wharf.
However, the couple’s future in the UK is now up in the air, after the Home Office rejected Li’s application for an “unmarried partner” visa, after an eight month long wait, on the grounds that the couple do not live together – even after Li’s father, a factory owner from the Chinese city of Wenzhou, put down a deposit for the couple to buy a flat together in Canary Wharf.
‘Best and brightest’
The decision comes after UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said the UK would be “ready to welcome the best and brightest global talent,” as she outlined her vision for the UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy.
After Evans appealed the decision, on the grounds that it would deprive him of his right to family life under the European Convention of Human Rights, the Home Office suggested Evans should simply move to China and live with his partner’s family.
The recommendation comes as non-Chinese nationals living in the UK remain banned from China, due to Covid-19.
Now, Li is simply hoping to renew her student visa. Speaking to City AM, the Home Office said Li should be able to remain in the country whilst she launches her appeal. However, Evans said the appeal process is now hindering Li’s efforts to renew her student visa.
The dilemma comes as Li’s original student visa has now expired, meaning she risks becoming an “overstayer” if she withdraws her appeal against the Home Office’s decision.
The expiry of Li’s student visa came as the couple waited eight months to hear back from the Home Office, for the completion of a process that was supposed to take just eight weeks.
Speaking to City A.M., Evans said that withdrawing the appeal would also undermine Li’s eligibility for indefinite leave to remain, which would require her to legally reside in the UK for a continuous ten year period. As of today, Li has lived in Britain for eight years continuously.
The bureaucratic nightmare comes as the couple have already paid thousands of pounds in fees to the Home Office. The process of applying for a new student visa will cost thousands of pounds more, Evans said.
“We feel we’ve been treated very unreasonably by the Home Office, and paying more to them would be galling to say the least,” Evans said to City AM. “If the rules are stacked against you, there’s nothing you can do about it.”