An Australian family who made their home in the Highlands were last night facing deportation from the UK despite a series of last-minute appeals that they be allowed to stay.
Kathryn and Gregg Brain, who moved to Dingwall with their son Lachlan in 2011, had until midnight to satisfy visa requirements after being given a two-month extension in May.
What I would like is for an employer to come forward and take Kathryn on to enable us to get a permit and be able to stay on in ScotlandGregg Brain
With the deadline approaching yesterday, the SNP accused of the Home Office of an “unacceptable snub” to Scotland amid claims international students at a number of English universities are to be offered the post-study work visa denied to Mrs Brain.
Meanwhile, actor Tom Conti said he would provide money to ensure the Brains maintain a minimum balance in their bank account in order to meet visa requirements. He accused the Home Office of acting like the “Soviet Union” over the matter.
The family moved to Scotland on Mrs Brain’s student visa five years ago, but a two-year post-study visa scheme then on offer was later withdrawn by the UK Government.
In order for the family to stay, Mrs Brain must now secure a skilled job, paying a minimum of £20,800 per year.
A potential job opportunity at a local distillery has already fallen through because it did not meet the visa requirements.
Mr Brain said: “At this stage we are still very much hoping that an employer will come forward and we’ll be able to continue moving towards a tier two visa application.
“Of course, what I’d really like is for the Home Office to give us what they promised when we moved here in the first place - a two-year visa with the right to work.
“We have fulfilled our end of the bargain and we still very much want the Home Office to fulfil theirs.
“But failing being dealt with honourably by the UK Government, what I would like is for an employer to come forward and take Kathryn on to enable us to get a permit and be able to stay on in Scotland.”
Mrs Brain added: “We don’t know what will happen after midnight.
“Certainly today, we are just hoping and praying that an employer will come forward to start the process with another visa application.”
The government announced the discontinuation of the post-study work visa scheme in March 2011, three months before the Brain family arrived in Scotland.
Mr Brain said they applied and been accepted for the scheme in 2010, and did not become aware of the changes to the rules until two years later, shortly before they came into effect.
A day before they were due to be deported on May 31 this year, immigration minister James Brokenshire gave the family leave to remain in the country until August 1.
His successor Robert Goodwill has said he would be willing to look at extending this if a concrete job offer was made, Mr Brain said.
The family, which has had to move four times in recent months, claimed the post-work study route being denied to them had recently been introduced for international students at a small number of English universities.
However, this was denied by the Home Office.
• READ MORE: Why are the Brain family facing deportation?
Ian Blackford, SNP MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, said: “The Brain family have only ever asked for the post-study work visa to be honoured but the UK Government has doggedly opposed this - and yet they have just announced a new pilot visa scheme for international students at a handful of universities in the south of England.
“This is an unacceptable snub to Scotland which only adds insult to injury, especially given the overwhelming support across Scotland for the post-study work visa, from every political party in Scotland, our colleges, our universities and Scottish businesses.
“The UK Government must honour the post-study work visa for the Brain family, grant them the right to work and allow them a fair chance to apply for a Tier Two visa.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “All visa applications are considered on their individual merits, and applicants must provide evidence to show they meet the requirements of the immigration rules.”
The Home Office dismissed the suggestion the post-study work visa had been reintroduced for some university students.
A new pilot scheme will simplify the visa application process for Masters students, granting them up to six months leave to remain after the end of their course to find a graduate job under Tier Two visa rules.
Asked about the case yesterday, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said: “We recognise the strength of feeling on this case, but there is a need to follow the rules and follow the process.
“To date, [the Brain family] have not lodged a visa application with the Home Office.
“They have already been given three grace periods of temporary leave to remain in order for them to make an application for a Tier Two visa.”