An Australian family fighting to remain in Scotland have been asked to leave the country voluntarily by the Home Office after a deadline for them to meet visa requirements passed.
Kathryn and Gregg Brain, who moved to Dingwall with their son Lachlan in 2011, had until Monday night to find work which would have allowed them to stay in the UK.
We have given the family three extensions on an exceptional basis over a number of months to allow them to try to secure a job that would allow them to meet the immigration rules, but this cannot be open-ended.Home Office
UK immigration minister Robert Goodwill has now written to the family saying there are “no exceptional considerations” that would justify granting them leave to remain outside of the immigration rules.
The Brains yesterday vowed to continue their fight as actor Tom Conti repeated his pledge to help them financially.
Mr Brain said a “major Scottish company” had been in touch with the family to discuss a possible job offer.
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to Scotland on Mrs Brain’s student visa five years ago, but a two-year post-study visa scheme then on offer was later withdrawn by the UK government.
Mr Goodwill’s letter, which was sent to SNP MP Ian Blackford and copied to the family and Scottish external affairs secretary Fiona Hyslop, said: “As we have both agreed, either Kathryn or Gregg Brain needed to secure a job offer which qualifies under tier two, the skilled work route.
“I regret that that has not yet happened, despite having had since 2012, nearly a year having passed since Kathryn finished her studies and the three extensions that have been granted to the family on an exceptional basis.
“We need to treat the Brain family fairly, but also everyone else in a similar position.
“There is no fundamental difference between their circumstances and that of any other individuals who came to the UK on a temporary study visa and there are no exceptional considerations which would justify granting them leave outside the immigration rules.”
Mr Goodwill said Scotland-based family engagement staff will contact the Brains later this week “to begin discussions with them regarding a voluntary departure to Australia”.
In order for the family to stay, either Mr or Mrs Brain was required to secure a skilled job, paying a minimum of £20,800 per year. Speaking to the BBC, Mr Brain said: “We’ve been told we have to go, however I certainly would not nearly characterise this as being a lost battle or over. We’re still talking to our lawyer about options going forward. In fact I understand that we may still be able to make a complying application if an employer comes forward. So certainly we’ll be talking to the Home Office about what arrangements need to be made.”
Mr Conti, who earlier this week pledged to provide money to ensure the Brains maintain a minimum balance in their bank account in order to meet visa requirements, said the situation was “absurd”. Speaking to The Scotsman, he said: “These are people from a Commonwealth country who have no criminal record, as far as I know.
“I just don’t get it. We’ve got to find a way to help people who want to work.”