Lecturer to be sent home over savings

Dr Ahmad, who recently secured a new job as a university lecturer, has been threatened with deportation for temporarily having insufficient money in his bank account. Picture: Robert Perry
Dr Ahmad, who recently secured a new job as a university lecturer, has been threatened with deportation for temporarily having insufficient money in his bank account. Picture: Robert Perry
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A UNIVERSITY lecturer faces deportation from Scotland after seven years living in the country because his bank balance slipped below £800.

Dr Muhammad Idrees Ahmad will appear before an immigration tribunal in Glasgow tomorrow, where a judge will decide his fate.

But colleagues and friends have launched a last-ditch campaign to try to prevent Ahmad from being sent back to Pakistan because he could not prove that he had sufficient money in his bank account for a certain period to support himself.

His case renews fears that immigrants who make a contribution to economic life in the UK are being unnecessarily deported due to tight UK Border Agency (UKBA) rules while thousands of other immigrants who exploit the benefits system are allowed to stay.

His removal has been ordered by the UKBA even though he is a prolific freelance writer working for well-known international publications and broadcasters, and he has secured a new job as a lecturer on a salary of £35,000 a year.

Marisa de Andrade, a doctoral researcher at Stirling University, said: “I understand there are rules, but this appears to be an exceptional case in which the law is being unnecessarily inflexible.

“Deporting Dr Ahmad, and other highly respected academics, is short-sighted and the UK risks losing important intellectual and financial contributions, which will have a detrimental impact on British universities and society as a whole.”

His new employers at De Montfort University in Leicestershire have written a letter to UKBA supporting his appeal and warning they would not expect to find a better qualified EU candidate for the role.

Ahmad, who came to Scotland in 2004, says he has never broken any laws or breached the requirements of his annually renewed student visas.

As well as studying for qualifications, he also lectured part-time to media students at Stirling University.

When he attempted to obtain a post-student work visa at the end of last year, as required, he scored 90 out of a possible 100 on the points-based system used by the UKBA. The required total is 70.

But the UKBA insists that failing to consistently have enough money in a named bank account is a non-negotiable offence.

Ahmad, 34, who arrived in Scotland in 2004, said: “Before I came here I lived in various places around the world.

“From the very first day I went to Glasgow University I fell in love with the city and just knew I wanted to stay here. People’s attitudes were so different from what I had encountered before. I felt welcomed.”

Ahmad said he has had to update his visa regularly since arriving in the UK. “This year came out of nowhere. I was not expecting any trouble at all,” he said.

Despite being financially poorer on previous occasions, this was the first time Ahmad has been rejected.

“It’s the usual student life – not earning as much as I would like to, barely managing to meet rent requirements,” he said. “And all the time you have to make sure you have enough money in your account. This time I was not expecting any of that because I had twice the amount of money that they usually require.”

Student visas require applicants to have had £800 or more in their accounts for at least 28 days before applying. However, post-student work visas – which Ahmad applied for in September – require the same amount for at least 90 days. Ahmad says he had more than £1,500 in his bank account when applying for the new visa, but had only been over the £800 mark for the previous 42 days, not 90 as required, due to late payments from employers.

The visa rejection came days after he had been appointed a senior lecturer in journalism studies at De Montford. “The lady called me five days after I got my job, so I was still celebrating,” he said. “Since then it’s been an absolute nightmare. I find this quite unfair because I’ve been here for so long. I’ve paid taxes and I’ve even paid taxes I was exempt from. I just thought UK citizens have to pay them so why shouldn’t I.”

The Home Office says the system has been “tightened to ensure the best talent from overseas stays in the UK”.

A spokeswoman for the UKBA said: “We rightly check that visa applicants have sufficient funds to support themselves while in the UK when making an application for leave to remain, to ensure that they do not become a burden to the taxpayer. The evidence Mr Ahmad submitted did not meet the requirements for the maintenance provision, and therefore his visa application was refused.”

» grose@scotlandonsunday.com