Lecturer faced deportation for having less than £800

A LECTURER has won his appeal against a UK Borders Agency bid to deport him after his bank balance slipped below £800.

Dr Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, 34, was finally granted his “post-study work visa” after a judge in Glasgow found against the Home Office decision.

His supporters have described it as a victory for common sense.

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Dr Ahmad, who came to Scotland in 2004 and studied at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, gaining a PhD in sociology, was offered a job at an English university on a salary of around £35,000 a year, just days before learning he would be deported.

He was unavailable for comment yesterday. However, a close friend said: “His life has been a complete nightmare for the past two months because of this.

“He did not know what was going to happen to him.

“He went to the hearing expecting to be given a few weeks in which to leave the country, so it was a huge surprise when the judge agreed with him.

“It just shows they can use discretion, and it’s just a shame they were unable to show some common sense earlier.”

It is a requirement for applicants for a post-study work visa to have had at least £800 in their bank for the past 90 days.

Dr Ahmad, who is originally from Pakistan, only had that amount for about 42 days, although by the time he came to apply, his bank balance was around £1,500.

In court, he pointed out a payment from Al Jazeera came later than expected, affecting his balance.

The UKBA said the rule was in place to make sure applicants were able to support themselves without relying on state handouts.

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His victory came against the odds. Prior to the hearing, in Glasgow, two immigration lawyers advised him against hiring them, as he stood so little chance it would have been a waste of money.

However, more than 50 academics signed a petition sent to politicians, including Home Secretary Theresa May, and Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, urging them to allow him to stay. Several of them were also in court yesterday in a show of support.

Marisa de Andrade, a doctoral researcher at Stirling University, said: “They said that because he had worked and had been able to get a job, his appeal was successful. But how much has it cost the taxpayer to reach this point?

“And how much unnecessary trauma has he been put through in the last few months?

“The law needs to be looked at and hopefully this sets a precedent.”

Dr Ahmad’s supporters believe his case is an example of the damaging impact tightening up the immigration system will have on universities and businesses.

The Home Office said the visa application process had been changed “to ensure the best talent from overseas stays in the UK”.

Dr Ahmad had secured a lecturing position on the basis that his background and experience was unmatched by any EU candidate.

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In an open letter to politicians challenging the UKBA decision, his supporters wrote: “We risk losing a very good friend and an esteemed colleague, and the UK risks losing the important intellectual and financial contributions that this bright and enthusiastic young man will make.”

However, the UKBA confirmed it has not ruled out a further challenge to the court’s decision.

A spokeswoman for the UK Border Agency said: “We will consider the details of any judgement when we receive it.

“We have a responsibility to 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.”