The Home Office has told a Canadian teacher that her Scots husband could communicate with his young children via the internet if the couple moved to Canada together – after turning down her visa application to remain in Scotland.
Heather Cattanach, who was recruited to teach in the UK two years ago through a jobs fair at her university in British Columbia, applied to stay in the UK indefinitely after marrying her partner, Gary McIver earlier this year.
But she received a letter from the Home Office last week telling her that her visa application had been rejected, saying it could see no “insurmountable obstacles” that would stop the pair from living in Canada together.
It added that Mr McIver, a mechanical engineer who has a son, Ruaridh, five and a daughter, Hannah, 12, from previous relationships, could keep up with his “connections” in the UK through “modern technology”.
In a visa application to allow Ms Cattanach to stay in Scotland, the pair argued that they could not move to Canada as Mr McIver has regular personal contact with his children in Scotland.
Ms Cattanach, who said that Mr McIver’s son spends every other weekend with the couple, said: “They say that Gary can continue his relationship with the kids in Canada by means of ‘modern technology’. Such disregard for the lives of British people. What message does this send? That we don’t value the lives of family.”
Ms Cattanach, who initially took a job at a school in Southampton, successfully applied for work in Scotland and in January 2016 took up a post as a Primary Two class teacher at a rural school in Aberdeenshire, where she met Mr McIver, who was living in Inverness.
Last month, Scotland on Sunday revealed that the teacher was forced to leave her class in the middle of the day in January after she received a phone call telling her that her visa was no longer valid, as her lawyer had submitted her application too late.
The class, at Applegrove Primary School in Forres, remains without a permanent teacher.
The letter said that officials recognised that Ms Cattanach had a “genuine and subsisting” relationship with Mr McIver, but added that they could not see that there would be any “hardship” in the pair moving to Canada together.
It stated: “In regards to the ties your partner has within the UK, he would be able to maintain any friendships or connections he has here from overseas via modern means of communication.”
The documents added that because Mr McIver’s former partners had failed to provide documentation proving his contact with the children, the Home Office had no proof he was involved in their lives.
Ms Cattanach added: “We couldn’t provide school or doctor letters because we get him at the weekends when he’s not in school. He has not once been sick with us at the weekend.”
The letter added that Ms Cattanach had the right to return to Canada and “seek alternative leave to re-enter the UK from overseas”, but her lawyers have told her that even if successful, this could take a long time.
Ms Cattanach had letters of support for her visa application from Laurence Findlay, head of education at Moray Council, who urged that she be allowed to return to work, saying “her ongoing absence is presenting a significant risk in terms of service continuity”.
A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: “All applications are carefully considered on their individual merits, in line with immigration rules and based on the evidence provided by the applicant.”