Highlands & Islands

Deportation deadline passes for Australian Brain family

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Media captionThe Brain family's temporary extension to their stay in the UK ran out at midnight on Monday

The deadline for an Australian family living in the Highlands to secure an extension to their stay in the UK has passed.

Kathryn and Gregg Brain have been trying to comply with visa requirements so they and their son Lachlan, seven, can remain in Britain.

The family moved to Scotland in 2011 on Mrs Brain's student visa.

They had expected to be able to move on to a post-study work visa but that scheme was scrapped in 2012.

The Brain family had until midnight on Monday to secure the extension to their visa.

Earlier they had said they remained "hopeful" of avoiding deportation.

For months, Mrs Brain has been seeking a job that meets current visa rules.

She had been offered a temporary administrative post at distillery business GlenWyvis in May, but the offer was subsequently withdrawn as it did not meet the requirements of a UK Tier Two visa.

Brain family visa timeline

  • 2010: Kathryn Brain is granted a student visa with husband and son as dependents. She intends to later move onto post-study work visa
  • March 2011: Announcement of cancellation of post-study work visa
  • June 2011: Brains arrive in Scotland
  • 2012: Post-study work visa scrapped. Brains say they became aware of this just months before the change
  • May 2015: Mrs Brain applies for leave to remain under tier 4 (student) visa. Granted till December
  • December 2015: Family makes application for leave to remain made under article 8 of the European convention on human rights, the right to a family life. Refused in March
  • April 2016: Immigration Minister James Brokenshire extends family's "grace period" to remain in UK until 11 May. It is later extended until the end of May
  • 30 May 2016: Family given new deadline of 1 August 2016

The Home Office has previously granted temporary extensions to their stay. A 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."

Asked on the BBC's Reporting Scotland programme at 18:30 if there was anything happening to give the family hope of a reprieve, Mr Brain said: "We have heard nothing from the Home Office.

"Ian Blackford, our MP, spoke to us about an hour ago and told us of the efforts he is still continuing to make on our behalf.

"We are still hopeful that the UK government will see that the honourable solution is to give us what they promised us when they encouraged us to come here six years ago."

He added: "We've been in communication with our immigration lawyer talking through options about our best path forward from here.

"We're still hopeful that either the UK government will honour the deal that they put to us or an employer will come forward.

"If that happens, even at this late stage, Robert Goodwill, the immigration minister, has said if it is just a matter of getting paperwork together then he would certainly consider granting us an extension for that purpose."

Speaking earlier Mr Brain said the family has racked up a five-figure debt in their fight with the Home Office and the prospect of deportation has made him physically sick.

The family has had to move four times in recent months after their landlord accused them of "criminal activity" despite being legally entitled to live in the UK until their visa expires, he said.

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Media captionActor Tom Conti says he will donate £3000 to prevent the Brain family being deported

Mr Brain added: "It's not that there is anything that we don't like about Australia, we certainly love the place, but we would be going back homeless, jobless and significantly in debt having racked up a five-figure sum in our dealings with the Home Office to date."

He also claimed that a "post-study work visa has been reintroduced for a few prestigious English universities", which he said meant that "the visa we're being told we can't have is now being offered again".

'Pilot scheme'

But the Home Office dismissed any suggestion that the post-study work visa had been reintroduced at Oxford, Cambridge, Bath and University College London.

It said it had launched a "carefully targeted pilot scheme" on 25 July for universities to attract top international students and remain competitive.

The two-year pilot will simplify the visa application process for Masters students, and grant them an additional six months leave to remain after the end of the course to find a graduate job under Tier Two visa rules, the Home Office said.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, along with SNP MPs Angus Robertson and Ian Blackford and MSP Kate Forbes, have been among those calling on the Home Office to allow the family to remain in the UK.

And actor Tom Conti said he would provide money to the Brain family to ensure they maintain a minimum balance in their bank account in order to meet visa requirements, as he compared the Home Office's actions to the Soviet Union.

He told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme: "If you're not allowed to work, how do you maintain a minimum balance? If that would help - I remember the figure £3,000 was mentioned, they have to have that - I would happily give them that if it would help.

"But the Home Office has to really behave properly and not do things that we'd expect of the Soviet Union or Iran and move the goalposts when people have moved their families in good faith."

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