Researchers at Durham University, Dr Ernesto Schwartz-Marin and his wife Dr Arely Cruz-Santiago on tier 2 visas, have been told in March 2018 they must leave the UK within two weeks. The couple, who spent time in Mexico working with victims of violence, have seen their UK indefinite leave to remain applications rejected because they spent too long outside Britain.
Sanwar Ali workpermit.com comment:
Employers with a tier 2 sponsorship licence employing tier 2 visa employees have to deal with an overly complicated, restrictive, expensive and bureaucratic system. Applications are refused because it is not always easy to find out what the documentation requirements are for an application. UK visa applications are frequently refused for reasons that seem to be very unfair. Lets hope that after the Windrush scandal and the appointment of a new Home Secretary Sajid Javid things will be different.
The Home Office said the amount of time spent outside the UK by the pair ‘breached their UK visa rules.’ The couple, along with their 11-year-old daughter, have been given 14 days to leave or face detainment and forceful removal, in a letter sent by the Home Office.
Dr Ernesto Schwartz-Marin, 36, and his wife Dr Arely Cruz-Santiago, 32 have been living in the UK for more than 10 years. 11-year-old daughter Camila attends St Margaret’s Primary School in Durham. The Durham University researchers spent nearly 12 months in Mexico working with the families of people who have vanished over the last decade.
UK visa punishment
Dr Schwartz-Marin said: “We are the cutting edge in academia. It’s why people like Arley and I come to Britain because it’s the best place to be for our research. But suddenly, it seems like you are punished because you have success doing the thing you were supposed to do.”
Between 2014 and 2015, the couple spent 270 days in Mexico after receiving a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council to create the country’s first citizen-led DNA database, which would help people to identify family members.
UK immigration rules specify that in order to be granted indefinite leave to remain, people are not permitted to spend more than 180 days outside the country within a 12-month period, barring exceptions for those assisting in a humanitarian crisis.
Not a humanitarian crisis
However, a Home Office letter to the couple said that their work in Mexico ‘did not qualify’ as a humanitarian crisis. Dr Cruz-Santiago said: “We’ve been here since 2007; our daughter arrived here when she was eight months old. It’s a shock for all of us.”
The Home Office did concede that the couple were involved in a humanitarian ‘project’, but not a humanitarian ‘crisis,’ despite providing 1.5kg of evidence – including letters from NGOs, the BBC and Mexican charities about the impact of their work and publicity of the humanitarian crisis in Mexico fuelled by drug and gang wars.
Dr Schwartz-Marin now plans to file for a judicial review following the rejection of his indefinite leave to remain application. He said: “We will fight this. We believe it’s fundamentally unfair. Our job description specified that we would be spending a year in Mexico after being awarded the Economic Research Council grant.”
He added: “We are being punished for doing our job and the UK visa authorities are not even following their own rules on exceptions. The system is so non-transparent. We are now left in the hands of the Home Office to decide what a humanitarian crisis is.”
Pro-vice-chancellor of social sciences and health at Durham University, Professor Tim Clark, said: “We are committed to supporting our staff wherever possible and we are providing such support in this instance.”
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