Bangladeshi academic victim of unfair UK visa rules

Aditi Khanna, London
Published : 12:33, Feb 26, 2020 | Updated : 12:36, Feb 26, 2020

A lecturer at the University of Bristol has revealed her unfair treatment at the hands of the UK Home Office after she was denied permanent residency due to a period of time spent in Bangladesh for research.

Dr Nazia Hussein is an expert in the field of gender, race and religion who regularly speaks about issues surrounding negative representation of Muslims in world media and institutional and everyday racism, sexism and religious hatred in the media. She has been based in the UK for many years and had applied for her indefinite leave to remain (ILR) last year based on her required 10-year stay but was shocked when it was turned down. The reason given was her absence from the UK while she was doing essential PhD fieldwork in Bangladesh.

“In their letter the Home Office said I am very qualified and could easily settle back in Bangladesh,” said Hussein.

To avoid further delays and complications for her family, she was advised to apply through a different route as her husband had permanent UK residency. Her case is among several others, which researchers fear could put talented academics off coming to the UK despite British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent announcement of a special Global Talent Visa to attract such highly skilled professionals.

Indian-origin Asiya Islam underwent a similar case when her ILR was turned down due to what she explained as necessary absence for fieldwork in India.

“Yes, that’s right – the Home Office refused my application because I was away doing academic work for a UK university. The mind boggles,” said Islam, as she took to Twitter to express her shock recently.

The Home Office stressed that it welcomes international academics and recognises their contribution to the UK’s world-leading education sector.

“All immigration applications are considered on their individual merits and on the evidence available, in line with the immigration rules,” a Home Office statement said.

The Global Talent Scheme, a fast-track visa for such qualified professionals, officially opened last Friday and is aimed at attracting highly-skilled scientists and researchers to come to the UK without a job offer. Qualified scientists who receive such fellowships will only need to provide a letter from the relevant funding organisation, which will see them fast-tracked to the UK Home Office visa application stage where immigration checks will be carried out. The UK government says this will ensure that world leading scientists can come to the country as soon as possible to begin their innovative work.

However, academics are calling upon to the UK government to ensure that relevant focus is given to the research needs of such scientists and researchers so they do not face hardships further down the line.