Highlands & Islands

Sturgeon meets Australian family facing deportation

Nicola Sturgeon and Brain family Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon met the Brain family at Holyrood

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has met an Australian family which has been told it must leave the UK if it cannot meet visa rules.

Kathryn Brain moved from Australia to Dingwall, near Inverness, with husband Gregg and son Lachlan in 2011.

Mrs Brain was on a student visa at a time when a two-year post-study visa was in existence - but the rules were later changed.

Ms Sturgeon pledged to do everything in her power to help the family.

The Brain family, who have been given leave to remain until next Tuesday, hope a job offer made to Mrs Brain by the business behind the planned GlenWyvis distillery in Dingwall will meet visa requirements and allow them to stay.

Extra time

Mr Brain said they were in the process of resubmitting a visa application in light of the job offer, but had "significant doubts" as to whether it will be possible to pull the paperwork together in time.

However, UK Immigration Minister James Brokenshire has told the Commons that the family do not face "imminent deportation".

He was responding to SNP MP Ian Blackford, who has raised the family's case in parliament.

Mr Brokenshire and Mr Blackford, the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, met on Thursday afternoon to discuss the case.

The UK government has said the family had twice been given extra time to help them meet visa rules.

Brains' visa timeline

  • The family moved to the Highlands in 2011 on Mrs Brain's student visa and she intended to later move on to a post-study work visa
  • However, the Home Office cancelled this visa scheme, which had been set up with an aim to attract professionals to the UK
  • Mr Brain has been working and had an offer of a new job, but that fell through after a change in his prospective employers' circumstances
  • The new job would have fitted with the Home Office points-based visa system
  • Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said he "exceptionally extended" the family's "grace period" to remain in the UK on 12 April and then again on the 28 April. This latest grace period is until the end of May
  • Mr Brokenshire said his office had still to receive an application from the family for what is known as leave to remain in the UK under the points-based system. The minister added that the family were not at "imminent risk" of deportation

Speaking after her meeting with the family, Ms Sturgeon said: "I've assured the Brain family that the Scottish government will do everything it can to support them in their attempt to get the time that they always thought they would have to get jobs here, the right to stay here and continue to make a contribution to Scotland."

She said the family had "come here in good faith" under a scheme that was promoted by the Scottish government at the time and backed by the UK government.

The first minister added: "They fully expected that they would have the two-year post-study visa in order to allow them to secure work here. The problem is the UK government changed the rules before they had the chance to benefit from what they thought that they would benefit from.

"So there's a sense of natural justice here, as well as the human element."

Ms Sturgeon said the family's seven-year-old son had "virtually grown up here, he is a Gaelic speaker, he is to all intents and purposes Scottish".

Mr Brain has said he hopes "common sense will prevail" and his family will be allowed to remain in the country.

He also said they had been "absolutely floored" by the support they had received from the local community and across the political spectrum.

Mr Brain is a health and safety expert and his wife has just completed a degree in Scottish history.

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