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Memoirs of a Saudi Ph.D. student: Immigration woes in UK.

Hatoon Kadi

In the past two weeks, several Saudi students faced problems at the immigration at British airports. They were informed that their students' visas and the visas of their dependents have been retained due to issues regarding their authorized leaves of absence. Two of my friends faced this problem. They were returning to the United Kingdom after attending scientific conferences abroad. Both of them were accompanied by their course supervisors but were kept at the airport for three hours. They had to undergo body searches and at the end they were issued temporary permission but the home office at the airport withheld their passports and visa permits. The situation was very stressful to them. They were sure that there was a mistake, as they were registered as full- time students. How could the British authorities retain their visas on the ground that they were not regular students as they had taken leaves of absence? According to the British immigration law, full-time students are entitled to up to two-month leave of absence. Both of my friends took less than two months leave of absence and their supervisors had been duly informed. How could the authorities claim that they were not regular students? After allowing them temporary entry, they were given a certain date to leave the country. They were also told to get their status checked with their universities. They went to check and even international employees at the university were confused, as they were registered as regular full-time students. After lengthy procedures and conflicts (no its not our mistake, no don't contact us go to the home office) the issue was resolved. After receiving letters that proved that they were full-time regular students the home office decided to reinstate their visas and return their passports. Personally I feel that it should not have ended this way. The home office is very strict when it comes to visa issues, which is understandable. Protecting one's borders is a major safety issue and is much appreciated, but if we are required to adhere to the rules then the home office is obliged as well to take extra care before simply retaining visas and putting students under great pressure and make them resolve issue that is not their fault to begin with. I am not sure what step should be taken but this issue should not just be ignored.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Apr 13, 2015
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