A Singaporean doctor who has been in Britain for about 10 years may be forced to leave after applying for a visa renewal three weeks late.
Dr Luke Ong, 31, arrived in the country in September 2007 to study medicine at the University of Manchester. After completing the course in 2012, he extended his student visa to August 2017 so he could train to be a general practitioner (GP).
But in September 2017, five months short of completing his training, his application for indefinite leave to remain was rejected by Britain's Home Office, Dr Ong told The Straits Times in a phone interview on Monday.
Dr Ong made the formal application for indefinite leave on Sept 2, 18 days after the deadline.
However, he first attempted to book an appointment to secure his status in July but was told that the closest available date was Sept 2.
He was also told the appointment for the application had to be made within 28 days of his 10-year anniversary of being in Britain. So the earliest he could have applied was on Aug 16 - the day after his visa expired. While he could have had extended his student visa in the meantime, he would have had to send his passport and personal documents in the post.
Dr Ong said he chose instead to wait for the Sept 2 appointment. But when he turned up, he was told his application had been rejected as he had breached immigration law.
He appealed and a judge ruled in his favour, agreeing that his removal would breach his human rights and "not be proportionate".
But the Home Office is seeking leave to appeal the ruling, said a Daily Mail report on Sunday.
"I really cannot explain this. There aren't enough GPs here, it takes two weeks to see one, and I'm just a few months away from qualifying," said Dr Ong.
Last year, the National Health Service, Britain's publicly funded healthcare system, announced plans to increase GP numbers by accelerating an international hiring programme.
The British Medical Association condemned the Home Office's decision, calling it "utterly incomprehensible". It noted the situation was "over what appears to be an honest oversight" and comes at a time when the British government is recruiting GPs from abroad.
The Royal College of GPs, Dr Ong's MP Lucy Powell and Manchester mayor Andy Burnham have also backed him, The Daily Mail reported yesterday.
A Home Office spokesman told The Straits Times yesterday that the case is under appeal and it would not be able to comment.
A petition Dr Ong launched on Change.org has received over 45,000 signatures. If he must leave Britain, he plans to return to Singapore or go to Australia.
The British Medical Association condemned the Home Office's decision, calling it "utterly incomprehensible". It noted the situation was "over what appears to be an honest oversight".