Blog confidential: Deportation danger

Each week, Dr Margot Feelbetter poses a dilemma and offers advice for readers to respond to online. This week: Deportation danger

May 20, 2010

My PhD student is a mature man from a developing country. He brought his family with him when he came here to study, and did a full-time master's degree before the doctorate. His viva voce was held in January and he was given six months to make substantial amendments to the written work. This was a fair outcome.

During their time in the UK, the student and his wife have undertaken paid work - jobs that local people weren't queuing up to do. Their children have done well educationally, contributing good results to their schools' league-table standings. The younger child is due to sit A2 examinations soon.

His student visa expired at the end of March and the Home Office wants to deport him and his family. His application for a Tier 1 visa failed as he is not yet "Dr", and the Home Office seems unable to understand the nature of the remedial work on the PhD and the fact that there is a clear submission date that will be enforced by the university.

Facing imminent deportation, the student feels he has wasted several years' work and ruined his family's lives. I'm struggling to persuade him to engage with the amendments. I'm worried that he won't complete - and for the education of his younger child.

I've always had an excellent relationship with the student but have no idea how to proceed. I don't feel I am providing him with enough support and don't know where to turn.

My immediate concern is that the student is about to be deported and you must help him build a case to remain. As a matter of urgency, help him to find a good solicitor and think about how he could campaign to stay. Tier 1 visa applications are often judged in terms of employability, but the fact that someone has qualifications beyond the master's level is no guarantee of success.

For most PhD students, post-viva amendments can be undertaken anywhere, but you can support his need to complete them in the UK. Get letters from your head of school to back you up.

Many universities have structures to help students in these situations. My institution has a legal department that provides services to students free of charge. Are there any academic staff in your university who specialise in this area who could help?

Another concern is your student's state of mind. Many who face rewrites perceive this as a failure: this is not the case, and university counselling services could help your student to refocus. This may be useful in building a case.

The issue of the younger child and their exams could be of little consequence to the authorities. I've been told there is a discontinuity in decision-making and inconsistencies are common.

You do not mention the student's specialism or whether he wants to stay in the UK long term: if there are domestic gaps in his area of expertise, that would help. Go to the Home Office website, which provides explicit information on these issues.

Useful contacts

Here are some organisations that may be of help in this situation:

National Union of Students

A first stop for international students seeking advice should be to consult their local National Union of Students office.

UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA)

9-17 St Albans Place

London N1 0NX

Tel: 020 7288 4330 (administration only)


UKCISA campaigns on behalf of foreign students and produces a number of useful booklets on students’ problems. In an emergency, you may ring UKCISA on the public casework line: 020 7107 9922 (Mon-Fri, 1pm-4pm)

Immigration Advisory Service (IAS)

(Head Office)

County House

190 Great Dover Street

London SE1 4YB

Tel: 0844 974 4000 (this number will direct you to your nearest local office)


The IAS provides immigration advice from offices in England, Wales and Scotland. Advice and representation is free to people who are entitled to legal aid. The IAS also provides a fee-paying service for individuals not entitled to legal aid. You can find details on the IAS website.

For details of regional IAS offices, see the “Contact Us” page of the IAS website

Refugee and Migrant Justice

Nelson House

53-157 Commercial Road

London E1 2DA

Tel: 020 7780 3200 (general information)

Drop-in advice sessions: (Mon, Wed and Fri: 9.30am-1pm)

Detention advice line: 0800 592 398 or 020 7780 3333 (Mon, Wed and Fri 10.30am-1pm; 2pm-4pm)

Out-of-hours emergency number: 07831 598 057



Refugee and Migrant Justice can give advice and assistance to asylum seekers and refugees. This includes helping with applications, advising on temporary admissions/release, refusal of asylum, family reunions and representing appeals in court. It refers people to other agencies for education, welfare and housing services.

The organisation has 12 offices throughout England and offers advice through pre-arranged appointments and drop-in sessions, as well as by telephone or email. Check the website for details of the services offered by your nearest office.

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