South Africans face red tape nightmare

The Home Office has once again been in the spotlight over the past month, due to two separate cases involving South Africans caught up in immigration bureaucracy. 

UK immigration rules are extraordinarily complex. Filling out a form incorrectly can result in many barriers down the line. photo credit: Valentina_A via photopin cc

Human error

After living in the UK for almost 10 years, 28-year-old South African Jason Nish is facing deportation due to a simple human error. He incorrectly assumed when filling out his indefinite leave to remain (ILR) forms that South Africa would be seen as an English-speaking country, and that he would therefore not need to take a UK government-sanctioned English Language Test.

But the Home Office says that South Africa is not seen as an English-speaking country under immigration rules and Jason is therefore required to provide evidence of having an English language qualification.

He received a deportation notice and because his passport is being kept by the Home Office, he can’t take the test.
“I’ve not lived in South Africa since I was 10, and over the last decade I’ve made my life here in Carlisle,” said Jason. “I even have a Carlisle accent. I regard myself as British.”

As a result of the Home Office decision, Jason’s right to work has also been withdrawn, leaving the family with a heavily reduced income.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our immigration rules clearly state that individuals applying for indefinite leave to remain who are not from English speaking countries must provide evidence of having an approved English language qualification. This is fair to applicants and to the rest of the public. Mr Nish’s application was refused because he failed to provide evidence that he had passed a language qualification. He has the right to appeal this decision.”

South Africans face red tape nightmare

Jason Nish and his family in Carlisle. Image cc:

Ticking the wrong box

Until recently, Donovan Tapping, a South African who applied for British citizenship after living in Cumbria for almost a decade, faced a similar situation. He went through all the necessary steps for applying for indefinite leave to remain; he married his British partner in September last year and took the mandatory “Life in the UK test” as part of his ILR application. Unfortunately, he too ticked the wrong box on the application form, saying that he was from a majority English-speaking country – and did not include evidence of an English language test.

Donovan lodged an appeal which, had it been refused, would more than likely have resulted in him being deported, where he would have lost the many years accrued towards citizenship.

Both men took to social media to draw attention to their respective situations. Jason created a petition, which has so far gathered almost 3000 signatures. Part of the petition reads: “In 10 years I had settled, met my partner and had two beautiful children who are 2 and 1 years old who are all British citizens. My mother and grandfather are all British and father and sister are permanent residents of the UK. I have worked full time from day one, paid my taxes, never claimed benefits or have any conviction to my name!”

Meanwhile, Donovan decided to create a Facebook page to shed light on his battle. The good news is that, two weeks ago, he announced to his 663 followers that his appeal was successful and he had received his residency permit.

As for Jason, time will tell whether his petition proves successful.

South Africans face red tape nightmare

Donovan and his wife in Cumbria. Image cc: The South African.

John Dunn of 1st Contact Visas says the situation could have been avoided for both men, had they consulted immigration specialists and not attempted to go it alone. “The UK immigration and visa system is extremely complicated”, says Dunn. “While doing things yourself could save you money in the short term, the benefits of working with a reputable agency can outweigh the many risks and implications that you could face in the long run.”

For assistance with visa and immigration matters, and to avoid complications like those experienced by Jason and Donovan, visit 1st Contact Visas or call 0808 141 1663 (free inside the UK) or +44 (0) 20 7759 7500 (outside the UK).


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  • coresa

    My cousin is a qualified high school English teacher. She has taught English for a number of years in both South Africa and the UK. She now lives in the UK and despite her current job being that of an English teacher, with a degree in her field I should add, she was still required to complete an English proficiency test before she could apply for her indefinite leave to remain application.

    I should add that I live in the UK myself, have done for many years. There are many English locals that can barely speak English. The education in the UK is really poor, especially when compared to South African schools (at least SA schools were good when I attended Queen’s High School in the 90’s).

    On top of the indefinite leave to remain test there is also a ‘life in the UK’ test that needs to be completed before you can become a UK citizen. This is a general test about ‘life in the UK’ but it also requires you to pledge allegiance to the Queen etc. I have asked a number of locals the same questions and a lot of the ‘English’ can’t answer them.

    There are also a horde of EU citizens in the UK who can’t speak a word of English. I can pretty much guarantee they will swear no alliegence to the Queen either.

    Seems there is one rule for them and one for the rest of us.

    • flargleflargle

      Why “seems”? It’s pretty obviously laid out in the distinction between EU and non-EU citizens 😛 It might not be pleasant, but it’s the rule and it’s hardly hidden away.

      I hope Jason’s appeal is successful, but making an assumption like this on a form *that* important was a little silly.

      • funk_sake

        I agree. These forms are far too important to not read through with a detailed eye.

  • MsAlb

    Have to side with the Home Office on this one sorry. South Africans should know the
    official language of South Africa is not English, I know this from having SA
    colleagues so how do they not know (English is the 4th, more people speak
    Afrikaans, Xhosa or Zulu) – they could have also have checked on the website as
    SA isn’t on the list of countries. When I applied I knew my country was on the
    list as English speaking but I still checked for thoroughness and sake of mind! In this case it’s not the Home Offices fault but the applicants not reading or checking their
    applications carefully enough. I’m all for pointing out the idiocies of the
    Home Office when they make decisions that are ridiculous but in this case it’s
    not justified. I spent weeks on my ILR application it and redid the form 4
    times to make sure I got it right each time before submitting it. You can also
    pay to have it checked before submission – perhaps what these men should have