The Home Office has apologised to a human rights academic fleeing Hong Kong for the “worry and stress” it caused her and her family by wrongly denying her son a visa.
Officials reversed their decision to reject Dr Jane Richards’ son’s application for an entry visa to the UK after her case was revealed last weekend by The Telegraph.
It took just 48 hours for Home Office officials to discover they had made a mistake in denying 11-year-old Henry a visa after this newspaper presented them with evidence that they had previously failed to consider.
Dr Richards said she was “shocked” and “relieved” by the reversal, but admitted she was worried that other applicants without her resources and support would fall foul of such blunders in the future.
She opened up the email revealing the decision after commissioning an independent social worker at a potential cost of £2,000 to provide a detailed submission for her appeal showing that Henry was living in a caring family.
“It worries me for people who don’t have the same opportunities or resources that we have access to. We feel really lucky,” said Dr Richards.
She left Hong Kong with her family because she said she could no longer live there safely for fear of being raided if she continued her work on the right to protest and freedom of political speech.
Dr Richards had effectively been blacklisted from jobs in Hong Kong after publishing research documenting some 100 street protests and the “blatant disregard” for the rule of law and “brutality” by the police and the city state’s authorities.
She moved to the UK with her husband and three children after securing a job as an academic at Leeds University. However Henry, her son by her first marriage, was denied a visa - despite her ex-husband supporting it and formal approval from the family court in Hong Kong that it was in the child’s best interests.
As an Australian married to a British citizen, she was granted a visa to come to the UK after more than a decade living in Hong Kong, but her son was barred under the complex rules that govern dependents
Even though her former husband - a senior executive of a major international corporation - had consented to their son relocating, the rules dictated that unless she had “sole responsibility” for her son, she had to show “serious and compelling family or other considerations which make exclusion of the child undesirable”.
It has now emerged that the Home Office failed to consider documents showing her ex-husband consented and the fact it was backed by the court order.
“It appears that the person who assessed your son’s application did not have sight of the additional documents you sent before they made the decision,” she was told by a Home Office official.
“I would like to sincerely apologise on behalf of the department for the circumstances that led to you feeling that you needed to raise your family’s situation through the media.
“I recognise the situation has caused you unnecessary stress. I will now reverse the decision and grant your son a visa as your dependent.”
Dr Richards said the family could now enjoy Christmas without the anxiety of a visa appeal and the fear of having to return to Hong Kong with Henry, who had only been granted visitor status.
“Henry is really relieved and happy. I don’t think he realised the enormity of it. He is quite mature and thoughtful for his age but he is still only 11,” she said.