An overseas doctor, who has been in the UK for the last 13 years, was given 10 days to leave the country or face being ‘detained and removed’.
Mu-Chun Chiang, a Liverpool specialty trainee 1 in general practice and UK graduate, was told that her application for a Tier 2 visa to remain in the UK had been rejected because she had not provided evidence of having sufficient funds in her bank account.
Even though she subsequently provided the necessary bank statements, she was told the new information could not be taken into account.
After an online petition the Home Office reversed its decision. The BMA offered support and advice to Dr Chiang.
The Government has committed itself to recruiting 5,000 GPs – a target it is struggling to achieve – and yet almost needlessly lost Dr Chiang.
Born in Taiwan, Dr Chiang first came to the UK as a child in 1997 and spent five years living in Glasgow where her parents were studying. She returned to the UK as a teenager in 2006 to continue her education, going on to study medicine at Liverpool University.
She first began working in the NHS in 2017, continuing on her Tier 4 visa until June this year when, with her student visa close to expiring, she applied for a Tier 2 visa.
In August, the Home Office told her that her application had failed because she had failed to demonstrate that she had a bank balance above £945 for a continuous period of 90 days.
Although she was offered a review of this decision, during which Dr Chiang was able to provide bank statements showing that she had the requisite funds, she was informed that this new information could not be considered in respect of her original application.
Dr Chiang received a letter from the Home Office on 25 September telling her that she should leave the UK.
‘I was scared,’ she said. ‘I didn’t know what to do, there were so many things running through my head. I knew I was supposed to be on call on [the following Monday] and I was thinking about how I would have to inform everybody that I wouldn’t be able to work and that they would need to find cover.
‘I thought that I had seven to 10 days to move out of the country, I thought I was getting removed from the UK.’
After speaking to a friend and fellow doctor about her situation, an online petition was set up to draw attention to Dr Chiang’s case which eventually garnered nearly 40,000 signatures, which attracted considerable media attention.
She said: ‘I’m really thankful as I couldn’t have done this without everyone’s support, and they [the Home Office] would not have granted me my visa had it not been for the public support. I feel really welcome in this country because of the public.
‘I’m lucky that I can stay but this [situation] must have happened to so many people in the past. There are people who have not had a platform like I have fortunately had, and we need to highlight these cases.’
She said that had she been forced to return to Taiwan, she could not have simply slotted back into a medical career there.
‘Even though I am fluent in Mandarin, I obviously haven’t learned all the medical terms and how to communicate with patients in the way that I would in English. That in itself would take years of practice for me to feel that I was at the level where I could look after patients.’
She said the Home Office urgently needed to change the way it handled and communicated visa decisions.
‘It just doesn’t make sense to me that people are driven out like this,’ Dr Chiang said.
‘I think it’s an inhumane way to treat people, regardless of what occupation you’re in, by giving them such a threatening letter.
‘The Home Office are claiming that we need more skilled workers in the country to help with the NHS [staffing] crisis, it baffles me that they can then so easily try to remove someone from the country without hearing them out.’
Responding to the news, BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul (pictured below) said: 'We are pleased the Government has finally seen sense and decided against deporting Dr Chiang.
'The strong public reaction goes some way to showing the absurdity of the Home Office’s decision to initially deny a visa.
'It beggars belief that at a time when the NHS is facing the worst staffing crisis in its history the Government would try to force a qualified doctor to leave the country because of a minor administrative error and the BMA today once again wrote to the Home Office to highlight the inflexibilities of the current system.
'The Government needs to actively encourage and enable medics to remain in our hospitals and GP practices, instead of preventing doctors from providing vital care for patients.'
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘Following reconsideration of this case in light of additional evidence supplied by Ms Chiang, we have now contacted her to confirm her leave to remain. Ms Chiang is not and was not subject to removal proceedings.’
The BMA has previously intervened on behalf of overseas doctors working in the NHS who have been threatened with deportation including Singapore-born GP trainee Luke Ong and Shashi Awai, a trust-grade doctor in ENT originally from Nepal.
Find out more about the BMA’s immigration support and guidance
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