Family face being torn apart over visa wrangle

Ross and Margaret Heubnot
Ross and Margaret Heubnot
3
Have your say

The family of a cancer sufferer is set to be torn apart as a result of a nightmare immigration mix up.

Margaret Heubner, 80, from Anchorsholme, was diagnosed with bowel cancer last year.

On hearing the diagnosis Mrs Heubner’s son Tommy and his family decided to move to the UK from South Africa.

With Margaret, who lives with her eldest daughter Larine, initially given just three-months to live by medics, the family were told by High Commission officials in Johannesburg to apply for six month tourist visas, rather than wait for longer-term ancestry visas to be processed.

It is a short cut which has backfired, forcing Margaret’s 18-year-old grandson Ross to fly home alone.

“The family have always had plans to come back to the UK,” said Margaret.

“But when I was diagnosed I said to them, don’t come back for my funeral.

“They wanted to come over and enjoy as much time as a family as we could.

“They were told in South Africa the fastest way to do things was to come on tourist visas and change them when they got here.”

That has worked for IT worker Tommy and his wife Kim – a graphic designer – who have both been granted UK citizenship and are now working in the North West.

But for Ross and 16-year-old brother Ryan the future is much less certain.

Ross’s six-month visitor visa runs out on June 15 and he has been denied the right to stay longer – all because of his tourist status.

“They’ve told me I can’t change from one visa to another.

“I qualify for an ancestry visa on every rule other than already having a tourist one.

“We’ve tried to explain the family circumstances and everything else.

“I understand we took a chance with the way we came over. I know the rules are there because the system has been abused.

“But this has all happened because of one piece of wrong advice.”

Margaret, who was born in Scotland, moved to the Fylde coast in 2000 having lived for many years in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The former bank worker – who married in Africa and moved back to Europe after the death of her husband, is on her third course of chemotherapy and admits the whole process has added stress at a time when she most needs support.

“It has been an extra weight,” she said.

“The boys have been such support.

“Ross can’t drive but he’s been up to the hospital with me.

“There’s always one or the other around the house.

“They have been so much help and support

“We included a letter from my oncologist in the immigration documents but they’ve not taken it into account.

“I know these rules were put in place to stop people coming on tourist visas to study or work but you’d think there’d be some compassion.”

While in the UK Ross has been unable to work but he has been volunteering with Oxfam in Cleveleys.

Ryan, who is waiting for the outcome of his under-18s visa application, has been studying GCSEs at home and has joined Blackpool and Fylde Light Opera Company. He will be performing in Grease at the Grand Theatre next month.

Ross, who wants to work in investment management, is flying back to South Africa today in the hope he can secure a visa by applying from overseas.

He said: “I have an older brother Cullen.

“He’s applied and got his visa in around two weeks.

“It could be as simple as that. He’s due to come back on June 4.

“I really hope we’ll be able to fly back together.”

Ross’s failed UK visa application cost £650.

It will be a further £450 to apply from South Africa with the additional cost of flights added on.

The Home Office confirmed Ross’s application for an ancestry visa had been refused after he had entered the country on a visitors visa and that he would have to leave the UK by June 15.

It was confirmed he would be free to apply for an ancestry visa once he had returned to South Africa.