"It's clear that there is an element of discrimination"
Pakistani student Shafay Shoaib had his visa cancelled by a UK university even though he had met the attendance requirements after a warning was issued to him.
Shafay was a first-year student at Royal Holloway, University of London.
He received the news of the visa cancellation after significantly improving his attendance and meeting the set requirements.
The university has also refused Shafay’s right to appeal while not applying the same rule in case of students from other countries.
Shafay explained: “I joined my course late because my visa was delayed by the Home Office. How could I attend classes when my visa hadn’t even arrived?
“A few of my friends had lower attendance than me but their visas haven’t been impacted. Why are they targeting me?
“It’s clear that there is an element of discrimination in my case.
“I have fulfilled the requirement, I like this university and I want to study here but the university is hanging me out to dry from some unknown reasons.”
Shafay has revealed that the ordeal has led to him facing mental health problems.
In the warning letter, Shafay was told to show sustained improvement over the next four weeks. He was required to attend all classes, submit all required coursework by the deadlines and to attend all required assessments.
Following the warning, Shafay kept a 100% attendance record, however, he was called into a meeting with the university administrations Visa Officer.
The Visa Officer ended up revoking Shafay’s visa disregarding his improved attendance and deeming his reasoning of being mentally depressed and his inability to adjust in the first term as an unsatisfactory reason.
Although the student increased his attendance to 64%, the UK university sent him an email which stated that they had reported him to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and that his visa had been cancelled.
The email read:
“Your attendance level as of 02/03/2020 was 64% and you had 14 unauthorised absences. You were issued with a First Formal Warning on 07/01/2020.
“However, I note that your student registration at Royal Holloway, University of London has been terminated due to a Tier 4 Visa Breach and you are now classified as a leaver.”
Shafay’s father has travelled from their home in Lahore to London to support his son’s case. He said:
“I am very stressed. As a father, I worked hard to provide a good education for my children but now we are at the mercy of the university which has treated my son extremely unfairly.”
Mr Shoaib explained that he tried contacting the Visa Officer only to receive a reply from staff members saying that the Visa Officer would only reply through email.
He added that the university’s actions have resulted in his wife being admitted to the hospital due to stress.
Mr Shoaib questioned:
“Who will be responsible if anything happens to my wife? Do Royal Holloway and the UKBA understand the stress they cause to families?”
Over 10,000 Pakistani nationals are studying at UK universities.
International students have to pay double the fees as local students but many argue that despite paying more and fulfilling the criteria, they do not get equal rights and are systematically discriminated against.
On March 2, 2020, the university wrote to Shafay:
“We reported the termination of your student registration disciplinary reasons – Tier 4 Visa Breach at Royal Holloway, University of London to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) office on 24/02/2020.
“Please kindly note that failure to attend classes or complete assessments in line with UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) requirements has resulted in your sponsorship being withdrawn, your visa being cancelled and your registration with the College being discontinued.
“This discontinuation of registration due to a breach in Visa requirements is conducted independently of the College’s formal warning process as outlined in your formal warning letter issued to you on 07/01/2020 and the decision is not open to appeal.”
Mr Shoaib has spent over £40,000 on his son’s education and living expenses in the UK.
Shafay told Geo News:
“I attended the lectures but had problems figuring out when and where my classes were in the beginning of the semester as was the case with many of my fellow students.
“In addition to that, I struggled with mental issues regarding fitting into the new environment and adjusting myself according to it.
“The mental depression played a very big role in my lack of attendance in the first semester. But I never let it affect my academic ability and scored four distinctions in all four of the modules that I took.
“Once I was settled in my attendance I got better as well which is evident by the 100% attendance record I have maintained since 10/01/2020.”
Shafay plans to seek justice by taking his case to court.