S'porean doctor may have to leave Britain over late visa renewal

British-trained and five months from qualifying as a general practitioner, he has lived there for 10 years

A Singaporean doctor who has been in Britain for 10 years may be forced to leave after applying for a visa renewal three weeks late.

Dr Luke Ong, 31, arrived in September 2007 to study medicine at the University of Manchester.

After completing the five-year course in 2012, he extended his student visa to August last year so he could train to become a general practitioner (GP).

But in September, five months short of completing his training, his application for indefinite leave to remain was rejected by Britain's Home Office, Dr Ong told The Straits Times in a phone interview on Monday.

Dr Ong made the formal application for indefinite leave on Sept 2, 18 days after the deadline.

However, he first attempted to book an appointment to secure his status in July but was told that the closest available date was Sept 2.

He was also told that the appointment for the indefinite leave application had to be made within 28 days of his 10-year anniversary of being in Britain.

So the earliest he could have applied was on Aug 16 - the day after his visa expired.

While he could have had extended his student visa in the meantime, he would have had to send his passport and personal documents in the post.

Asked if he went with this option, Dr Ong said he chose instead to wait for the Sept 2 appointment.

But when he attended it, he was told that his application had been turned down as he was in breach of immigration law.

Dr Ong appealed the decision and a judge ruled in his favour, agreeing that his removal would breach his human rights and that it "would not be proportionate".

But the Home Office is seeking leave to appeal that ruling, according to a Daily Mail report on Sunday.

"I really cannot explain this. There aren't enough GPs here, it takes two weeks to see one, and I'm just a few months away from qualifying," said Dr Ong.

Last year, the National Health Service (NHS), Britain's publicly-funded healthcare system, announced plans to increase the number of GPs by accelerating an international recruitment programme.

The British Medical Association (BMA) condemned the Home Office's decision, calling it "utterly incomprehensible".

If he must leave Britain, Dr Ong plans to either return to Singapore, where his parents and grandparents are, or to Australia.