I’m on the poster for diversity at one of the UK’s top universities, so why can’t my parents get a visa to my graduation?
I don’t like doing something so personal via a blog post but I’m heart-broken and also angry for the many thousands of people, whose weddings and family ceremonies are being ruined, all because of the apparent disarray at the UK Home Office. So this is my story…
The Home Office won’t process my parents’ visa in time to be at my PhD graduation ceremony on 21st June 2022. I’m literally on the poster for diversity at the University of St Andrews.
- I’m a PhD alumna and current member of staff at the University of St Andrews (I’m pictured above on the University’s strategy webpage).
- I’m due to have my PhD graduation at St Andrews on Tuesday 21st June as part of the ‘Class of 2020’ ceremonies (delayed due to the pandemic).
- I applied for standard UK visitor visas for my parents 8 weeks ago (biometrics submitted at the VFS Global office in Hyderabad, India on Friday 22nd April, see screenshot of supporting documents below). There’s been no further progress.
(Last updated 9th June 2022, 2pm)
I grew up in Mumbai, India and moved to Scotland in 2015 to pursue my fully-funded PhD from the University in St Andrews. My research area is women’s role in the Indian Independence movement and early Indian cinema. I was mentored at the beginning of my academic career by the late P K Nair, who founded India’s national film archive NFAI (the equivalent of the BFI). Nair was the subject of the film ‘Celluloid Man’. You can read about my friendship with Mr Nair in Sight & Sound.
I received my PhD in 2020 and accepted a full-time position in the University’s Centre for Educational Enhancement and Development. My contract was made permanent in December 2021. I’m now on the immigration track to settlement via the ‘Skilled Worker’ visa route. I’m writing a book based on my research into women cinema-goers’ part in India’s independence struggle as well as working full time at St Andrews University, which I represented in May 2022 at an academic conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
Visa application for my June graduation ceremony
At the time of submitting the application, we were advised that decisions would be made in 6 weeks (the UKVI’s advertised standard is 3-weeks but timescales have been extended due to the response to the war in Ukraine). My parents are due to fly on 15th June and return to India on 29th June. The visa application was for a visit of 2 weeks.
Clear documentation from the University, confirming that the purpose of the visit was to attend a graduation ceremony, was provided alongside 36 pages of supporting evidence (see below). The only avenue to contact the UKVI about the progress of applications are paid email/phone services. The paid phone helpline offers conflicting timelines but does not provide any meaningful updates. Timescales communicated to me have ranged from 3-6 weeks, 8-10 weeks, to a “decision imminent”. If these are the revised timescales, applicants have no way of knowing this unless they pay additional charges to call/email the UKVI. Meanwhile, applicant’s passports are stuck with the UKVI for weeks on end.
These severe delays are causing significant emotional and financial stress to applicants and their families. The hashtag #ukvisadelay shows my situation is far from exceptional. In my case, I now face the real prospect of graduating with the highest academic qualification in my field and not being able to share this once-in-a-lifetime moment with my parents. This is despite being on the poster for diversity and ‘global’ community for my University. While I understand that there are significant global issues impacting this process such as the Ukraine war, the UKVI is now exceeding its already doubled timescales without any communication to applicants.
The University of St Andrews Press Office are aware of my story and can be contacted for a comment at email@example.com