GP trainee's fight against deportation 'tip of the iceberg', warns RCGP

The RCGP has called on the Home Office to reform the visa and immigration system for doctors, following the case of a GP trainee who was threatened with deportation after making an administrative mistake in her visa application.

Concern over visa rules (Photo: Oleksandr Siedov/Getty Images)

The college said the case was just the 'tip of the iceberg' and there could be many more instances where 'red tape or minor administrative errors' were preventing GPs and GP trainees from working in the NHS.

On Wednesday the Home Office confirmed that it had reversed its decision to refuse Liverpool-based GP trainee Dr Mu-Chun Chiang a tier-2 visa and granted her leave to remain. The decision followed widespread media coverage of the case and an online petition after Dr Chiang’s initial visa application was rejected.

Dr Chiang was born in Taiwan but has lived in the UK for the past 13 years. The Home Office refused her visa application in August after she made a mistake with the supporting paperwork she provided.

According to Home Office rules, a tier-2 visa applicant's bank balance must remain above £945 in the 90 days before their application. Dr Chiang had more than that amount in her savings account, but she submitted statements from her current account as part of her application, which went below this limit on occasion because she was under the impression that she only needed to ensure the balance was above £945 at the end of each month.

Deportation threat

Dr Chiang appealed the decision and sent immigration officials her savings account details. However, according to details posted by Dr Chiang’s friends on the online petition, the Home Office said it was unable to accept any information not in her original application and sent a letter last month telling her she had 10 days to leave the country or she would be detained and removed.

The petition calling for Dr Chiang to be allowed to remain in the UK reached almost 40,000 signatures within days. Its organiser, Dr Chiang's friend Mina Mesri, revealed on Wednesday that the Home Office had reversed its decision and issued Dr Chiang a tier-2 visa. She added that Dr Chiang was 'delighted with the decision' and 'incredibly grateful' to everyone who had pledged their support.

Earlier on Wednesday, RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard had written to home secretary Priti Patel asking her to intervene in the case. The letter also called for reform of the visa and immigration system for doctors, which it said was necessary ‘if we have a hope of the NHS, which has long been held up by the diverse range of people from around the world, surviving’.

Visa reform

Professor Stokes-Lampard later said: 'It's ludicrous that at a time when the NHS workforce is in crisis and the skills and expertise of GPs are so desperately needed, the Home Office is still willing to deport a doctor that this country has already invested in, who has lived here for most of her life and studied medicine here. We should be welcoming Dr Chiang to the NHS with open arms, not deporting her.

'Unfortunately, her case is not the first, and we suspect it is just the tip of the iceberg and that there could be many more cases where red tape or minor administrative errors are preventing our trainees and fully qualified GPs from working in the NHS when our patients and our profession are crying out for them.

'We understand the need for well-defined rules on immigration, but these need to be intelligently applied and properly assessed in each case to prevent further impact on both our NHS workforce, and the lives of our GPs.

'We have written to the home secretary about this case, and the wider impact of visa rules on the GP workforce, urging her in the strongest possible terms to intervene and to ensure similar experiences are not repeated.'

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.’

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