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When Brendon Watkins decided to apply to permanently reside in London in November 2011, he thought it would be a straight-forward process.

He’d been living and working in the capital since coming over from New Zealand in 2004, paying taxes and setting up home with his now wife Michaela. He thought that with his history, a decent job and two young kids – it was in the bag.

Watkins first got in touch with TNT in February, when we launched our UK Border Agency Balls-Up campaign, calling on the Home Office to implement changes to its shambolic in-country visa services (see box on the right). Six months later, his case has still not been resolved – and he’s now being told to leave the country, meaning leaving behind his wife, kids and the life he’s spent nine years building.

Sign our petition calling for better visa services here

Watkins’ nightmare first started when his application for naturalisation for indefinite leave to remain was refused in November 2012 – just as his current visa expired. He’d been advised to apply for that particular visa by the Home Office, and sought guidance from the UKBA website, which backed up what Watkins, 36, had been told. One month later, UKBA said he’d applied for the wrong one – costing him £991. Despite appealing, the government department said it was sticking by its decision. 

“I felt like I was being held to ransom,” Watkins says. “Like I’m just a box the UKBA has to tick to reduce immigration and that they’re not giving me a fair hearing.”

'A nightmare': Brendon with Michaela and their two children

Determined to stay in South Ealing, where he’s “absorbed in our community; we pick up shopping for elderly neighbours and help out with gardening”, Watkins enlisted the help of Kings Court Chambers. In February, he instructed them to act on his behalf, applying for indefinite leave to remain. The firm didn’t submit the application until April. 

“KCC took £1800 for their fee upfront in February, and requested the UKBA fee of £991 which we paid them in March – along with another £60 as the fees had increased. It’s a lot of money for a working family with two young children, but we were confident the visa would be issued,” says Watkins, who worked as a contracts manager for an environmental company. However, five weeks later, he received a letter from KCC. His visa application had been rejected due to an issue with payment from KCC.

“I couldn’t believe it. All the time the clock is ticking, my application is getting weaker as my visa officially ran out in November, but there was nothing else I could do,” Watkins says. He then had to resubmit another application through KCC – and, shockingly, the same thing happened again.

On June 22, he was told the application was returned due to a payment issue with KCC. After applying again, last week Watkins was told his application had been refused – one of the points being that he had overstayed his visa. 


'My life is on hold': Kiwi dad-of-two told he faces deportation after working in the UK for 9 years
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