A student who faced losing his place at Oxford University because of uncertainty over his immigration status has won his battle to remain in Britain indefinitely.
Brian White, 21, was abandoned as a baby and lived in an orphanage in Zimbabwe until he was six. He was fostered and later adopted by a British man, Peter White, and his family, who moved to Botswana and later returned to the UK.
His application to become a British citizen by naturalisation was rejected and he was only granted limited leave to remain in the UK, which meant he was unable to take up his place to study chemistry at Oxford.
White’s schoolfriend Luke Wilcox launched a petition urging the Home Office to review the case. It was signed by more than 110,000 people, with supporters including the author Philip Pullman, comedian Frankie Boyle, and MP Eleanor Smith.
Wilcox said on Monday that White had been informed of the Home Office’s decision by his lawyer. “At the moment we would like to enjoy some personal time, but we would like to thank all those that supported the campaign and signed the petition, and we are grateful to them for helping change Brian’s life,” he said.
White’s original citizenship application was rejected in 2014, but he continued his studies, taking his GCSEs and A-levels at Highfields school in Wolverhampton. He received four A*s at A-level but was unable to go to university because he was not eligible for student finance.
Oxford deferred his place for a year, and his secondary school let him return and work as a volunteer teaching assistant. In April 2017 he submitted another application for leave to remain, but his supporters were up against the clock because his offer from Oxford was due to expire.
White told the Guardian last week that he did not know what he would do if he was deported to Zimbabwe. “I’m not legally allowed to work, so I assume I would be deported to Africa,” he said. “I don’t know anyone there. I’d have to start again. This is the most important thing to me right now. Everyone I know and love lives here.
“I worked really hard to get into Oxford. I spent loads of time revising, and I got the grades in the end. I was really ecstatic. When I realised I couldn’t actually go because I couldn’t afford it as I wasn’t a home student I was hugely disappointed.”
The West Midlands police and crime commissioner, David Jamieson, also called on the Home Office to act quickly and see sense in its consideration of the case.
Calling for it to be fast-tracked, Jamieson said: “Brian is an exceptionally bright and talented young man and he must be allowed to fulfil his full potential.”
White’s lawyer, Louis MacWilliam, said: “Having reviewed Brian’s immigration papers, our view was that Brian should have been granted indefinite leave to remain when he first entered the UK back in January 2013.
“It is a testament to Brian’s character that he has achieved so much in spite of this problem with his status. This decision goes some way to correcting this injustice and will allow Brian to fulfil his undoubted potential.”