9-year-old Indian chess prodigy wins visa battle to stay in UK

By Aditi Khanna
    London, Aug 10 (PTI) A 9-year-old Indian chess genius won his battle today to stay in the UK after the expiry of his father’s work visa as the Home Office made an exception in the case due to his "exceptional talent".
     Shreyas Royal has won a series of chess championships and is ranked number four in the world in his age group and has the potential to be a future world chess champion.
     But his father Jitendra Singh's IT-related visa was set to expire next month when the family was expected to return to India. A number of British MPs had intervened in the case to urge UK home secretary Sajid Javid to make an exception in Royal’s case due to his exceptional talent.
    "They [Home Office] just e-mailed me and told me they had considered my case and we are allowed to extend our leave to remain on Tier 2 general route," Singh told the 'Guardian' newspaper.
     "We are very happy and Shreyas is very happy. He jumped up on the sofa when he heard the news. I want to thank all those who helped and supported us... I would also like to thank the Home Office and the home secretary who considered our case," he said.
    The news was also welcomed by the English Chess Federation (ECF), which has been campaigning for the boy to stay on in the UK and hone his talent. ECF president Dominic Lawson said: "We... are delighted that our efforts to persuade the government to recognise Shreyas Royal’s exceptional talents have borne fruit."
    "When Jitendra got in touch with me this morning to tell me of the Home Office’s decision, it was obvious what it meant to him, his wife and of course Shreyas. We are also grateful to [the home secretary] Sajid Javid, for personally taking charge of re-examining the original decision of the immigration department," he said.
    In a joint letter to Javid last week, Opposition Labour MPs Rachel Reeves and Matthew Pennycook said the UK would lose an "exceptional talent" if Shreyas was to leave.
    Their letter said: "The UK should always encourage the world's brightest, most talented people to work and make their lives here.
    "Shreyas is recognised by the English Chess Federation as the country's greatest chess prospect in a generation."
    Shreyas, who was born in India, moved to the UK aged three with parents Jitendra and Anju Singh from Bangalore six years ago. His father was offered a fixed-term contract under the intra-country transfer (ICT) route as an IT project manager with the Tata Group in the company’s UK office. The only way he could have extended his visa for a further four years is if he earned GBP 120,000 a year.
    Reeves had said: "Government plan to force a chess prodigy to leave the country next month because his father earns less than GBP 120,000 a year.
    "The UK shouldn't be deporting its brightest young talent. Sajid Javid should intervene and allow Shreyas to stay in the only home he can remember.”
    The UK Home Office had responded saying that "every visa case is assessed on its own merits in line with immigration rules".
    Their intervention came as Shreyas’ parents had appealed to the UK Home Office on the grounds that Shreyas is a national asset but were told in a letter earlier this week that while he showed "immense promise" it did not mean he could remain in the country.
    The email received by the family on Friday read: “As advised during the call we have spoken to your employer ... and have agreed with them that you will be able to submit an application to extend your stay in the UK under the Tier 2 (General) route.
    "I would be grateful if you could let me know once the applications have been submitted so that I can ensure that they are processed smoothly."
    The Tata Group was happy for Singh to continue working for them in the UK on his current salary if the visa issue was sorted out and he was able to remain in the UK.
    Shreyas, nicknamed Shrez, learnt to play the game in Britain and has since represented England internationally. He is currently competing in the British Chess Championships, which could be his last UK tournament. PTI AK NSA