Home Office officials are facing criticism after threatening to deport a South African man who speaks English as his first language – because he has not taken an English language test.
Donovan Tapping lives in Cumbria with his wife Shelley after settling there almost ten years ago. However, he has been refused permission to stay in the UK and could be deported within a month if he loses an appeal against the decision to remove him.
A petition calling for the Home Office to suspend his deportation said he was refused permanent right to remain because he ticked a box claiming that South Africa is a predominantly English speaking country and did not take an English language test.
The 36-year-old said he was not advised by the Home Office that the UK does not regard South Africa as a majority English-speaking nation, which means citizens have to pass an English language exam before being granted leave to stay.
“This whole situation is soul-destroying,” Mr Tapping told the News and Star.
“I speak a little Afrikaans, but my main language has always been English, and is regarded as the main international language used in South Africa.
“All they told me was that I would have to sit the Life in the UK test, which I did and which I passed. Nobody ever mentioned an English test.
His wife Shelly described the situation as “heart-breaking” and said her husband is completely settled into his life in England.
She said: “Donovan’s only mistake was ticking the wrong box on his form, because he did not realise that the government here does not see South Africa as a country which is majority English speaking.
“Apparently, my being married to him makes no difference. I think it’s a terrible way to treat people.”
The pair have set up a Facebook page in a bid to gather support for Mr Tapping’s case online.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: "All applications are considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules.
“Anyone applying for indefinite leave to remain who is not from an English speaking country must provide evidence of having an approved English language qualification. The immigration rules state that South Africa is not an English speaking country.
“Mr Tapping’s application was refused because he failed to provide evidence that he had passed a language qualification. He has the right to appeal this decision.”