AN award-winning actor who has built a career in Scotland is facing an uncertain future because of visa regulations.
Tyler Collins, who is just eight months short of being able to apply for full UK citizenship, is being forced to go back to his hometown in the United States to apply for a new visa even though he has been based in Glasgow since 2007.
There is no guarantee he will get the new visa, and even if he does it will mean the last nine years will not count towards a citizenship application. To be eligible, applicants for citizenship have to be in the country for a full ten years.
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As well as losing all the contacts and regular work he has built up over the last nine years, a refusal to allow Collins back to Scotland may force an acclaimed independent film company to fold, it has been claimed.
Film director John McPhail of Worrying Drake Productions said yesterday that if Collins was barred from coming back to Scotland it would be a “tremendous” loss to the industry.
“Tyler is one of the most wonderful actors I have ever worked with,” he said. “His physical comedy is quite literally the best in the country – every stage production I have ever seen him has audiences in stitches. It’s usually hard for an actor with such amazing physical comedy and performances to transfer that to film but not Tyler; he’s the comedy, the heart and the soul of all the Worrying Drake films.
“He’s made audiences all around the world laugh and cry, and it’s backed up with all our Best Film, Audience Choice, Best Actor and Best Score awards. He is also one of the most talented musicians I have ever met. If we had to lose Tyler we’d be losing one of the most amazing talents this country has ever trained, and it would kill our multi award-winning production company as we could never replace him.”
Collins has performed at the Tron, Citizens, Pavilion, Traverse and Dundee Rep Theatres and has had small stints in River City and Outlander. He’s a founding member of Worrying Drake, and along with McPhail has made four award- winning short films including Just Say Hi, which won two out of three awards at the Virgin Media Short Film Competition.
Together they have finished their first feature length film Where Do We Go From Here, winner of Best Film and Best Score at the Sydney Indie Film Festival and Best Actor and Best Score at the Blue Whiskey Film Festival. Collins also wrote music and performed in Last Dream (On Earth) with the National Theatre of Scotland, which won Best Music and Sound at the 2015 Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland, and was performed at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe.
The actor first came over from Alaska to study at the then RSMAD, now the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow.
“Scotland is my home now,” he said. “It is where I have grown as an actor and where I have built my career. People now know who I am in the acting industry and I have built up strong relationships with certain theatre companies so I get regular work. If I don’t get a new visa I will have to start all over again in the States, which will be a huge blow.
“I’d be devastated if I had to leave Scotland. It’s been home for my entire adult life and I think I do bring something different to the table. Without sounding too boastful, I’m a 6’ 6” Alaskan actor and musician that can do impeccable Scottish accents and can learn to play nearly any instrument within a week.”
The 27-year-old is having to apply for the highly competitive Exceptional Talent visa, which means he will have to go back to Alaska for at least two months.
“Apart from missing out on work here there is no guarantee I will get the visa as only around 200 are granted every year to international performers,” said Collins. “I feel like I am in limbo, but to be honest the visa regulations have changed ever since I got here.”
When he first started at the RSMAD in 2007, international students were allowed to work for 18 months in the country after graduating but that policy has been abandoned, leading to protests from Scottish universities that have seen their international student applications plummet as a result.
Collins then began a relationship with a Scot and was eligible for an unmarried partner’s visa, but even though he spent £800 on the application knowing he fitted all the criteria, it was initially refused and he spent a further £2000 – his entire savings from a season in panto in Dunfermline – on a court appeal that was successful but gave him only another three years.
He has since split with his partner and his only option now is the Exceptional Talent visa. If it is granted it will be for five years, and he will need to reapply for another five years before he is eligible to apply for citizenship.