RESURRECTING the post-study work visa scheme that was so ignominiously scrapped by Theresa May seven years should have been a winner for a Government which has been under the cosh for its “hostile environment” immigration policy.

The scheme was introduced in 2005 and allowed international graduates studying in Britain to live and work here for two years once their studies were finished. A similar scheme was launched in Scotland called the Fresh Talent initiative with an aim to repopulate the Highlands.

However, in 2012, then-Home Secretary Theresa May scrapped it and forced foreign students to leave the UK four months after finishing their degree. News that the post-work visa scheme was to be reintroduced is biter sweet for the many couples forced to live apart, in some cases on different continents, by May’s hostile environment.

American Juli Colaianni met Tony Duffy, a self-employed plasterer from Edinburgh, in 2016 while she was studying at Northumbria University. They married in January 2017 and since she has been fighting a battle to be with her husband in Scotland.

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She told The Sunday National: “While the news of the changes for students studying in the UK came as a welcome surprise, I can’t help but feel anger and bitterness for all the students who dedicated their time and money to studying in the UK already and were forced out months after graduating.

“When I was looking at studying in the UK, I was told by my university that finding and securing a job after graduation would be a simple process; something most international graduates did ... That couldn’t have been further from the truth, as I soon found out after graduating when I was well and truly introduced to the hostile environment.

“While I have yet to be able to use my degree, I will never regret studying in the UK. I met my husband while I was studying and I, like many other international students, was forced to leave the UK and put my life and career on hold.

“If the Tory Government wants to extend the time international students are able to stay and look for work after graduation, they have to also expect these students will fully integrate into British society and culture and that also means potentially falling in love.’’ Talha Ghafoor’s circumstances were different, but again illustrate the rigid, often heartless, application of the rules within the hostile environment.

He came to study in Scotland in 2011, but could not complete his course because of illness and problems in Pakistan, his home country.

Before his visa expired, he sought a one-year extension from the Home Office to let him complete his studies, and provided NHS records as evidence of his health problems. He was told to leave the country.

“For four years I fought this battle,” he said. “I’ve tried other legal routes to get me stay in the country so I could complete my education.

“All I needed was a year extra, I’ve told them my situation back home is not very safe, my parents are sick and I’ve invested everything into paying fees in Glasgow College. I’ve paid more than £15,000 in only two years.

“But at the end of the day all my requests were turned down.”

During the time he was challenging the Home Office, Ghafoor met and, in 2016 married Robyn. They now have a two-year-old son, Danyl.

However, he remains in Pakistan while his wife and child are at home in Greenock.

“I was asked to visit the Home Office at Brand Street, Govan, on a weekly basis and was told I have to let them know if I have any plans to raise a family, said Ghafoor.

“The week after I told them I was engaged when I went to the Home Office I was detained. I was told I had exhausted all my appeals on student visas as well as other visa requests, and would be administratively removed as soon as possible.”

He said his then-fiancée followed him from one detention centre to another: “They made sure I didn’t have a legal help, they moved me to Dungavel detention centre, then Manchester and then London.

“I was removed from UK in just a week. I was denied my right to get married’’ THE family have now been apart for three years – one of the many “Skype families” – and Ghafoor said they had lost everything along the way.

“I lost my job in Scotland, I’ve lost all chances of completing my education, all of our savings are gone to paying Home Office fees and yet here we are separated and waiting for another family member to die.”

While their individual circumstances are vastly different, the never-ending tales are depressingly similar.

An American woman, married to an Englishman and unable to gain permission to stay with him wanted to remain anonymous because of another pending Home Office application.

She told The Sunday National: “I feel trapped by both the US and UK immigration systems, and I’m constantly angry that [Donald] Trump and Boris [Johnson] have a say on my marriage.”

Shelly, who is on immigration bail, met her partner in 2011 when she had four years left on her visa and technically was allowed to work in the UK after her PhD.

“However, my civil partnership visa application has consistently been refused and one of the reasons the Home Office has quoted is that ‘I was in precarious circumstances’ when the relationship began,” she said.

“Later, I discovered that this is one of the standard scripted lines they give to refuse anyone who was legally in the country but fell in love while on a valid visa, yet it gives Home Office a reason to refuse any relationship.”

The National: Theresa May left a legacy of damaging policiesTheresa May left a legacy of damaging policies

One of the highest profile cases in recent years involving the Home Office’s betrayal of a student on a post-study work visa was that of Australians Kathryn and Gregg Brain and their son Lachlan, who is now 10.

The Brains have now settled into their life in the Highlands after The National brought their story to national prominence and Nicola Sturgeon stepped in to support them.

Gregg’s opinion of the new visa move is withering, and he has some advice for anyone considering applying for one: “Think long and hard before shaking hands on any deal with the Home Office.

“Any foreign student is committing to moving internationally for three years, minimum, and then only after that, are they hoping that they’ll still be able to take up the Home Office offer of transitioning to a two-year post study work visa. That’s a long time, and a huge commitment, and absolutely no way of knowing if the Home Office will keep their promise to them. They have done this before.

“This is exactly the promise that they made to my family, and then broke it. And then they broke us for trying to hold them to that promise.”

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrant (JCWI) said the visa’s reintroduction was simply common sense.

However, Minnie Rahman, from the JCWI, added: “Those who fell in love while studying here and were forced apart by the Tories’ hostile environment and unfair immigration rules should also now be able to build a life in the UK.”

Scotland’s Migration Minister, Ben Macpherson, said the Scottish Government had argued against the “nonsensical decision” to scrap the visa route in 2012.

“It shouldn’t have taken seven years for the UK Government to accept the arguments from partners across Scotland and reverse their 2012 decision,” he said. “It is clearer by the day that Scotland urgently needs migration policies tailored to our distinct needs, and for the devolution of powers to develop, deliver and maintain policies that meet the needs and aspirations of Scotland’s universities, communities, public services and economy.”

A Home Office spokesperson refused to comment but sent us a press notice, headed: “World’s largest genetics research project to fight deadly diseases and new offer for international students”, which revealed plans to “transform how talented international students are able build successful careers in the UK through a new immigration route”.