A JUNIOR doctor faces being deported from Scotland on Saturday in a row over a work visa.

Several politicians and Scotland's chief medical officer, Dr Gregor Smith, have intervened in the case to lobby the Home Office to reverse the decision following an online plea for help.

The BMA warned that it was "not the first time we are hearing of visa issues for our international colleagues", amid fears raised last week that visa and sponsorship problems will leave newly-qualified GPs who are non-UK citizens with "no option" but to leave Scotland after training.

The junior doctor, a Singaporean national who does not want to be named in case it harms his case, studied medicine in Scotland and completed his foundation training in Edinburgh during the pandemic.

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He returned home for a year following a family bereavement but had successfully applied for a job with the NHS in Scotland and had been due to start work today.

However, delays in obtaining a work visa by his health board resulted in him being granted a six month visitor's visa instead, to enable him to return to Scotland - where he has family and owns a home - pending the necessary paperwork being processed.

This included details of his "sponsorship" by NHS Education for Scotland - the body responsible for junior doctors - which finally came through on Tuesday night.

The medic had arrived back in Scotland from Singapore in July, before travelling to Malta a week ago for a holiday with friends.

On arrival back at Edinburgh Airport on Tuesday, however, the he was detained by border guards.

He now faces being deported back to Malta, his last port of call, on Saturday.

Dr Lewis Thomas Hughes, a former chair of the Scottish Junior Doctors' Committee who went to medical school with the junior doctor for five years and was among those holidaying in Malta with him, said his friends fear that if the deportation goes ahead he might never be able to return to the UK at all.

Dr Hughes said: "He had a job offer, he was due to start today, but the visa was delayed so he wasn't going to be able to start today - that was always understood.

"You can't work without the right to work.

"He arrived two weeks ago just to get his house in order - he owns a property here, he had to get his car fixed, had to get various things with occupational health sorted.

"So he was granted a visitor's visa for six months when he arrived two weeks' ago.

"A week ago he came on holiday with a group of us - we're all friends since university - but when we arrived back at Edinburgh Airport yesterday he was told: 'No, we actually believe you're going to go to work without a visa'.

"That's impossible. A hospital will not roster you - they absolutely will not do it, because they realise the legal implications for them as an employer and they're so risk averse.

"So he showed them all his emails, protesting about it, but then they took his phone, he couldn't contact anyone, didn't have access to a lawyer, and had his visitor's visa revoked on the basis that they thought he would work.

"They said to him 'if you do not go back home, we will deport you on Saturday back to your last port of call'. They gave him no wiggle room at all.

"Our concern is that if he has to go away pending the visa, it's not great - but the key thing is that he doesn't end up with a black mark on his immigration record stating that he was denied entry because that makes it so, so hard to get back in.

"When this happens to other people, including doctors, that's what they find."

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The medic was held overnight and released this morning. He is now staying with family near Edinburgh.

Following an appeal for help on Twitter by Dr Hughes, a number of politicians including Scottish Conservative health spokesman Sandesh Gulhane, minister for public health Maree Todd, and Ian Duncan, deputy speaker in the House of Lords, have taken up the case.

Dr Gregor Smith, Scotland's CMO is also understood to have intervened.

Dr Hughes added: "There's a lot of people looking at it, but the time pressure is the thing. And this is going to leave a department and patients even further in the lurch."

Mr Gulhane said he was in talks with the doctor's lawyers and with the minister in charge of UK borders.

He said: "It's one of those things where somebody just needs to make a sensible decision. We're trying to solve it."

Dr Lewis Morrison, chair of BMA Scotland, said it was "urgently looking into this case".

He added: “It is usually not advisable to generalise from individual cases, however given the current staffing pressures in our NHS, we need all the doctors we can get and so it is frustrating that some international doctors, who have secured jobs here – and in some cases trained here too – may be having avoidable visa problems.

"Scottish and Westminster governments need to work together to fix this, because this is the not the first time we are hearing of visa issues for our international colleagues.

"We must not lose out on the invaluable contribution these doctors make to the workforce."

Minister for Culture, External Affairs and International Development, Neil Gray, said he hoped that the case would be "resolved quickly" but that visas are a reserved matter for the Home Office. 

He added: “The UK Government’s immigration policies are having a deeply damaging impact on key sector workforces, including in our NHS and social care. 

“The current UK immigration system is too bureaucratic and complex for individuals and employers to navigate.” 

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: “We welcome all doctors and medical professionals who wish to come to work within the NHS.

“Everyone entering the UK to work, regardless of where they enter from, is required to have a valid work visa.”

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It comes days after the BMA warned that current visa arrangements are leaving international doctors training as GPs in limbo. 

Foundation training - the first two years post-medical school - is covered by a Tier 4 study visa, after which doctors move onto specialist training under a Tier 2 skilled worker visa which leads to indefinite leave to remain (ILR) following five years. 

However, as GP training is three years, not five, they do not meet the criteria for ILR at the point of qualification and would be unable to stay without finding a GP practice willing to become a "sponsor".

Every Doctor, a support group for medical staff, has also highlighted cases of hundreds of would-be NHS medics stranded overseas amid delays to work visas and immigration paperwork, with bottlenecks worsening during the pandemic.