A St Andrews student says she is “heartbroken” that her parents may not see her graduate due to delays with their visa applications.
Dr Shruti Narayanswamy, who now works at St Andrews University, grew up in Mumbai, India.
She is set to graduate with a PhD in film studies on June 21 after her ceremony was delayed by two years because of Covid.
But Shruti says it is becoming increasingly unlikely that her parents Venkateswaran Narayanswamy Kavassery and Siva Subramaniyan Subbalakshmi will be able to watch her parents are still awaiting a decision from the Home Office – despite applying more than eight weeks ago.
Shruti, 34, has lived in the UK for seven years and her parents have never had the opportunity to visit her before.
Shruti said: “It’s a very big deal for them to share this moment with me and see what my life is like in St Andrews.
“They’re very proud of me so it feels like a big overdue celebration and it’s just heartbreaking the now very real prospect of not being able to share that with them.
“Every time I call or email the Home Office I have to pay for it, and the answers you get are either it’s going to be three, six weeks or eight to 10 weeks; more than 10 weeks or that a decision could be made any moment now.”
Six-week current average waiting time
The Home Office says anyone applying for a standard visitor visa will usually receive a decision within three weeks – but says the average waiting time is currently six weeks.
But it also says visitors should not apply any more than three months before their trip.
Shruti said: “It’s really difficult because my parents are both retired and elderly and I’m the only child and I already live so far away.
“It’s a very simple thing that I think anyone should be allowed to do to have their parents at their graduation.”
Shruti says they have already spent more than £1,500 on flights, insurance, visas and passports for the trip.
But with her mum and dad due to fly on Wednesday, she has lost all hope that they will receive their documents in time.
‘Every time I feel like I belong here something happens’
Shruti – who features on the St Andrews University website highlighting diversity at the institution – says despite putting so much into living in Scotland, she still does not feel she belongs.
“Scotland is my home now, so every time I feel a little bit settled, like I belong, something happens and it’s almost always inevitably to do with the immigration system here,” she added.
Wendy Chamberlain, MP for North East Fife, has raised Shruti’s case with the Home Office.
She said: “It is deeply disappointing that Dr Narayanswamy will now likely not be able to have her parents with her in person for her graduation.
“She applied well in advance and deserved a better service than she has received.
“My staff have engaged with UK Visas and Immigration on Dr Narayanswamy’s behalf and have sought information on the processing of her parents’ visas.
“While I accept that their work has been impacted by the crisis in Ukraine, it is still not acceptable that they have fallen short of the timescales for visa applications that they advertised.”
Bosses at the university says they are also working to speed up the process.
A spokesperson added: “We implore the UK visa agency to act quickly so that Shruti and others in a similar situation are able to share their achievements and celebrate with loved ones.”
Visas taking longer as government ‘prioritising Ukraine’
The Home Office said they are aiming to grant Shruti’s parent’s visa before their looming deadline.
A spokesperson said: “We are prioritising Ukraine Family Scheme and Homes for Ukraine applications in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine, so applications for study, work and family visas have taken longer to process.”
Football legend Sir Kenny Dalglish is set to be honoured at the St Andrews University ceremonies.
But those heading for the graduations have been warned they face travel problems due to a rail network strike.