BY CALUM FRASER
A nine-year-old chess prodigy was “jumping” and “dancing” when he heard the news that he would not be deported.
Shreyas Royal, ranked number two in chess world rankings for his age, has been living in Woolwich with his family for almost six years, but they were facing deportation to India as the visa they were on was due to expire next month.
Then, on Friday, they received the news from the Home Office that Shreyas’ father Jitendra Singh had been granted a five-year extension to his visa as his son was a “world-class talent” that the UK wanted to keep hold of.
Mr Singh, of Greens End, said: “At about 10am we received an email from the Home Office with the news.
We were absolutely delighted.
Shreyas was jumping up and down and dancing on the sofa. “This is the first time the Government have granted this exception to the visa for a chess player. It is amazing.”
Mr Singh had applied for an extension to his tier 2 visa on the grounds that Shreyas, nicknamed Shrez, was a “national asset”, but they received a rejection letter on August 1 from the Home Office.
The 38-year-old IT manager said: “It was a shocking surprise for us. Shreyas was asking us why we are leaving England, and I didn’t know what to say.
He was going to lose all his friends and the life he had known almost his whole life.”
The Home Office’s decision sparked outrage. Anthony Stebbings, treasurer of the Charlton Chess Club who had supported Shrez for years, said: “Shreyas is by far the most talented youngster we have ever had at Charlton Chess Club and it will be a huge loss for English chess if he has to leave the country.”
Woolwich and Greenwich MP Matthew Pennycook wrote to the Home Office secretary Sajid Javid saying: “If Shreyas Royal is forced to leave the UK and return to India, the country will lose an exceptional talent.”
Home Office tier 2 visa guidelines meant that Mr Singh would have to be earning more than £120,000 a year for the visa to be extended – which he does not.
But, Mr Javid performed a dramatic U-turn by stepping in to grant Shreyas and his family an extension.
Mr Javid said: “After carefully reviewing the evidence, I have taken the personal decision to allow Shreyas and his family to stay in the UK.
“The UK is a country that fosters world-class talent and Shreyas is one of the most gifted chess players in his generation.
“We have always been clear we want a world-class immigration system that welcomes highly-talented individuals from across the globe.”
Sheyas has won a host of awards and he was given the honour of making the first ceremonial move in a match featuring chess superstar and world champion Magnus Carlsen.
He now wants to be world chess champion by 21, which would make him the world’s youngest champion.
Mr Singh said: “It’s now time to celebrate. We’re going to have a food, drinks and then a game of chess.”
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