Sun, Aug 12, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Child chess prodigy can stay in the UK

The Guardian

A nine-year-old chess prodigy on Friday was told he does not have to leave the UK when his father’s work visa expires, a move that has been welcomed by lawmakers and chess organizations in Britain.

Shreyas Royal has lived in the UK since he was three, but was told he would be sent back to India when the work visa expires next month.

His father, Jitendra Singh, said he had received an e-mail informing him of the British Home Office’s change of mind.

“They just e-mailed me and told me they had considered my case and we are allowed to extend our leave to remain on tier 2 general route,” Singh said. “We are very happy and Shreyas is very happy. He jumped up on the sofa when he heard the news. I want to thank all those who helped and supported us... I would also like to thank the Home Office and the home secretary who considered our case.”

The news was also welcomed by the English Chess Federation, which has been campaigning for the boy to remain.

“We ... are delighted that our efforts to persuade the government to recognize Shreyas Royal’s exceptional talents have borne fruit,” federation president Dominic Lawson said.

“When Jitendra got in touch with me this morning to tell me of the Home Office’s decision, it was obvious what it meant to him, his wife and of course Shreyas,” he added. “We are also grateful to [British Home Secretary] Sajid Javid for personally taking charge of re-examining the original decision of the immigration department.”

Shreyas, nicknamed Shrez, was described by chess grandmaster and former British champion Chris Ward as “the best prospect the country has ever seen.”

He started playing chess at six, eventually becoming the world’s youngest “candidate master.”

In August last year, he was ranked joint fourth in his age group at the World Cadets Chess Championships in Brazil. In his short time playing, he has won multiple awards.

Shreyas’ parents, Jitendra and Anju Singh, moved to southeast London from India in 2012. They have been staying under a tier 2 long-term work permit, but were told that the only way they could stay would be for Jitendra Singh to renew his visa. To do so, he had to earn more than £120,000 (US$153,227) a year.

The couple appealed to the Home Office on the grounds that their son is a national asset, but received a letter earlier in the month saying that while he showed “immense promise,” it did not mean he could remain in the country.

The decision was originally challenged by lawmakers who urged the Home Office to reconsider. The Labour Party’s Rachel Reeves, a former junior chess champion, and Matthew Pennycook, member of parliament for Greenwich and Woolwich where Shreyas lives, wrote to two Cabinet ministers urging them to let the boy stay.

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