A family man with two children – who has lived and worked in Skye for 14 years – is facing deportation following a visa wrangle.
Matt Ormerod, who is originally from Australia, received notification last Tuesday (1st November) that his visa application had been refused and that he had been placed on immigration bail.
Matt moved to Skye in 2008 and met his future wife Michelle soon after. He helped raise Michelle’s biological son, Luke (now 11). And in 2016 they welcomed a second child into the family when their daughter Lucy was born.
Since then, Matt has integrated into the local community and has proven to be an asset at ‘The Chippy’ in Portree where he has worked for the last three years.
However, due to confusion over the application process for his visa, Matt is now living through what he has described as a “devastating nightmare” as he fights to stay with his family and protect his life on the island.
In January 2020 Matt, whose grandfather hailed from the UK, began applying for a new ancestry visa to replace his existing one which was due to expire in May of that year.
After acquiring the necessary paperwork, Matt completed the process only to discover that he had applied for a separate permission that wasn’t the visa application itself.
“I finally got to get on my way with it and had the money, which wasn’t easy as it is £1,000 and I have a family of four with bills to pay and mouths to feed,” Matt added.
“I paid for it, and then realised that I hadn’t paid for a visa at all. I had in fact paid for a new thing called an Immigration Health Surcharge.
“I thought it was a big mistake, so I was trying to get a refund on the £1,000 to pay for my actual visa.”
Not realising that he did in fact require the IMS application on top of a visa, Matt began contacting HMRC for a refund to pay for his proper documentation.
“At this point Covid had completely hit, my visa ran out in May but there was a grace period for everyone,” Matt said.
“HMRC was impossible to get a hold of. I called, and I called but no one wanted to talk to me because I wasn’t an essential worker, so that was the issue.
“I knew that I was getting into dangerous waters, but I was trying. I was doing everything I could to get this sorted.”
Matt decided to contact Ian Blackford in November 2021 and exchanged emails with the Skye MP until April 2022.
“By that time, I had saved up enough money to pay for the visa, but when I started to do the application for the right visa, I realised that I also had to pay for the IHS number,” Matt explained.
Matt said he was “passed from pillar to post” when trying to explain the situation to the HMRC.
He added: “I thought I had finally got it sorted. I paid for the visa and I paid for the IHS number. I went down to Glasgow in September, got my fingerprints done, everything seemed to be okay.
“I was waiting, and then I got this email on Tuesday saying my visa had been refused, and that I was on immigration bail, and that I had to wait for another email with a date of when to get out.”
Matt’s boss at The Chippy, Peter Urquhart, told the Free Press: “He has been with me for a few years now. He is a tremendous worker, I can’t fault him at all.
“He is right in the middle of the team; he is great craic and great fun to work with.
“He has married into a local family, so I didn’t think there would be an issue at all with his visa.”
He added: “We are 100 per cent behind him and would be devastated if he had to go.”
Visibly upset and shaken, Matt told the Free Press: “I don’t want to leave, I can’t leave my wife and kids.
“I have lived here for 14 years. I have worked honestly, I have paid taxes, national insurance, I have done everything by the book. I have never been in trouble with the police in Australia or here.
“I have made friends; the community has accepted me. I am scared that if I do get kicked out, I won’t be able to come back.
He added: “I have raised Luke for 10 years; he is my son.
“Lucy is a daddy’s girl, I haven’t even told her yet.
“I don’t know what to do, they are everything to me.”
Matt has lodged an appeal against the decision and is currently in contact with Ian Blackford regarding the situation.
Article by Adam Gordon