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U.K. Reversal Opens Door for Chess Prodigy, 9, to Stay in Country

Category: Europe,World

LONDON — Shreyas Royal, a 9-year-old chess prodigy whose future in Britain seemed bleak because he and his family were told they had to return to India, may be able to stay in the country after all, his father said on Friday.

Shreyas’s father, Jitendra Singh, who works as an IT projects manager in London, said he had received an email from Britain’s Home Office saying he could apply to extend his work visa once it expires in September.

The reversal came a day after the Home Office said that there would be no exception: The five-year visa that Mr. Singh had been granted to work for Tata Consultancy Services in Britain could not be extended.

“There is no route within the immigration rules which would allow the family to remain in the U.K.,” a spokesman for the Home Office said in an email on Thursday.

But on Friday, Mr. Singh wrote in an email, “We got good news today.” He said the Home Office had informed him he would be allowed to apply for a new visa based on his son’s exceptional talent.

“Shreyas’s jumping and dancing,” he wrote of his son’s reaction. “Tears came out from my wife’s eyes.”

It was not clear why the Home Office, which did not respond to requests for comment on Friday, changed course. But according to The Times of London, the government decided to waive its requirement that a new application had to occur from outside the country, and said that the application would be sponsored by Tata.

Immigration law in Britain allows for visas to be granted to those with “exceptional talent” or in certain areas of “sport. But according to Dominic Lawson, the president of the English Chess Federation, chess mastery did not appear to qualify as an exceptional talent or a sport.

The possibility that Britain would send back to India what Mr. Lawson called “England’s best junior chess prospect in a generation” had drawn the attention of British members of Parliament, two of whom, along with Mr. Lawson, appealed to Sajid Javid, the British home secretary, to intervene.

Mr. Lawson said on Friday in an email that he welcomed the reversal by the Home Office.

“We at the E.C.F. are delighted that our efforts to persuade the government to recognize Shreyas Royal’s exceptional talents have borne fruit,” he wrote. “We are also grateful to Sajid Javid for personally taking charge of re-examining the original decision of the immigration department.”

Shreyas arrived in London from India with his family when he was 3 years old. He learned chess in south London, drawing accolades when he competed for England in international tournaments, earning the title of Candidate Master. He is ranked fourth in the world for his age group,

Shreyas, who is competing in the British Chess Championships, has said his dream is to become world champion before the age of 18.

Mr. Singh told The Times of London that he believed the home secretary stepped in to find a solution to his son’s case.

If granted, the new visa would allow Mr. Singh to stay for an additional five years and open the way for him and his family to settle in Britain permanently.

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