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South African comic book artist is banned from UK

PUBLISHED: 17:26 05 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:32 07 September 2010

By Emma Seymour AN ARTIST, whose life in Hampstead inspired his drawings for a critically acclaimed comic book, has been blocked from returning to England despite living here for three years and making a home with his girlfriend. Nikhil Singh, 33, who il

By Emma Seymour

AN ARTIST, whose life in Hampstead inspired his drawings for a critically acclaimed comic book, has been blocked from returning to England despite living here for three years and making a home with his girlfriend.

Nikhil Singh, 33, who illustrated Salem Brownstone: All Along the Watchtowers, has been held in South Africa, where he was born, for five months after his visa was refused.

The Home Office decided not to renew any Artists' Visas last year, so when Mr Singh's expired he reapplied for a Tier One Highly Skilled Worker Visa. But he was refused because it isn't given to people without a degree which he doesn't have.

Mr Singh, who lived in South Hill Park Gardens and Kidderpore Gardens, said: "The fact that creative professions have been subjected to corporate classification is outrageously bourgeois. I do not feel the government is discriminating against me personally, but I do feel they are discriminating against the essence of artistic enterprise."

Mr Singh missed the launch of his book this month, written by John Harris Dunning, after his repeated efforts to secure a visa were turned down.

When his appeal for a skilled worker visa was dismissed, he attempted to gain a short-term holiday visa so he could attend the launch. This was also refused, because officials thought he would overstay his allotted time.

Following that he applied for a partnership visa so he could join his girlfriend of six years, Carmen Williams, back in their Hampstead home.

But because he had been out of the country for five months the relationship was considered as ended and the application refused by the Borders Agency despite the fact the couple are still going out.

Mr Singh said not only did he miss his girlfriend and friends but London itself: "I miss the Heath where I spent almost every day for the last three years, either drawing or writing. I miss Hampstead and its atmosphere of mystery which has so saturated my work."

Mr Singh is now appealing the latest decision made by the UK Borders Agency. Officials have told him to apply for a visa which places less focus on education but offered no guarantee that he would win his right to come back.

A spokesman said the Artist Visas had been dropped to simplify the system. He said: "Mr Singh's initial application was refused because there was insufficient evidence to support it. His appeal was also dismissed. In July, Mr Singh applied for a multi-entry tourist visa which does not allow individuals to work in the UK. This was refused because the entry clearance officer was not satisfied that Mr Singh would stick to the terms of the visa, given inconsistencies in his application and supporting documentation.

"The rules are firm but fair and apply to everyone.

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