A TOP American session musician has finally won victory over the Home Office after a four-year battle to stay in Scotland.
Steve Forman, who played percussion on tracks with Pink Floyd, David Bowie, John Lennon, and Fleetwood Mac, has been given the right to remain after living in Scotland for 10 years.
Four years ago, Forman was told he had to leave the UK because his salary was not high enough, despite earning £5,000 a month from his job at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS), in Glasgow, and royalties.
Dave Gilmour, the legendary guitarist with Pink Floyd, described the deportation move at the time as “odd”, hailing the percussionist’s “unique talent” that would be indispensable to Scottish students.
Forman, 72, who lost his job at the conservatory, won an immigration appeal in 2015 but the Home Office dragged on appeals for another three years.
But today his lawyer revealed that they had finally triumphed.
Frazer Latta confirmed: “After several years of legal arguments, Dr Forman has been granted indefinite leave to remain by the Home Office.”
It is understood the Home Office backed down after Forman reached his 10th anniversary of moving to Scotland. That is the minimum period required to be considered for the right to remain.
It is believed this milestone would have made it even more difficult for the UK government to fight the case.
Forman can now stay without any time limit and is free to take up a job or study without any further restrictions.
The deportation saga began in 2014 when Mr Forman, originally from Los Angeles, was told he could not extend his visa because of salary restrictions.
In his role at the RCS, which he held for four years, Mr Forman did not reach an “appropriate salary rate” – that for an experienced higher education teaching professional is £31,200.
Although his salary fell short of the salary rate, Mr Forman’s income from royalties and other sources meant he earned in the region of $7,600 – almost £5,000 a month.
However, despite not claiming a “dime” on benefits, wanted to work and had committed no offences, the Home Office pursued the deportation, citing it as in the “public interest”.
In January 2015, there was hope for Mr Forman when he won the right to stay in Scotland after an immigration judge strongly rejected a Home Office bid to deport him.
The immigration judge who heard the appeal found that Mr Forman presented ‘as not only an exceptional person but an exceptionally strong and compelling case to be allowed to remain’.
Despite this, the Home Office pursued the case and appealed the decision. Leading to years of long drawn out legal arguments and the case being brought before the Court of Session in Edinburgh at the end of last year.
Speaking in 2015, when the Home Office decided to appeal the immigration judge’s decision, Mr Forman said: “I’m still in limbo. We knew the Home Office had the option to challenge the judge’s decision, but it was not expected that they would.
“I can’t adequately express my appreciation to the of people in Scotland and around the world. I’m indebted to thousands of colleagues, parliamentarians, neighbors, cab drivers, petition signers and letter writers, and uncounted individuals and families whose lives are torn asunder by current immigration policies.
“Please believe that I am committed to sustaining my struggle to continue living and working in Scotland until every legal option and means available to me has been exhausted.
“We are all saddened and frustrated by this development, but we are not defeated or intimidated.”
A delighted Forman today said he plans to go back to LA for the first time in four years to tie up loose ends, as he hasn’t been able to return since the deportation saga kicked off.
He said: “I am delighted of course, and I plan to head back to LA and sort out things over there, which I haven’t been able to do. In the course of five years I haven’t been able to travel or see friends that live outside of Scotland, which has been hard for me.
“I am well invested in Scotland, my people are here.”
Asked if he was bitter about the whole saga, Forman replied: “No, and that’s really important. I’m not bitter, I was frustrated and depressed but never bitter.
“I am lucky, I had a lot of support unlike many who are going through immigration channels. There is no one person to blame, everyone has good intentions. It’s bureaucracy.
“I have no idea why they decided to grant me indefinite leave to remain. I have heard nothing. When I was allowed to go back to work a year and a half ago, they didn’t explain to me why. There was no apology, no letter, no explanation.
“For all I know they’ve been waiting for the boxes to line up so they can tick them, or maybe they’ve been drinking whisky and sharing jokes. Who knows.”
Forman said he was unsure how much the total cost of the deportation row has cost him, but admitted that it was a struggle when he wasn’t allowed to work. He added: “It was tough, being in another country with no source of income, I was lucky.”
A spokeswoman for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland said: “Steve has been a well-regarded colleague at the Royal Conservatoire and we’re pleased to see him secure a successful outcome.”
James Price, Campaign Manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said today: “It is not acceptable of the Home Office to spend so much on taxpayers’ money to contest a deportation, only to eventually allow him to stay.
“Money spent on this case, not to mention the precedent this sets, spells bad news for taxpayers.”