A 21-year-old “genius” who faced deportation despite winning a place to Oxford University has been told he can stay in the UK indefinitely.
More than 100,000 people signed a petition to keep Brian White in the country he has lived in for the last six years amid fears he faced deportation to Zimbabwe.
White, from Wolverhampton, grew up in a Zimbabwean orphanage until he was six and was later adopted from Botswana by the White family, who are from the West Midlands.
His friends were campaigning for a change to his immigration status which would allow him to legally stay in the country.
But he and his supporters faced a race against time as his place studying chemistry at Lady Margaret Hall was due to expire.
The Home Office confirmed to his lawyer, Louis MacWilliams, on Monday that his application for indefinite leave to remain in the UK has been approved.
“I got the e-mail from Louis and sat down and let it sink in for about five to 10 minutes. Then I started ringing everybody round to say thank you. I owe so many people so much.”
His plight had earned backing from columnist and writer Caitlin Moran, who called him a “maths genius”, and best-selling author Philip Pullman.
A petition, started by White’s friend Luke Wilcox, had gathered almost 112,000 signatures.
College principal and former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger welcomed the announcement.
It was when White tried to take up his place at Oxford that he found he was ineligible to receive student finance because of his immigration status.
If he was unsuccessful with his application to the Home Office, he believed he faced deportation back to Zimbabwe if the matter was not settled.
The problem first reared its head when a naturalisation application by his foster parents to become a British citizen was rejected. At the time, and given his age, he “thought nothing of it”, he said.
It was only after studying for his A-levels, where he got three A*s and an A in triple science and maths, he found he had no legal right to settle permanently.
In a statement Wilcox said: “At the moment we would like to enjoy some personal time.
“But we would like to thank all those that supported the campaign and signed the petition, and we are grateful to them for helping change Brian’s life.”
West Midlands police and crime commissioner David Jamieson last week called on the Home Office to “act quickly” and “see sense” in its consideration of the case.
In a statement issued through Mr Jamieson’s office, White said: “I am over the moon. This is the result I dreamed of.
“I can’t wait to start my undergraduate course in chemistry. I’d like to put on the record my thanks to the police and crime commissioner and everybody else who helped make this possible. Words can’t describe how happy I am.”
Jamieson hailed the decision as “a victory for common sense” after a situation which should never have arisen.
Calling for the case to be fast-tracked, Jamieson said: “Brian is an exceptionally bright and talented young man and he must be allowed to fulfil his full potential.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “We have been in contact with Mr White’s legal representatives today (September 4) to confirm that his application for Indefinite Leave to Remain has been approved.”