Hong Kong Premier League

With his Hong Kong passport papers in hand, desperate young footballer ends a life in limbo

Vas Nunez can continue his promising career and represent Hong Kong at the Asian Games after UK Home Office rectifies its application form blunder

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 April, 2018, 2:41pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 April, 2018, 10:52pm

A gifted young footballer can realise his dream of representing Hong Kong at the Asian Games after the UK Home Office rectified a blunder that could have ended his career.

Vas Nunez, of Guangzhou-based Hong Kong Premier League side R&F, had been left stranded and stateless after unknowingly filling in the incorrect passport application form that had been mistakenly sent to him by the UK government. 

But a day after the Post published the story highlighting the 22-year-old defender’s plight, Nunez received an email from the UK Home Office, with the correct passport forms attached this time. 

He went to the immigration office on Friday to end a two-week ordeal that almost wrecked his life, and will receive his Hong Kong passport on May 4.

“To have something I’ve dreamed of my whole life almost taken away then given back because of the support from everyone just feels amazing,” said Nunez.

“After all this I’ve never felt so excited and determined to be back on the field to represent my team R&F and the Hong Kong national team this summer at the Asian Games.

“I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone that helped me get my life back on track. I’ve felt nothing but love and support from all my friends, family and many people I’ve never even met before, going out of their way to help a stranger in need.”

Nunez was born in Hong Kong to a Mexican mother and an English father. Having lived in the city most of his life and being fluent in Cantonese, he says he has always considered himself a Hongkonger.

To fulfil his dream and represent the national team at the Asiad in Indonesia, where Hong Kong will field an under-23 side, Nunez had to give up both his Mexican and British citizenship so he could apply for a Hong Kong passport. 

Having given up his Mexican passport, Nunez travelled back to Hong Kong on April 13 to complete his Hong Kong passport application. The UK government had sent him the final two documents he needed to fill in, but it had mistakenly put “British National Overseas” on one form and “British citizen” on the other.

Unaware of the difference, Nunez completed the forms but his application was then rejected by an immigration officer in Hong Kong, who said the UK government was at fault for filing two different letters, and that it was its responsibility to solve the issue.

Stateless and stranded in Hong Kong, a footballer’s career is at risk after UK Home Office blunder

The British consulate said there was nothing it could do, because Nunez was no longer a UK citizen.

This meant he was unable to travel back to Guangzhou to train with his teammates. He missed two weeks of training and had to sleep on his brother’s sofa.

Nunez’s situation also put negotiations for his contract renewal at risk, as R&F would not have offered him a new deal for next season had he been unable to resolve his passport situation.

“It’s been such an emotional few weeks and I’m glad everything’s ended well,” said Nunez.

“I want to say a special thanks to my girlfriend, Hanna, who’s been by my side since day one and always let me know things were going to be OK, and to the Mexican consulate for always offering their support through this whole situation.

“I also want to mention how grateful I am to the South China Morning Post for getting my story out there and reaching so many people. Without you guys I wouldn’t have got the support and I wouldn’t have been able to reach the UK Home Office so they could do right by the mistake they made.”