At the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT) today, Bison UK’s appeal team scored another victory for justice against unfair entry clearance refusals.
The case before an Immigration Judge concerned Lori, a young Filipina who applied for a student visa, at the British Embassy in Manila, to travel to London to study for an NVQ in Health and Social Care.
NVQ’s, or National Vocational Qualifications, are work-related, competence-based qualifications. They reflect the skills and knowledge needed to do a job effectively, and show that a candidate is competent in the area of work the NVQ represents.
Over a million people a year study for NVQ’s in subjects ranging from IT to Hairdressing. NVQ training takes place ‘on-the-job’, in a work place setting and Lori’s course was combined with a 2 year paid work placement.
Lori had previously visited the UK in 2006 to see her Sister, Lisa, an NHS Nurse. Whilst here she decided that she would like to pursue studies in Health and Social Care and approached Bison UK, OISC registered immigration law practitioners, for a free consultation.
During the meeting her adviser explained that she could study in Britain, but would first need to return home to her native Philippines and apply for a student visa. Visitors or tourists from the Philippines cannot switch to another visa category whilst in the UK.
Although she had worked in a different field Lori was looking for a career change, and felt the NVQ course would suit her needs and enhance her future career prospects.
After attending a free presentation Lori’s Sister agreed to sponsor her student visa application. Bison UK prepared the application and enrolled Lori on an NVQ course with a reputable college listed on the ‘Department for Children, Schools and Families’ (Dfes) register.
Lori returned home to the Philippines, within the time limit of her visit visa, and applied for a student visa, but on this occasion she was refused. Lori and her Sister decided to exercise their right to appeal against the decision, and instructed her adviser to appoint an appeal specialist to handle the case.
The appeal process involves more than just filling in a form and lodging an appeal – see “Danny’s Visa Appeal” at www.visaappeals.com. In order to have any chance of winning an appeal you must have valid ‘grounds’, as there’s no point in just saying “the decision was unfair” or “it’s against my human rights”.
Appeal cases are heard in the UK before an independent Immigration Judge, something you should consider when appointing an adviser to handle your appeal. An overseas lawyer will not be able to represent you at the all important hearing and you may end up paying separately for a UK based advocate.
There is no charge for the appeal and you do not have to use legal representation. However, if you do not appoint anyone to represent you at the hearing your case will be decided “on papers” based on whatever information you and the Entry Clearance Manager sends to the AIT.
Prior to the hearing, the AIT requests an ‘appeal bundle’, including arguments, statements and evidence, all of which can take several months. The Entry Clearance Manager is given an opportunity to review the decision before the case goes to a full hearing.
In Lori’s case the Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) had made unsubstantiated claims in his refusal, but she was not interviewed or given an opportunity to defend herself.
The ECO also recommended local training centres for “NVQ” courses, as an alternative to studying in the UK.
In her defence, Mr Turner, acting counsel for the plaintiff, argued that many of these centres were actually offering courses “based on NVQ modules”, and the centres were not accredited by the appropriate awarding UK bodies.
The Judge interrupted:
“Even if they are offering the same courses in the Philippines, so what?
“If that was the case nobody in India would go abroad to study since every course is available there”.
In other words, the existence of identical local courses is not a valid reason to refuse a visa.
Standards of education and training are clearly not the same in every country, which is why hundreds of thousands of students are studying in the UK – to gain an internationally recognised qualification.
In fact UK NARIC, the official body which compares overseas qualifications to the UK equivalent, had assessed Lori’s Philippine Bachelor of Science degree as “considered comparable to Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE) standard”.
As a witness for Lori, I explained that the UK course has the further benefit of a work placement in a care home. The work placement is an integral part of NVQ training, which is why she wanted to train in the UK, where Care Standards and training are among the highest in the world.
Students contribute £4.7 billion to the UK economy – Home Office
Lori applied for a visa to gain a British qualification, in a British college with work experience in a British care home. Shouldn’t Embassy staff be recommending British training establishments? According to Home Office figures students bring £4.7 billion to the UK economy.
Lisa, who also appeared in court as a witness, confirmed that she and her Husband (both UK residents) had sufficient funds to maintain Lori during her two year stay.
Her application clearly met the immigration rules and should have been granted in the first place.
Following submissions and brief cross examination of witnesses by the Home Office representative, the Judge “allowed” the appeal and will be directing the British Embassy to issue the visa.
According to the British Council, the Prime Minister’s Initiative for International Education, commonly referred to as PMI2, is a “five year strategy to secure the UK’s position as a leader in international education and sustain the managed growth of UK international education”.
Students come to the UK to study and most need to work to help support themselves during their stay. The UK economy not only benefits from this much needed, flexible workforce, but also gains billions of pounds in taxes.
We should be opening our doors to students, not slamming them in their faces.
If you have been refused a visa or would like immigration advice and a free consultation please email me at: email@example.com
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