Students who applied online for their visas up to three months ago are now being informed by the British Embassy in Manila that they will be subject to the new Tier 4 rules, which came into force on 31 March 2009.
During the run up to the start of Tier 4 of the Points based System, which replaced the old student visa system at the end of March, many hundreds of students for NVQ courses were unable to obtain an appointment with the British Embassy’s visa agent VFS Global.
The NVQ visa problem was revealed by Immigration Matters in February after a large number of candidates complained that VFS Global had imposed restrictions on NVQ applicants, allocating them just ten appointments a day.
As the appointment slots inevitably filled up for March and April, applicants were unable to submit their documents, biometrics and visa fees in support of their online VAF visa applications.
By early March applicants were being told by VFS staff that there were no appointments available until May 2009 – over one month after the start of Tier 4.
Some appointments were brought forward into March, but it appears the remainder of the pipeline applications will be judged under new terms conditions.
Immigration Rule 34 states that the British Embassy are required to accept applications by registered mail, but even these legally submitted applications have been ignored.
Student candidates will now have to meet new Tier 4 maintenance requirements, which means being able to show funds in their own (as opposed to a sponsor’s) bank account.
In addition, they are being told to produce new letters of acceptance from their educational providers, which must also be on the UK Border Agency’s sponsors register.
To make matters worse, large numbers of colleges are still awaiting approval due to a huge backlog in applications at the UKBA and their accreditation bodies.
Students with appointments booked in April are also being asked to comply with rules, which were not in existence when they originally applied for their visas as far back as January.
Students refused under Tier 4 will not have any right of appeal, however, refusals under previous rules will still benefit from a full appeal before an Immigration Judge at the AIT.
No allowance has been made or transitional arrangements put in place for the hundreds of pipeline applications which built up prior to the new rules taking effect.
One UK based student agent, who prefers not to be named, said that he had 190 applications lodged in Manila awaiting approval. He has no idea how many will be approved, declined or deferred to Tier 4, a situation which he finds “totally unacceptable”.
He complained that his students have been “blocked” by the UK Border Agency led restrictions on NVQ students, and now the colleges he has been recommending are in the UKBA licensing bottleneck and will not be approved for at least three more months.
International students, who contribute over £8 billion to the UK economy, are being taken for granted, ironically at the very time both educational institutions and Gordon Brown desperately needs their cash.
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