The UK Border Agency has suspended Tier 4 student visa applications from northern India, Nepal and Bangladesh after a sharp rise in numbers.
The agency reported that in the last three months of 2009, there were 13,500 applications from northern India alone, compared with 1,800 in the same period of 2008.
British officials say the system has been overwhelmed and there is concern about how cases many are genuine.
Unscrupulous offers of visas as a way of settling in the UK are not uncommon.
The British high commissioner in Delhi, Sir Richard Stagg, said abuse of the system would not be allowed to happen.
While extra checks take place, visa applications have been temporarily suspended – a decision which will be reviewed at the end of February.
Jeremy Oppenheim, of the UK Border Agency, said:
“The points-based system gives us the flexibility to act to maintain the integrity of the visa system, whilst processing legitimate applications fairly, thoroughly and as quickly as possible.
“We continually check and monitor all student applications and education providers to ensure that they meet the required standards.
“We will take tough action against those who attempt to abuse the system.”
India is currently the UK’s biggest visa operation in the world.
More than 500,000 Indians visit the UK every year, among them tens of thousands of students.”
In a letter to sponsors today, Jeremy Oppenheim said:
I am writing to inform you that with effect from 1 February 2010 the UK Border Agency temporarily stopped accepting new applications under the Tier 4 Student route at Visa Application Centres in North India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
This affects the Visa Application Centres in New Delhi, Jalandhar, Chandigarh, Dhaka, Sylhet, Chittagong and Kathmandu.
The Points Based System means that only genuine students attending registered education providers can come to the UK to study.
We have been receiving unusually high volumes of applications under the Tier 4 of the Points Based System in these locations in South Asia, during a time which is normally the low season for student applications.
We will not cut corners in our checks to ensure all applications meet the required standards set by the Points Based System. We align our resources according to seasonal demand so have taken this preventative action to allow us to continue to scrutinise applications thoroughly and to manage our business effectively in these key markets for the UK.
This is an operational decision. The UK Border Agency considers that it would not be reasonable to continue to accept new applications under the Tier 4 route if it can not guarantee applications can be processed in a timely manner. This common sense approach will allow us to continue processing existing applications under Tier 4 of the Points Based System and all other categories within published service standards, whilst exercising proper security and other checks.
This is part of our standard process to ensure that all student applications and sponsoring educational establishments meet the required standards set by the Points Based System.
This will be a temporary measure. We will review the need for this measure at these VACs on a regular basis and we will start to accept new student applications again as soon as possible.
We will continue to work with key partners in South Asia, and in the UK, to communicate these changes.
Similar action was taken in China last year after a large number of applications were found to be fraudulent.
The UK Border Agency has issued the following urgent announcement to third party representatives:
In an effort to further improve our services to you, the Third Party Representative Same-Day Service of the Public Enquiry Office has introduced some new measures which will come into effect on Monday 1st February 2010. We have been aware of the difficulties faced by firms in obtaining slots and are putting these measures in place to improve our services and alleviate some of the difficulties.
We have therefore, firstly, taken steps to increase available slots by the establishment of a new team and are currently placing an additional 100 slots a week on to the adhoc list – 50 of these slots will be for PBS cases.
To further improve our services and allocation management there have also been some changes in the way we will do business, and the present practice. These operational changes will help us improve productivity and speed up handling of applications, beginning at the point of submission.
Representatives will now be allowed into Lunar House between 7.30am and 9.00am to submit same day applications on their allocated day. Any representative entering the building after 9.00am to submit same day cases without prior notification will not be dealt with on the day.
However, Representatives will be allowed to submit their applications a day early. This means you can bring in your applications (and pay the fees) the day before your next day appointment. This service will be available from 2.00pm each day. This will enable the caseworkers to start consideration of these cases first thing the next morning and such cases submitted a day early should be ready for collection within 24 hours of submission. If you choose to use this service, it will also save you two trips to the PEO, since you can submit the next day’s applications at 2pm and remain in the PEO to collect any application decisions from that day.
All requests for slot allocation(s) (excluding regular users for non PBS slots) must be made by email to: PEOCroydonRepresentativesTeam@UKBA.gsi.gov.uk between 9.00am and 17.00pm on working days only (i.e. Monday to Friday, Bank holidays excluded).
Under no circumstances can a representative submit a personal application using The Third Party Representatives Same-Day Service as this is a service for Third Parties only. Doing so would constitute a very serious breach of our rules in relation to our concessionary Reps/Bulk service and could result in the termination of any allocation and removal from the service.
Under no circumstances should a representative submit an application on behalf of another firm or trade / sell allocated slots. Any firm doing so will be taken off the Reps Team List and prohibited from using The Third Party Representatives Same-Day Service.
All cases submitted by representatives or bulk users must include an official letter(s) from your firm. This letter must include the official letterhead of your organisation and be dated and signed. This letter must state that the representative appearing in PEO is authorised to do so on behalf of the firm.
Copies of Supporting Documents
All Representatives are kindly requested to arrive with the supporting documentation already photocopied (for all applications). This will help us consider cases quicker. Please ensure that the original documents are also included with the application for comparison purposes. Photocopies do not need to be notarised or certified by a solicitor.
Applications accepted by the PEO Reps Team
The Third Party Representatives Same-Day Service only considers the following applications:
Non-Points Based System Application (Non-PBS): SET O, FLR O, SET M and NTL
Points Based System Application (PBS): Tier 1 General
Post Study Work Application (PSW): Tier 1 Post Study Work
At the present time any applications where the applicants are required to attend to submit their biometrics are not considered under the Third Party Representatives Same Day Service.
Due to a high demand for PBS slots and in fairness to all service users, where a request is successful, only ONE PBS slot will be allocated per firm in any week, which also includes the allocation of weekend consideration slots.
There are weekend consideration slots available most weekends, subject to operational constraints such as IT and building maintenance. These slots are available to book, for all Legal Representatives – Regular & Ad-Hoc Users. There are only a limited number of slots available every week, which get booked up very quickly. These slots are booked a week in advance and slots become available from 9am on Thursdays – for the following weekend.
Please Note: Weekend cases should be submitted between 7.30am and 9.00pm
Senior Casework Team – PEO Croydon Only
If you would like to seek further advice regarding applications specific to the PEO or wish to check if we can consider a particular type of application, please contact the Senior Caseworker Team via email: UKBALSEPEO@UKBA.gsi.gov.uk
Please be advised that cases cannot be considered via email or telephone. We will not discuss the merit of a case in any depth via email or over the telephone nor give any guarantee of a positive outcome on a case. The fee charged is for the purpose of consideration where judgment can be made on the submission of an application with the supporting documentation.
The Immigration & Enquiry Bureau (IEB) – Nationwide
All general enquiries should be routed through The Immigration & Enquiry Bureau (IEB) on 0870 606 7766.
The Third Party Representatives Same-Day Service Team – PEO Croydon
Should you need to contact The Third Party Representative Team please forward any queries to the following email address – PEOCroydonRepresentativesTeam@UKBA.gsi.gov.uk – Strictly Operational matters only e.g. booking or cancelation of slots. Any case working matters should be referred to The Senior Casework Team.
The UK Border Agency is committed to delivering the highest standards in customer care and Representatives are assured of a polite, courteous and professional service from the UKBA staff, and in return our security guards, messengers and PEO staff expect to be treated in a polite and courteous manner at all times.