The British Government has published its response to allegations in the media that Tier 4 of the UK’s points-based system for immigration is being widely abused by foreign nationals posing as students.
Undercover reporters from the Daily Telegraph have exposed a host of scams, including an agency in the Philippines, offered to foreign nationals desperate to come to Britain as bogus students.
Government officials in the Philippines alerted British consular staff to the large number of poorly-educated citizens who were heading for Britain on study visas.
Theresa Dizon-de Vega, Consul-General at the Philippine Embassy in London, said:
“The Ambassador had a very productive discussion recently with minister Phil Woolas and officials of the UK Home Office.
“The Philippine Embassy and the UK Home Office agreed to co-ordinate closely and exchange information and views on various immigration-related concerns including the implementation of the new points-based system of migration.”
The UK Border Agency said:
“All applications under the points-based system are closely scrutinised, and our frontline staff are trained in detecting forgery and fraud. Contrary to the newspaper’s claim that anyone achieving the 40 points required under Tier 4 will have their application approved, we can still refuse anyone who submits false documents, has an adverse immigration history or has insufficient funds when they apply.
“We will also refuse anyone who applies under Tier 4 but is not intending to undertake a genuine course with a genuine education provider. We can and do ban people from applying for visas for 10 years if they use false documents or deception in a visa application.”
The agency responsible for immigration and border controls added that where a licensed Tier 4 sponsoring college knowingly accept migrants who do not intend to study there, they would revoke its licence.
Additional controls have been applied to those students who apply to study at one college but then wants to switch to another college. Students need to apply for permission to do so – and the new college must also be on a licensed Tier 4 sponsor. Students with visas or permission issued after 5 October this year looking to switch educational providers must now apply for new leave to remain.
All licensed colleges are now required to report on student attendance, and the UK Border Agency will take appropriate action if they fail to do so or if they have a high drop-out rate.
A number of colleges have lost their licence this year only months after being added to the Government’s ‘Tier 4 Sponsors Register’.
Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said:
“While there will always be people who will try to abuse our immigration rules, we have robust systems in place to ensure that only those students who are genuinely coming to the UK to study can do so.
“The points-based system ensures that only those colleges and schools who provide quality education and take responsibility for their students are licensed to bring in foreign students.
“Schools and colleges are inspected by accreditation bodies and the UK Border Agency to ensure they are genuine. Before we tightened controls, around 4,000 UK institutions were bringing in international students – this currently stands at around 2,000.
“We continuously monitor our systems, and where improvements can be made we will make them.”
Immigration Matters Comment
Entry Clearance Officers still have powers to refuse applications, including cases where fraud is suspected. Immigration officers at the border can, and do, refuse entry to the UK to anyone who fails to demonstrate that they are a genuine student.
The Government has brought in a number of measures to control overseas students and their educational providers. Under the old ‘DIUS’ system few checks were made on colleges and accreditation was granted without an inspection visit.
Under the new Tier 4 system, all colleges applying for a sponsors licence were inspected by an accreditation body and by UK Border Agency inspectors before or soon after being licensed.
Colleges are now responsible and accountable for its students. They must monitor their student’s attendance and academic progress, as well as there whereabouts and, in the case of vocational or sandwich courses, their workplace.
Educational providers will also have to undergo annual and unannounced inspections and provide information on demand to the authorities, or risk losing its licence.
If someone wants to enter the country illegally they could simply apply for a visit or business visa or join the hoards of illegal immigrants boarding lorries every night at Calais. The student route is not that easy and involves far more financial commitment and work to obtain a visa.
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