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.
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