Sunday, January 31, 2010

UK rationale for not accepting students visa applications in North India

Richard Stagg, UK High Commissioner, explains the rationale behind Britains decision of not accepting students visa applications in North India.

From Monday, the UK's visa application centres in northern India will temporarily stop accepting visa applications for student visas. I much regret the need to take this step. But I am clear we had no choice. This decision does not mean we don't want Indians to study in the UK. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the last few weeks, however, our visa application centres in northern India have been receiving an unprecedented number of applications for student visas some from people who we believe do not actually intend to study in the UK. On one day recently, we received as many applications for student visas in Delhi as in the whole of January 2009.

Those applying for visas, without meeting our requirements, are also making things difficult for genuine students, who naturally want a quick and reliable visa service. The recent sharp spike in applications has put huge pressure on our visa operation. The service we have been able to offer to genuine students has not been up to the usual high standard something I am personally concerned about. The current arrangements, which we call Tier 4, were introduced in March last year. This system places much greater responsibility on educational institutions in the UK, which sponsor foreign students. Whereas once there were several thousand institutions allowed to bring foreign students into the UK, this number is now down to around 2000. We monitor these institutions to ensure that, if they offer places to foreign students, the students actually enrol in the institution and attend classes. If they do not, they can be struck from the register of approved colleges. In only the last week, 60 institutions have been suspended. I hope this shows that we will be vigilant in ensuring that people cannot abuse the system, at either end.

One problem that we face in India is with unscrupulous agents. While there are many agents who offer a genuine and useful service to visa applicants, there are others who try to convince people that they can provide them with a route into the UK by the backdoor. They can't ! But they do, on occasion, cause huge misery for families who sacrifice their life's savings (or borrow money) to make visa applications which stand no chance of being accepted. And, even if these applicants were to get to the UK, they would not have enough money to sustain themselves. Some no doubt are led to believe that they will get full-time work or benefits, neither of which is possible in the UK if you do not have a Work Permit.

Recent news reports have even shown Indians in the UK who resorted to obtaining food at Gurudwaras. So we have been left with no option but to stop receiving applications under Tier 4 in Northern India for the time being (our application centres will remain open for Tier 4 applications in Western and Southern India, but applicants will need to make an appointment). We will review the situation at the end of February. During this time we will deal with the backlog of cases which has built up. But we will also scrutinise thoroughly the large number of applications we have been receiving.

If educational institutions in the UK have been offering places which they know will not be taken up, we will take action and suspend them. Where the applications suggest agents are attempting to take advantage of unsuspecting people, we will pass their names to the local authorities for investigation. I believe it is in the interest of all those with a genuine wish to study in the UK that we address effectively the problems which have emerged in the last couple of months. That will allow us to resume a normal visa service.

Source: The Times of India, January 31, 2010

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