03 June 2009

Biggest UK visa application scam uncovered

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The biggest UK visa application racket has been convicted by the UK Home Office this week, reports Sky News.

The three-person outfit produced more than 90,000 fraudulent UK visa application documents for people wanting to move to the UK through the immigration system.

Hundreds of sham UK visa applications  were lodged with the Home Office through the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP), which is now referred to as Tier 1, the international graduate scheme and the leave to remain scheme.

Documents such as false university certificates, academic records, bank statements, and pay slips were produced to support UK visa applications for the points-based system, which were sold to more than 900 people. 

According to the news report, each client was promised a money-back guarantee in case any false UK visa application was rejected by the Home Office, which could have amounted to thousands of pounds.

The "gang" used fraudulent colleges to get their fake university certificates, and paid tens of thousands of pounds in return for the documentation.

The Home Office are still battling against UK visa application rackets, it is hoping that the new strict rules under the tiered points-based system will flush out the majority of those trying to abuse the system.  Currently, educational institutions who want to educate overseas students must have a licence to do so, and need to sponsor that student for a UK student visa.  So far, thousands of educational institutions have not applied for their sponsorship licence because they cannot prove they are bona fide. 

The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the strict new system would ensure that bogus students would not infiltrate and abuse the UK immigration system using Tier 4 (UK student visa).

"This new tier of the points-based system allows us to know exactly who is coming to the UK to study and crack down on bogus colleges," Ms Smith said in a statement.
"I have made it clear that I will not tolerate either the fraudulent applicants trying to abuse Britain’s immigration rules, or the dodgy colleges that facilitate them. However, Britain will always welcome legitimate students who are coming here to receive a first-rate education."

Professor Mary Ritter, Pro Rector of International Affairs at Imperial College London said the international student programme in the UK is incredibly valuable to them as an institution.

"It’s vital that, while taking appropriate border control measures, we don’t make it difficult for these students to come to the UK.  For that reason we are very pleased that the government has decided to extend the maximum length of the Tier 4 visa from the planned four years to cover the complete duration of a student’s course. This will be particularly helpful for medical students," Professor Witter added to the statement.
"We also welcome moves to make the system simpler for institutions and students."

Last year, tuition fees from international students reached a total of £2.5 billion pounds.

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in UK visa application and immigration services.

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