08 August 2012

Foreign students to have language skills assessed by UK immigration staff

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Rules announced by Immigration Minister Damian Green in July which allow UK immigration staff to reject foreign students' UK visa applications have come into effect.

UK immigration

UKBA staff have said they intend to interview approximately 5%, or 14,000, of all student visa applicants.

Based in UK visa offices around the world, applicants wanting to study in the UK will be required to attend an interview in person to have their English language capabilities assessed.

The latest rule change is part of an effort from the Government to crackdown on abuse of the student visa system as well as a wider effort to bring down net migration to the UK to the tens of thousands.

"With more interviews and graters powers to refuse bogus students we will weed out abuse and protect the UK from those looking to play the system," said Mr Green when announcing the rules.

The minister's office initially said it expects to conduct approximately 10,000 interviews but the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has said as many as 14,000, more than 5% of an expected 250,000 applications, will be called to interview.

Applicants who cannot 'demonstrate without the assistance of an interpreter' a required level of English language competence, or those who do not attend an interview, face having their applications rejected.

As with most UK immigration policies, the rule change is not without criticism; Dr Rahul Choudaha of the World Education Services says language assessments won't halt abuse.

"Interviews may deter fraudulent applicants to some extent; however, interviews are not only resource intensive but also highly subjective," said Dr Choudaha.

"A better approach would be to investigate the sources of frauds. For example, many education agents who are appointed by universities have an incentive to make an applicant look 'admissible' by hook or crook. More attention could have been paid to curb risks of fraud at the source."

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.

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