Migration watchdog urges UK visa vigilance

- Posted in United Kingdom by Visa Bureauon 13 June 2012

Sir Andrew Green, head of MigrationWatchUK, says that current UK visa regulations left a 'back door' to the immigration system and is urging the Government to continue adding further restrictions to tackle abuse of the system.

The Government has added restrictions to several visa categories in recent months, including to the student visa route, which have prompted outcry from several immigration advocates.

A coalition of university vice chancellors wrote to the prime minister last month urging the Government to remove international students from migration figures, claiming they contribute £8 billion a year to the economy.

Sir Andrew, while admitting that international students were important to the British economy, claimed removing them from statistics would undermine public confidence in the UK immigration system:

"Foreign students are valuable but the present system is far too easily abused. Sadly, the student route has become the back door to Britain and it is wide open. Unlike our main competitors, we do not interview students before they come to confirm that they are genuine and there are no checks on their departure."

Universities UK, the coalition responsible for writing to David Cameron, refuted Sir Andrew's comments and reiterated their request for student figures to be maintained separately from net migration figures.

"The chancellors were calling for the Government to remove international students from net migration figures in order to make a clear distinction between temporary and permanent migrants for the UK's own internal policy purposes," said Nicola Dandridge, chief of executive of Universities UK.

"International students come to the UK for a period, then they go home. The small numbers who wish to stay after their studies must then apply for another visa. If that application is unsuccessful, they must return home."

Critics who agree with Universities UK have argued that simply by making student visas harder to obtain, international students go elsewhere, damaging the British economy while at the same time providing a cosmetic drop in migration figures without actually dealing with the issue.

Immigration Minister Damian Green however, has welcomed Sir Andrew's comments and promised further changes to the system:

"We are glad that MigrationWatch agree with us that overseas students should remain part of the net migration figures and that action needs to be taken to prevent abuse of student visas. That is why we are introducing a raft of changes to the student visa route."

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