A loophole in the revised visa rules for foreign students could result in tens of thousands of bogus applicants arriving in the UK despite government moves to clamp down on them, it is claimed.
Ministers have changed the rules to prevent abuses of the system where students from non European Union countries get a visa to study at dubious colleges and end up either working or disappearing into the black economy.
Under the rules only those going to university or attending a small number of trusted private colleges will be granted entry with a PBS Tier 4 visa for studying at university or a higher education level.
But the rules do not cover the student visitor category. Last year some 37,715 non-EU students came into the country on one of these visas, which allow stays of up to six months.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the Migrationwatch UK think tank, said that while the crackdown was ‘tough’ and to be welcomed the absence of measures on student visitors ‘is a disappointment’.
Green warned that the student visitor category is just as likely to be abused as the longer-term route. ‘The cost of a short course in the UK is only a fraction of what a people smuggler would charge,’ he said.
Ministers have pledged to reduce net migration, currently 200,000 a year, to the tens of thousands by 2015. Degree level students will also have to pass a tougher language test and those wishing to extend their visa must return home to make an application.
Full time students will need 40 points for a visa. Some 30 points are awarded for possessing a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) issued by the sponsoring college and ten points for maintenance. The student must demonstrate that they have enough funds to cover the first year of their course fees and their living costs. The living costs are £800 per month in Inner London and £600 for the rest of the country.
Students can bring in dependants those studying at degree level can work 20 hours a week and students below degree level can work 10 hours a week. The dependants of students at degree level are allowed to work without any restrictions on their hours. The dependants of those at below degree level cannot work.
There has been a 40% increase in the number of so called bogus colleges which officials believe have been set up to abuse the system. They often offer A levels and vocational and language courses.