The non European Union student visas system in the UK is facing a massive shake up after government ministers pledged to crack down on bogus applicants.
The student visa section is regarded as being open to widespread abuse and it will receive a lot of attention as part of the wider drive to reduce the number of people coming to live in the UK.
Immigration minister Damian Green said a ‘thorough evaluation’ of the student visa system would be taken over the months to tighten the rules as part of the government’s plan to reduce arrivals to tens of thousands per year instead of the hundreds of thousands currently.
Action will be taken to expel students belonging to bogus colleges as the latest figures show that the number of non EU students coming to Britain jumped by a third to more than 300,000 last year. The influx was exacerbated by students bringing with them 31,000 dependants, the Home Office said.
Green said the government wanted to attract the brightest and the best to Britain. But he said in the past there had been ‘significant abuse of the student route, and we need to ensure that every student who comes to the UK is genuine’.
In February, the former Labour government tightened existing visa rules and closed down 200 bogus colleges to try to stop people using the system to remain and work in the UK illegally.
Under the new rules, applicants from outside the European Union need to speak better English and face tougher restrictions on taking part time jobs. The move followed the introduction of Labour’s Australian style points based system designed to make it harder for unskilled immigrants to enter Britain.
According to Andrew Green though, the Chairman of the campaign group Migrationwatch, there is growing evidence that the new points based system has provided a back door to Britain for bogus students.
Australia is also set to crackdown on the number of immigrants as the issue is becoming a major discussion point in the run up to the general election. Fears of a growing population spiralling out of control have prompted both parties to pledge a cutback on immigration and border strengthening.
Tony Burke, Australian Minister for Sustainable Population, says work in that direction is already underway with changes to temporary visas already taking effect.
Tony Abbott announced that his party, if they win, will slash immigration levels down to 170,000 a year. Burke said that recent changes in immigration policy have already brought numbers down to 230,000 and he further predicted that by the year 2011/12 they would be down to 145,000.