UK creates blacklist of foreign banks as part of student visa crackdown

by Ray Clancy on November 4, 2011

Radical overhaul required to prevent abuse of student visa system

The UK government has placed almost 3,000 banks on a black list of financial institutions which cannot be trusted to verify documents supporting student visa applications, officials have confirmed.

Foreign students applying to study in the UK who claim they have funds to support themselves and pay for their course held in any of the banks on the list will receive no points for maintenance, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) said.

The list, which includes 1,977 banks in India, three in Pakistan and 762 in the Philippines, is the latest part of the Government’s efforts to crack down on bogus students.

Study is the most common reason for migrants coming to the UK, with three in four of the 228,000 who came to the UK for study last year coming from outside the European Union.

‘We have radically overhauled the student visa system in order to tackle abuses whilst continuing to attract the brightest and best genuine students from across the world,’ said A UKBA spokeswoman.

‘We need to be confident that those applying for student visas have the funds to support themselves and pay for their course in the UK,’ she added.

Tough new rules and enforcement action to stop abuse of the student visa system mean that over 450 education providers will no longer be able to sponsor new international students. In total these colleges could have brought more than 11,000 students into the UK to study each year.

Also as part of the crackdown over 400 colleges have lost their right to recruit international students after they failed to sign up for a new inspection system. In addition, a targeted UK Border Agency investigation into more than 100 colleges has led to 51 having their licences to recruit international students revoked.

The investigation followed a spike in applications from South Asia just before the English language requirement rules were tightened. More than 4,500 of these applications to study have been refused or withdrawn as a result.

One college advertised classes even though the website said it was shut for maintenance, while another could not even produce a list of students enrolled or a timetable of classes. On inspection, others could not produce any records of student attendance, or evidence of checking student qualifications.

‘Widespread abuse of the student visa system has gone on for too long and the changes we have made are beginning to bite. Too many institutions were offering international students an immigration service rather than an education and too many students have come to the UK with the aim of getting work and bringing over family members,’ said Immigration Minister, Damian Green.

‘Only first class education providers should be given licences to sponsor international students. We have curbed the opportunities to work during study and bring in family members. We have also introduced new language requirements to ensure we only attract genuine students whose primary motivation is to study,’ he added.

As well as going through tough new inspections, colleges that want to keep bringing in international students must also meet new higher sponsorship standards to ensure they are fulfilling their immigration responsibilities. Those who do not meet these standards will be removed from the sponsorship register.

Alp Mehmet, vice chairman of the campaign group Migration Watch UK, said that interviews should be re-introduced in countries of concern to weed out bogus students before they get a visa.

‘Once they are here they are not only very difficult and expensive to remove but they also damage the reputation of our very valuable higher education sector,’ he added.

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