There are reports in today’s newspapers of fraud on an industrial scale by which applicants for student visas are enabled to arrange for fluent English speakers to present them for the purpose of being tested on their proficiency in English. It will be the subject of a Panorama programme on 10 February.
Any applicant indulging in such practice is committing an offence under section 24A of the Immigration Act 1971 if he is not a British citizen and “by means which include deception by him he obtains or seeks to obtain leave to enter or remain n the United Kingdom”. Maximum punishment for conviction on indictment (i.e. in the Crown Court) is imprisonment for two years or a fine or both. Section 25 of the 1971 Act makes it an offence for any person, regardless of nationality, to do “an act which facilitates a breach of immigration law by an individual who is not a citizen of the European Union”. Citizens of the EU do not need leave to enter and cannot therefore commit offences under section 24A. The organisers of these fraudulent examinations would obviously be guilty of offences under section 25. Maximum punishment for conviction on indictment of an offence under section 25 is imprisonment for 14 years or a fine or both. The comparative leniency of maximum punishment for the actual applicant committing an offence under section 24A is remarkable.
Rule 321 of the Immigration Rules empowers an Immigration Officer to refuse leave to enter to a person holding a visa or other entry clearance if inter alia false representations were made or false documents or information were submitted in relation to the application for entry clearance. Rule 321A provides for the cancellation of entry clearance obtained by such means and Rule 322 provides for refusal of applications for leave to remain or variation of leave to enter or remain if applications were supported by such evidence.