Student Visas 'A Massive Hole' in Border Controls as Numbers Top 1.5 Million in 8 Years

December 28, 2009

Nearly 3/4 of visas under the Points Based System are given to students
1½ million students admitted in just 8 years
No checks on how many leave UK
Roll of Immigration Officers severely undermind

A new report out today reveals that student visas are a massive loophole in our border controls. Nearly three quarters of visas issued under the Points Based System are given not to workers but students, under a system that is easily abused, badly administered and complex. Far from being “tough and flexible” as the Government claims, the new Points Based System has made a bad situation much worse.

The report by Migrationwatch shows that:

nearly 1½ million student visas have been issued in the last 8 years. Students also account for a huge number of applications for extension. For example, between 2004 and 2007 they averaged about 140,000 per year [1]

  • only about 5% were refused. Time spent on a legitimate student visa counts towards the five years required to apply for settlement. This could well be having a significant impact on net immigration and, therefore on our population growth.
  • there have been no checks on departure – so many of these students may still be in the UK.
  • nearly three quarters of applications under the PBS are from foreign students - only just over a quarter of those who enter under the PBS come for the purpose of work.
  • the administration of the student visa system is now largely run by those who have a vested interest in admitting students – the 2,000 colleges and institutes of education who are “sponsoring institutions”.
  • the role of immigration officers has been changed such as to render it almost pointless. One told the BBC “I am forced on a daily basis to allow entry to passengers who clearly hold no ability or intention to follow any course of study in the United Kingdom”.
  • there are just 62 officials to vet the 3,000 educational institutions and 13,500 employers who have been granted licences under the PBS system.

Commenting, Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migrationwatch said:

‘Once again the Government’s claim that their Points Based System is effective in managing immigration is shown to be worthless. Our report shows that nearly three quarters of the PBS is made up of student visas which are already a gaping hole in our immigration system.

‘We now issue 370,000 student visas a year – almost the entire population of Bristol or Manchester - yet hardly any of the applicants ever see hide nor hair of an Immigration Officer. Student visas have long been a massive loophole in immigration control. The PBS makes a bad situation considerably worse; it is now clear that it has feet of clay,’ he said.

[1] Control of Immigration; Statistical Summary 1999-2007, Table 4.2

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