India accounts for more UK student visa applications than any other country worldwide and following a rise in applications of more than 650% on the same period in 2008, the UK Border Agency has temporarily suspended UK Tier 4 (General) Student Visa applications for the UK from Northern India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
Over October, November and December 2008 there were 1,800 student visa applications received from Northern India compared to 13,500 applications over the same period in 2009, from Northern India alone. British officials in the countries concerned have said that the system has been completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of applications and concerns run high that many applications may not be genuine. And this concern is not misplaced as offers of visa as a route to permanent settlement in the UK are not uncommon in the areas where the suspension is in place.
Sir Richard Stagg, British High Commissioner in Delhi, takes this issue very seriously and will not allow any abuse of the system to happen. He has promised tough action and while the backlog of applications is checked all new UK Tier 4 Student Visa applications will be placed on hold until at least the end of February.
The UK Border Agency released the following statement:
“The points-based system gives us the flexibility to act to maintain the integrity of the visa system, whilst processing legitimate applications fairly, thoroughly and as quickly as possible.
“We continually check and monitor all student applications and education providers to ensure that they meet the required standards.
“We will take tough action against those who attempt to abuse the system.”
The move to suspend UK Tier 4 Student visa applications has been mostly welcomed by the legal profession as combating illegal immigration; however, concerns have been raised about the impact on and inconvenience to genuine students. Many lawyers have raised concern that the suspension could lead to panic and with only the promise of a review at the end of February, the suspension could run indefinitely.
“The problem that we’re going to have is that the genuine students who want to come over for the universities they’re going to suffer as a result and they won’t be able to get here in time for their courses,” said one immigration lawyer.
More than 500,000 Indians visit the UK every year, among them tens of thousands of students.