The student visa system has been the biggest hole in our border controls for a decade under this Government, and Ministers still seem to be floundering around trying desperately to correct their own mistakes.
Less than a year after Tier 4 of the Points Based System was introduced, in response to media reports of chaos in the immigration system, the Prime Minister announced a joint DBIS- Home Office review of student visas.
The results of this review include increasing the minimum English language requirement. This would obviously have serious consequences for genuine language schools. If the Government adopts these proposals, it could effectively close every language school across the country. The English language industry is worth £1.5 billion a year in foreign earnings to the UK economy, and we should be encouraging legitimate foreign students to come here to learn English. Conservatives want the brightest and the best students to be attracted to the UK to study -we need those who can contribute to the revitalisation of our knowledge based economy.
There are serious problems with abuse of student visas for immigration purposes. We have long called on the Government to crackdown on bogus colleges and students. However the Government’s new proposals fail to address the real problem, whilst threatening the existence of hundreds of legitimate businesses. This is a prime example of panicky policy making that does more harm than good.
The main problems lie in the accreditation process. For this reason we would set a bond for foreign students that would be repaid at the end of their courses, clamp down on bogus colleges, only allow institutions which are officially registered to sponsor students, and end ‘in-country’ switching between student and work visas.
We would also make it a priority for the newly formed national border police force to crack down on suspected bogus colleges, and strictly enforce regulations on illegal working. Abuse of the student visa system is not fair on genuine students, or on British taxpayers – and it has created a security loophole that must be closed.