The Home Secretary has announced new measures to combat the immigration abuse associated with student visas, alongside measures to ensure talented overseas students are encouraged to remain in the UK to find skilled work or set up businesses.
This follows news that the government’s tough reforms have cut net immigration by a quarter.
To tackle bogus student visa applications, the border agency’s interviewing programme will be radically extended. Recent pilots found that student visa applications were subject to abuse because many of the checks were paper-based and therefore easier to fake. To address this, the number of interviews for those applying for UK student visas will be considerably increased.
This new programme will start from the coming financial year and will initially be rolled out in the highest-risk countries where student visa fraud is most prevalent. The process of interviewing will then be rolled out across other routes to Britain, prioritised where the evidence shows the most abuse of the immigration system is taking place.
These stricter measures to combat bogus student immigration were accompanied by the announcement that, from April, all PhD students who have completed their studies will be allowed to stay in the UK for 12 months to find a job or start a business. The Home Secretary described this as an important step in “encouraging top students to come to Britain and, if they have something to contribute, to stay in Britain.”
Official statistics, released two weeks ago, show that in the year to March, net immigration to Britain has fallen by one quarter. This is a reduction of 59,000 people – the biggest fall in net migration since 2008. Although the number of people entering the UK on student visas has fallen by 26% in the year to September, the number of foreign students coming to UK universities has shown an encouraging increase.