Student visas are now the biggest source of non-EU immigration into the UK – but many are being gained illegally.
More than 200,000 are issued abroad each year whilst a further 100,000 or so people already in the UK get their student visas extended by the Home Office.
A requirement for the student visa is that foreign students must be proficient in English in order to obtain a visa but a recent BBC Panorama investigation found that for a fee, criminal immigration agents can help people get around the compulsory language tests, even if they speak little or absolutely no English.
The revelation came after the undercover investigation revealed immigration agents that offered a guaranteed pass of the tests in return for a handsome fee.
Immigration consultancy, Studentway Education, in west London, was exposed over an established system of fraudulent exam assistance. According to the investigation, a “fake sitter” who is fluent in the English language, sits the exam instead of the Applicant. Studentway Education charged its clients £500 for this service.
Panorama showed the footage of the fake exams to Home Secretary Theresa May MP. She described it as “incredible”, “very shocking” and a matter of “grave concern”. She continued: “I know there’s abuse in the system but I mean well done for actually uncovering the further abuse that is taking place. I mean, what you’ve shown here is people being able to effectively go into a situation where that is being faked for them and that’s a matter of grave concern.”
The BBC uncovered one type of abuse of the UK visa system. Unfortunately however, it is difficult to control or regulate abuses of a system so inundated and hard pushed.
Perhaps less emphasis should be given on constantly changing the Immigration Rules and more priority given to preventing abuse of the Immigration system.