Foreign students can stay in UK for extra year
Foreign students will be able to work in Britain for an extra year before being sent home, ministers will say.
By Christopher Hope and Graeme Paton
Last Updated: 1:03PM BST 30 Jul 2008
They will also unveil measures to stop bogus colleges, which are used as fronts to allow illegal immigrants to enter the country.
Students are by far the biggest category for long-term visitors to Britain, with 1.6million visas handed out in the past five years.
In 2006, 309,000 foreign students arrived here, up nine per cent in a year, and more than double the number of foreigners who were granted work permits.
Under the present rules, foreign students can work for 12 months after graduating.
Liam Byrne, the Immigration Minister, is expected to say today that this will be increased to two years from 2009 to give foreign students more time to work here legally before going home.
Last night, the Tories said that the plans were a back-door way of offering an amnesty to those who overstay their visa.
Damian Green, the Shadow Immigration Minister, said: “This looks like a stealth amnesty for overstayers. These days ministers like to talk tough on immigration but as so often their actions do not live up to their rhetoric.”
Earlier this year it emerged that immigration officers had been ordered to stop deporting foreign students who overstay their visas.
A leaked memo suggested they are not regarded as a high enough priority.
Hundreds of thousands of students, including many who never intended to study in Britain, could be staying illegally. They are effectively being granted an amnesty.
Immigration bosses have been accused of focusing their deportation priorities on cases that attract media attention such as foreign prisoners, while ignoring thousands of other illegal immigrants.
Mr Byrne, who will unveil the plans with Bill Rammell, the Further Education Minister, will also detail measures to stop bogus colleges. Under the plans, each student will require a certificate of sponsorship from their college.
Border and Immigration Agency staff will check that it is a genuine education provider rather than “operating to facilitate the entry of bogus students to the UK”.
A UK Border and Immigration Agency spokesman said: “We know students are worth about 8.5 billion to Britain's economy, so letting the brightest and best students apply for a two-year visa is good for British business.
“But we need to be much harder on rule-breakers so we're introducing much tougher licences to crack down on dodgy colleges and compulsory ID cards for foreign students, starting in November.”
Separately, a survey of voting priorities found that immigration is the biggest factor influencing how people will vote in the next election.
Thirty per cent ranked immigration as the most important election issue, beating crime, health, the environment and education in a survey of 13,000 people by TNS, a market research company.