Tories to target bogus colleges with 6,000 bond for foreign students
Francis Elliott, Deputy Political Editor
From The Times
January 9, 2010
Foreign students would be required to post a bond of up to 6,000 with the Home Office before starting a three-year course in Britain under Conservative proposals to tighten border controls.
Students would only get the money back on leaving Britain after the completion of their studies and cash forfeited by those overstaying their visas would be used to fund deportations.
The proliferation of organisations allowed to sponsor migrant students in recent years has caused increasing concern. The Government recently announced a tightening of the rules after an investigation by The Times uncovered abuses by so-called bogus colleges. It found that tens of thousands of foreign nationals with no right to work in Britain had been living here for years under the false cover given by hundreds of bogus colleges in London, Bradford and Manchester.
In response, the Home Office announced it was holding a review of student visas by the Home Office and Department for Business to look at the case for raising the minimum level of course for which foreign students can get a visa.
However, Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, said that the system remained a huge loophole in Britains border controls. Accepting that foreign students bring in up to 8.5 billion a year to the British economy, Mr Grayling said that students coming to study at universities would be exempt.
Only applicants to language schools and those colleges not registered with Companies House would be required to post a bond of between 1,000 and 2,000 for every year of their academic course.
In addition foreign students face being prevented from applying for a work permit while in Britain and would be stopped from extending their visas unless it was to enable them to move to a higher-level degree course at university.
David Metcalf, chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee, last month pressed the Government to act, saying that he was stunned that 770 universities and colleges offered courses that allowed non-EU graduates to remain in the UK for two years looking for work after finishing their studies. More than 40,000 graduates were granted two-year visas in the past year under the Post Study Work Route.
The Tories say that existing rules are not being enforced rigorously enough. They claim that over a recent nine-month period just 29 visa applicants out of 66,000 from Pakistan were interviewed personally by officials. More than 13,000 from Afgahinistan and Pakistan have not been fraud-checked since October 2008, the Conservatives say official figures prove. Under the partys planned clampdown applicants from particularly sensitive countries would be targeted for face-to-face interviews and investigations into funding.
Launching the new policy, Mr Grayling said: The student visa system is a huge loophole in our border controls, and despite years of promises the Government has completely failed to deal with the problem. This loophole has not only allowed large numbers of people to enter the country who would not have been able to do so otherwise, but is now a genuine security risk for us.
“In the current climate we cannot possibly go on like this. Our proposals will transform the system, making it much more difficult for those who want to abuse it, whilst encouraging genuine students to come to our colleges and universities.
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