UK immigration failed to investigate student visa holders

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The UK's chief inspector of immigration has issued a report on the UK Border Agency's management of the Tier 4 student visa system. The report is broadly positive. However, it speaks of 'a significant failing' in the UKBA's systems for dealing with notifications made under the Sponsorship Management System. A backlog of 150,000 notifications dating back to March 2009 had been allowed to accumulate. This raised concerns that 'thousands of students had retained leave to remain when they should not have done so.'

The report says 'As a result, there could potentially be thousands of migrants in the UK who were not complying with the conditions of their visa and whose leave should have been curtailed by the agency but had not been. One senior manager informed us that, at the time of the inspection, there were potentially 26,000 students whose leave should have been curtailed and who should have had enforcement action taken against them.'

The Sponsorship Management System requires sponsors of Tier 4 student visa holders; the educational establishments that have undertaken to teach them, to notify the UKBA of changes of circumstances of the students concerned. They must inform the UKBA of 'changes of circumstances of students, details of students failing to enrol or attend classes, or curtailment of sponsorship.'

The report found that the UKBA has no proper system in place for investigating these notifications. Mr Vine said in his introduction to the report 'There is little point in requiring universities and colleges to notify the agency of such cases unless the [UKBA] develops the willingness and capacity to identify, curtail the leave of, and remove students who are no longer complying with the terms of their entry clearance'.

Mr Vine says that the UKBA did launch a campaign to clear the backlog and had done so by May 2012. It also began an operation to identify, arrest and deport people who were in breach of the terms of their visas; Operation Mayapple. However, he says that the Agency has difficulties in maintaining this operation at the same time as fulfilling its other functions. He recommends 'This should be an ongoing priority rather than the subject of a one-off operation.'

Immigration minister Mark Harper said 'We are the first government to tackle the historically high levels of abuse in the student visa system. We have toughened the rules to ensure that genuine students are not taken advantage of by organisations looking to sell immigration not education. At the same time, we have a great offer for the brightest and the best who want to study at our world class institutions.' The shadow immigration minister, Labour's Chris Bryant, called the news of the backlog 'scandalous'.

Otherwise, the report finds that, overall, the UKBA's systems for managing the Tier 4 system were good. Inspectors visited overseas posts in Delhi and Beijing to check on the quality of decision making and also visited the Temporary Migration Unit in Sheffield to examine the processes in place for dealing with requests for visa extensions.

Inspectors found that UKBA systems were working well and on time. Most decisions were made properly. Most documentation was checked and the decisions in Beijing and Delhi were made promptly. is a specialist visa consultancy with nearly twenty-five years of experience dealing with visa applications. We are OISC registered. We can help with a wide range of visa applications to the UK or your country of choice. Please feel free to contact us for further details.