* Study shows 48 percent non-credible applicants granted visa in Pakistan
By Asif Mehmood (Daily Times)
LONDON: Getting a UK visa is going to become an up-hill task for Pakistani students, as they would have to go through assessment interviews in the future, Daily Times has learnt. The decision was taken after a British Home Office study found out that 48 percent of those granted visas in Pakistan were not credible applicants.
Immigration Minister Damian Green, last week, announced that the UK Border Agency would interview 10,000 to 14,000 visa applicants over the coming year to weed out bogus students.
The investigation by the British Home Office found that some of the applicants knew so little English that they could not answer basic interview questions without the help of an interpreter — despite having certificates purporting to show they could speak the language adequately.
The government study has suggested that one in three overseas students given visas to enter Britain should never have been granted them, either because they speak little English or because they have no intention of completing their studies and leaving the country.
Nearly two-thirds of those applying to private colleges and one in six of those given visas to study at university failed to convince interviewers that their applications were honest.
A Home Office source told Daily Times that officials carried out the investigation to help the government decide how to tighten up immigration procedures. These will help to meet the Tory pledge to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands. Until now almost all applications have been dealt with solely by processing paperwork, which has left the visa system wide open to fraud.
Migration Watch UK Vice Chairman and Former ambassador to Iceland Alp Mehmet welcomed the government’s decision to introduce a test of “credibility” for student applications. “Until relatively recently these were exactly the sort of areas that visa officers and immigration officers used to examine more closely — the credibility of the individual, how genuine they were, the intention to leave on completion of their studies,” Mehmet said.
“When the current system was introduced in 2008, in the first year there was a 30 percent increase in the number of students applying. We have ample evidence to indicate these tests are necessary and students who state they are coming here to study are not all intending to do just that,” he added.
Universities UK, the vice-chancellors’ association, has been lobbying the British government to remove students from immigration figures to avoid damaging an important source of revenue for the country.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is sympathetic to the arguments of Universities UK and is understood to be considering a change, but the government believes the issue must be balanced by tightening the procedures for granting visas.
The Home Office study was carried out from December 2011 to February 2012. Part of it involved interviewing 1,927 applicants, who had already been given student visas under the current rules, to test the credibility of their applications.
Interviewers assessed the applicants on their intention and ability to study the proposed course, their intention to leave Britain after completing their studies and their ability to pay for themselves while there.