* Agent claims recent relaxation in visa rules makes it ideal time to obtain student visa
* Another claims anyone, regardless of age, can obtain visa
* British High Commission spokesman suggests applicants seek guidance from websites, not agents
By Nauman Tasleem
LAHORE: Following the recent relaxation in the UK’s rules for issuing student visas, “travel agents” have started advertising their services to attract students wishing to obtain visas, while a British High Commission (BHC) spokesman has said it is working closely with Pakistani officials to address migration/visa-related issues.
“Travel agents” throughout the city have displayed banners and posters at prominent places to attract students seeking visas. These agents, claiming 100 percent success rate, offer to help the students obtain all the documents required for a visa in exchange for an exorbitant commission. They claim the students do not need to sit the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) to obtain a visa and maintain that age is not an issue. Some agents even claim they would arrange every single required document for a fee of Rs 40,000 to 50,000, while others claim they have contacts in the British embassy that will guarantee a visa.
Ideal time: An agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the British government had recently relaxed its student visa policy and it was an ideal time to go to the UK. He said people were very eager for student visas and he received at least 30 to 40 inquiries on a daily basis. “The law and order situation in our country is not good, encouraging people to try and go abroad,” he said, adding the inquiries had increased after the recent attacks. He said students applying for certificate and diploma courses needed to obtain 40 points. “If students secure admission in an A-class college, then they receive 30 points while 10 marks are given on personal data, including education and bank statement,” he said. All the applicant had to do, he said, is provide a bank statement proving they had Rs 1.3 to 1.5 million in their account for 28 days. “We will arrange for a letter of acceptance from UK institutions after the applicant pays the visa fee and our charges,” he said, adding they refunded all the money if the visa request were rejected.
To a question, the agent said certificate and diploma courses were exempt from the IELTS requirement, while it was a requirement for a graduation degree. He said many students were unable to score high marks on the IELTS, so it was recommended that they take admission in certificate or diploma courses.
All takers welcome: Another agent told Daily Times that anyone could get a student visa, even if they are over 30 and have not studied in some time. “We would arrange an employment certificate for him, which would cover his education gap,” he added.
However, the BHC said it did not recognise any agent and was working closely with Pakistani officials to address migration/visa-related issues. A BHC spokesman said the IELTS was not a prerequisite for obtaining a visa, however some universities required it. He said a personal/joint bank statement with a substantial amount of savings was necessary. He said all applicants must provide original documents and evidence must be dated no more than one month before the date of application. He said if the applicant wanted to study a London-based course for 12 months or less, then they required fees + £800 for each month of the course; for 12 months or less in a course based outside, fees + £600/month of the course were required; a London-based course exceeding 12 months required the first year fees + £800/per month for the first 9 months; and an external course exceeding 12 months required the first year fees + £600/month for the first 9 months.
Websites better: The BHC spokesman said the applicants also had to arrange a certificate to show they were free from infectious pulmonary tuberculosis (TB). He recommended applicants to visit websites prescribed by the British government and apply their cases there instead of hiring agents to help them.