'Dedicated point of contact' for your immigration needs

The Home Office has announced it will pilot a scheme that gives universities access to a range of immigration services.

August 19, 2012

It said that the sector will now have a "dedicated point of contact" within the UK Border Agency after receiving feedback from the sector on the issue.

Universities will also have the opportunity to attend training events on compliance with immigration rules and how to maintain highly trusted sponsor status, which allows them to bring in students from outside the European Union.

The UKBA will also give institutions the ability to rapidly check whether students are eligible to come to the UK, and a monthly report on how many take up a particular university's visa sponsorship.

Damian Green, minister for immigration, said: "British universities are among the greatest in the world - and we want to continue helping them to recruit the brightest and the best students from overseas.

"We have listened to feedback from the sector and acted, which is why we are bringing forward these improvements.

"At the same time we are committed to radically reforming the student visa system to weed out abuse and protect the UK from those looking to play the system."

If the pilot proves successful, the services could be rolled out to other higher education providers.

The Home Office and UKBA have come in for stern criticism from universities worried that a visa clampdown is damaging the UK's reputation abroad among genuine overseas students.

But the Home Office is concerned that many students are using the visa route to come to the UK for economic reasons.

Carolyn Bartlett, head of student migration policy at the Home Office, said in June that a pilot scheme of interviews for overseas students had raised questions over the "genuineness" of 17 per cent of applicants coming to study at UK universities.

The following month, the Home Office announced new powers that allow border staff to turn away students if they doubt they are genuinely coming to the UK for academic reasons.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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