Fury over visa extension fee

July 18, 2003

A government move to charge up to £250 to extend UK student visas has angered overseas student representatives.

The UK Council for Overseas Student Affairs, which held its annual conference this week, expressed concern over the Home Office initiative, which will affect 70,000 overseas students a year.

From next month, foreign nationals in the UK who wish to stay two months or longer than their visa allows will have to pay £155 for postal extensions and £250 for a same-day service.

Clive Saville, chief executive of Ukcosa, said even the lower charge was four times the cost of a visa application. He warned that it could deter overseas students from coming to study in the UK.

He said: "We are horrified at this level of charging. We think it will go down very badly with the international student population. If the government wants to recruit more overseas students, this does not seem like joined-up thinking."

Concern was also voiced by the British Council, which has been leading the prime minister's initiative to attract more overseas students to the UK.

Neil Kemp, its director of promotions, said: "Anything that makes it more difficult for overseas students to access the UK system is not good."

The Home Office said the charges would save the taxpayer £90 million a year. Home Office minister Beverley Hughes said: "Charging will help us to continue to improve the efficiency and speed with which we process these applications, leading to ever-higher levels of customer service."

Universities UK said: "UUK shares many of the concerns raised by Ukcosa.

These relate to the lack of consultation, the timing of their introduction and the relatively high cost."

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