University visa service opens for business

The Home Office has confirmed it will be rolling out a £8,000 premium visa service for institutions from today.

July 23, 2013

As reported by Times Higher Education in March, the Home Office has already piloted the service, which gives access to a dedicated account manager.

The service will allow universities to request early checks of the immigration status of potential students, according to a statement by the Home Office.

Universities have complained of confusion over rapidly changing immigration rules. The coalition has introduced a number of changes that makes getting a student visa tougher, including higher English language requirements.

In March, Dominic Scott, chief executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, raised concerns that the premium service would adversely affect smaller institutions because they would have to pay the same fee as a university with thousands of international students.

“Where it’s going to hurt is smaller players because it’s one size fits all,” he warned.

The Home Office said that 20 universities had signed up to the service, although 138 institutions took part in the free pilot.

In the statement, the immigration minister Mark Harper says: “I am determined to offer the best possible visa service for genuine students and the education sector.

“Our education system is one of the best in the world and the government is committed to welcoming the brightest and the best students to the UK.

“The introduction of the premium service is another example of the steps we are taking to improve the visa process while maintaining the security of our border,” he said.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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