Home Office officials often make “poor quality” decisions when they reject student visa extension applications, Universities UK argues, making it vital that the government does not scrap the right to appeal.
The vice-chancellors’ body is lobbying to alter aspects of the immigration bill, currently at the committee stage in the House of Lords.
It fears the loss of appeal rights for student visa extensions, the introduction of a £150 annual levy to use the National Health Service and landlord checks on students’ immigration status could deter international students from coming to the UK.
Under the plans, instead of being allowed to appeal to a judge, students who have failed to get a visa extension will have to apply for “administrative review” by the border agencies.
UUK points out that, according to government statistics, 49 per cent of appeals on student and working visas are allowed, proof of the “poor quality of initial decision-making” and the need to retain the right of appeal. There is also concern that the Home Office will have “a vested interest in not overturning the decisions made by its own officials”, according to a UUK briefing.
But in supporting documents to the bill, the government argues that the current appeals system “creates the risk that an extended appeals process is exploited by those seeking to remain in the UK”. It adds that the administrative review system, already used for initial applications for a visa, overturned 21 per cent of initial entry clearance decisions in 2012, proving that it “does make a difference”.
In January it emerged that in 2012-13, international student numbers in the UK had fallen for the first time on record.
UUK’s lobbying comes in the context of a surprise rise in net migration to 212,000 in the year to September 2013, up from 154,000, casting doubt on the government’s pledge to reduce it to the “tens of thousands” by 2015.