Students previously had just seven days from their arrival in London to register with the police at a single processing office – a condition of holding their student visa. However, they now have until Christmas to complete the process either by themselves or through their university.
Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “Universities UK made it clear to ministers that this situation was entirely unacceptable.
“Universities UK made it clear to ministers that this situation was entirely unacceptable”
“This decision means that international students will not face the prospect of queuing again through the night to register with the police. The whole process can now been coordinated by the university.”
Last week the students, who came from 42 countries, faced waits of up to 13 hours to be registered at the Overseas Visitors Records Office, south-east London. The police were said to be closing the queue as early as 6.30 am and turning students away as they did not have the capacity to deal with the numbers.
Daniel Stevens, international students officer for the National Union of Students, said that many had missed the beginning of their courses. He added that students as young as 16 from UK boarding schools were among those queuing.
“International students have been forced to wait…overnight, in the cold and rain for a 5 minute bureaucratic procedure,” he said on his blog. “This has potentially been occurring for upwards to two weeks and it is disgraceful.”
Universities UK said students now had two options. They can visit the OVRO office and obtain a pre-stamped form confirming that they have attended. They then have until December 31 to return the completed form.
Alternatively, universities can coordinate the process for them, submitting completed forms to the OVRO office before the December deadline.
The queues, which gained widespread coverage in the UK and overseas, have been another blow for the UK’s reputation as a study destination following the loss of highly trusted sponsorship at London Metropolitan University last month.
While the police said queues were common near the start of term – and particularly bad this year due to excess demand – others allege that staff cuts left the office unable to cope. London is home to more than a third of the 100,000 international students who begin courses in the UK each year.
University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt said: “At a time when we need to be attracting the brightest brains to this country, and are already facing huge competition from other countries, we seem to be intent on committing PR disasters for the whole world to see.”