Previous immigration rules assessed applicants’ ability to speak English on the basis of their written application form alone. But, a secret pilot study by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) requiring interviews with consular officials reveals that up to 40% of Pakistani students could be ineligible based on their poor English skills.
“Britain is open for business to the best and the brightest,” one government source said. “But our message to bogus students is clear: you will be found out and you will be stopped from coming.”
Every year, around 10,000 visas are granted to students from Pakistan. About 20% of candidates are rejected on the basis of applications submitted with suspected poor English skills. Ministers ordered an increase in the number of applicants facing a “credibility test”, a face-to-face interview with British officials, following a sharp rise from Pakistani applicants.
Applicants were unable to answer basic questions in English without the aid of an interpreter
The study also found that 38% of applicants from Bangladesh, 29% from India, 28% from Egypt and 27% from Sri Lanka would also be considered ineligible for a student visa. In most cases this was because applicants were unable to answer basic questions in English without the aid of an interpreter.
The government hopes to extend pilot schemes in these countries, but as a first step, compulsory interviews will be held in Pakistan.
“The government has put its emphasis so far on tackling the roots of migration,” the government source said. “Now we are moving on to look at the system. This is one area that we have identified where we can identify people better who are seeking to abuse it.”
The scheme was introduced after the National Audit Office (NOA) found that up to 50,000 people could have entered Britain to work on student visas the first year the Tier 4 system was introduced in 2009.
“The government has put its emphasis so far on tackling the roots of migration; now we are moving on to look at the system”
The NOA report is highly critical of the Tier 4 system. “The agency implemented Tier 4 before the key controls were in place,” it said in the report. “The agency withdrew entry clearance officers’ powers to test applicants’ intentions before it had controls fully in place over sponsors and the documentation required to support an application.