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UK Border Agency faces “24 years of backlogs”

The UK Border Agency is failing to get to grips with student visa processing delays as it struggles with a backlog of cases that could take 24 years to tackle.

"It will take 24 years to clear the backlog which still stands at the size of the population of Iceland"

In a report released Monday, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee claimed that only 14% of Tier 4 visa applications were processed by UKBA within the four-week target time in Q3 – down from 28% in the previous quarter.

In addition only 73% of “premium applications” – where applicants pay £1,800 for a 24-hour service – were on time. The agency promises to process 85% of cases in both groups on time.

“It’s clear that there are very poor service standards within the agency and that has to change”

The MPs attacked Lin Homer, former UKBA chief executive, for covering up the scale of the asylum and immigration processing backlog which now numbers 312,000 cases.

“No sooner is one backlog closed, than four more are discovered,” Keith Vaz, chair of the committee, said. “At this rate it will take 24 years to clear the backlog which still stands at the size of the population of Iceland.”

Scores of international students were left without passports and unable to get home this Christmas, after UKBA asked them to reapply for their visas. Daniel Stevens, international officer at the National Union of Students, told The PIE News he feared more issues lay ahead.

“It’s clear that there are very poor service standards within the agency and that has to change if the prime minister suggests the UK is “rolling out the red carpet” for international students,” he said.

“This Christmas, we estimate that hundreds if not thousands of international students couldn’t fly home because of these visa delays.”

He encouraged people to sign the NUS’ “Give the Home Office the Yellow Card” campaign, which calls on the Home Office to work with NUS, Universities UK and the UK Border Agency to establish a code of conduct setting out basic standards in working with international students.

The committee’s report comes as the government considers charging “high risk” temporary migrants £1,000 refundable deposits to ensure they leave the country on time. Vaz said the policy was “unworkable, impractical and also discriminatory”.

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