New regulations for UK student visas
Raushan is 33-years-old and has lived in the United Kingdom for
almost two years now, his parents are envied by neighbours because they
can boast that their eldest son lives in the UK.
He sends them English chocolates and some clothes from the summer and
winter collection sales and his family couldn't be any happier.
How did he manage to secure a visa to enter the UK? Speaking to
Raushan, he says bogus student agents are leading innocent students up
the garden path. Raushan fell victim to a bogus student agent who has
left his fate dangling by a thread.
"I am not the only one who has fallen prey to this scam, there are
thousands more", Raushan said.
After years of review the latest UK's student visa reforms were
announced on March 31. Scheduled to be implemented on April 21, the
reforms will introduce an interim limit for UK education providers who
do not currently meet the new accreditation requirements on the number
of international students they may sponsor.
The reform instructs all education providers in the UK to become
'Highly Trusted Sponsors' by April 2012 or risk the licence to sponsor
international students being cancelled. The reforms are straightforward,
but many immigration fraudsters will still fish for loopholes and Sri
Lankan students are one of the most vulnerable
A majority of Sri Lankan students prefer the UK for higher education,
their global acclaim and diplomatic marketing makes their universities
become the top choice for aspiring students. All information pertaining
to courses and eligibility for one to apply are available on university
websites and anyone with reasonable English language ability can
comprehend its content and assess their eligibility to apply. Beware of
bogus student agents who call themselves 'Migration Consultants' or
'Course Counsellors' and desperately advertise single liners to attract
youngsters who await opportunities to realise their UK dream.
"I was introduced to my agent Mahir through a friend of mine who had
gone to him to get a financial sponsor to show sufficient funds to have
a UK student visa stamped and I was tempted to the same thing too.
I completed my Advanced Level in the commerce stream and worked in
the pharmaceutical sector for over 10 years.
I wanted to pursue my higher education in the same field and he said
it was possible but after about four months of the initial meeting he
said he had to re-do my A/L results because the University was not
willing to offer me a place for the course because I did commerce
This cost Rs 30,000. One thing led to another and I ended up paying
nearly 350,000 rupees including my ticket fare by the time I got here, I
knew they had trapped me because the institute did not even have a
proper reception and later it was shut down by the UK Border Agency
Officials", said Raushan.
I responded to a tabloid advertisement with three mobile numbers
which promised free student visas to UK. After a long battle to get
through to the numbers a man finally answered with a fake accent.
He claimed that he has been a 'Migration Consultant' for over a
decade now and admits to sending many aspiring students to the UK on a
student visa. After vehemently refusing to meet me in his office, he
told me that he will meet me closer to Grandpass.
A man of average height appreared, he was loaded with accessories on
his neck and wrists.
He spoke with a funny accent which did not do justice to the decade
long residency he claimed he had in the UK.
Unaware I was really not a student, he told me that the total cost
for a visa now will amount to Rs 500,000, Rs 150,000 more than what
Raushan paid two years back.
He said he will accommodate the payment on an installment basis, if I
had financial difficulty.
Had I not been impersonating an aspiring student to study overseas, I
would have joined the number of misled Sri Lankan students living in the
UK, in about five months time.
"We request students who wish to pursue their higher education to
seek clarification directly from us, this is the safest approach to
ensure that students are given correct information.
This will eliminate the possibility of students being misled" Head of
Education UK of the British Council in Sri Lanka, Fahim Shakoor told the
UK education certainly does not come cheap.
It is a costly affair. A deeper dig at the UK Border Agency website
can give you an indication of that. Given that the revised rules
classify courses according to its duration, the table above details the
living costs you will incurr in the UK as a fresh student.
These costs exclude the course fees ranging from GBP 3,000 for most
courses offered by Colleges which have lower recognition when compared
to courses offered at Universities which can cost you from GBP
7000-20000 depending on the course, Aspiring students must identify the
fake advertisements that claim that a UK student visa can be obtained
for anything less than a million rupees, let alone have it free of
Consultants are required to have legal accreditations, having lived
in the UK for years does not entitle anybody to start a student agency
in the name of consultancy if they don't conform to the accreditations.
|What British HC has
We contacted the British
High Commission in Colombo and we carry below the email
response of the BHC:
Q: The revised rules
require all educational institutes to become trusted
partners by 2012, this still leaves a large number of
applicants to use the student visa route to enter the United
Kingdom until 2012, what will their plight be if their
institutes fail to achieve the 'highly trusted' label by
2012, aren't they likely to lose on the tuition fees for the
first few semesters if their institute shut down?
A: On 31 March the UK
government issued further details on the changes to student
visas that were announced on March 22.
This detail is contained in
the Statement of Intent (attached and available at
The first set of changes
will be introduced on April 21.
This includes action to
implement new accreditation requirements for Tier 4
sponsors. New sponsors will need to meet the new educational
accreditation criteria in order to recruit international
students. Current providers who do not meet the new
requirements will have a limit put on the number of students
that they are able to recruit until they do meet the new
accreditation criteria. B rated sponsors will not be able to
assign Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies to new
students. The sponsors' register, which includes the sponsor
ratings, can be found at:
The Statement of Intent also
stipulates that from April 2012, where we revoke a licence
or a sponsor ceases operation students will have 60 days to
find another sponsor offering the same or similar course,
leading to a similar qualification.
The new sponsors will be
able to apply for exceptional CASs to take over sponsorship
of such students.
Leave will be granted to
allow these students to complete the specified course. As
now, if it is open to a student to take legal action to
reclaim fees paid for a course which was not delivered.
Q: The responsibility
of the international student entering the UK still remains
with the institute under the revised rules, how will the UK
immigration authorities ensure that these institutes offer
what they advertise? Is there an avenue for students to
express their dissatisfactions to the authorities directly?
A: The quality and
standards of education provision will be assessed by the
relevant approved education inspection or review body.
This is not a matter
directly for the UK immigration authorities who are
responsible for immigration rather than standards and
quality in education.
handling procedures apply depending on the type of
institution a student is attending, and it is up to a
dissatisfied student or other interested party to follow
these procedures. Complaints can also be made to Consumer
Direct / Trading Standards in the UK in cases where a
student believes advertisements of courses on offer by
private providers are considered to be misleading.
Q: How often will the
statutory education inspection body check that the
institutes live up to their "highly trusted" accreditation,
what measures do they have to check the quality of education
A: Highly Trusted
Sponsor (HTS) status is an indication of an education
provider's compliance with immigration criteria, rather than
the quality of its education provision. Whilst an education
provider will only be eligible for HTS if its education
provision has been inspected or reviewed by one of the
publicly-approved inspection bodies, the UK Border Agency
will in addition check that the provider has a good track
record in complying with its immigration duties.
Q: What measures have
the UK Border Agency taken to deter the bogus education
agents who manipulate vulnerable students who enter the UK?
A: The UK Border
Agency is very clear that students do not need an agent to
make a visa application. All the information they need is
available free of charge. If a student requires help, they
should select an agent very carefully.
The UK Border Agency takes
fraud and forgery very seriously. It will refuse an
application that contains false documentation or information
and the applicant faces a 10 year ban on travel to the UK.
In addition the UK Border Agency may refer the applicant and
anyone who facilitate the use of forged documents to the
police. If an applicant believes they have been cheated by
an agent they should report this to the police.
Some education providers
choose to use overseas agents to assist them in recruiting
international students. One of the requirements of Highly
Trusted Sponsors is that they have an extremely high
proportion of international students who enrol and complete
their studies with them. Tier 4 sponsors are therefore
advised to exercise great caution when vetting the agents
they use, because if an agent acting on the sponsor's behalf
recruits students who do not enrol or complete their course,
this may affect the sponsor's rating and future ability to
bring international students to the UK.
Q: Home secretary
Theresa May mentioned while introducing these rules will
attract the brightest and the best. UK education is not
cheap but it is never highlighted in any of the campaigns
for UK education, is this a deliberate move as it is very
A: Most local
advertising by Universities and Colleges do carry the cost
of tuition fees. Those interested in more information could
visit the Education UK website www.educationuk.org which is
widely publicised on all promotional material associated
with the Education UK brand. The Education UK brand is the
primary access point for people interested in studying in
Taking into account current
exchange rates UK education remains very competitive with
other overseas study destinations such as the USA and
Australia. It should be noted that overseas student fees are
not affected by recent changes to fees for home students in
England. The UK remains the most preferred study destination
for Sri Lankans. This is driven by considerations of the
quality, reputation and diversity of provision in UK
Universities plus affordability and cost of living.