Thursday, November 29, 2012

150,000 Tier 4 student notifications of change backlog allowed thousands to overstay visas

John Vine, the Chief Inspector of immigration, admits that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has a backlog of 150,000 ‘notifications about changes in Tier 4 students circumstances’ sent to them by colleges and universities, which means they do not know who has left the country and who has overstayed their visas. The latest UKBA fiasco, reveled in the latest Chief Inspector’s report this week, has allowed thousands of overseas students to potentially overstay in Britain when they should have had their visas curtailed. Mr Vine, has confirmed that at the time of his inspection in May there was a backlog of over 150,000 notifications about changes in students' circumstances, which includes discontinuing studies, failing to enrol on their courses or breaching the conditions of their visas. In John Vine’s report, published this week, Vine says: "As a result, there could potentially be thousands of migrants in the UK who were not complying with the conditions of their visa and whose leave should have been curtailed by the agency but had not been. "One senior manager informed us that at the time of the inspection there were potentially 26,000 students whose leave should have been curtailed and who should have had enforcement action taken against them." The backlog of notifications about changes in the circumstances of overseas students dates back to March 2009 when Tier 4 of the five tier points based system was launched. The problem with Tier 4 is that although it was supposed to be a fully computerised system, it was actually launched as a paper based manual system. Many commentators say ill-prepared points system has ended in tears. Visas were dished out all too easily and non-compliant students reported by the colleges were allowed to overstay their visas. Private colleges have long been aware that change of circumstance reports, such as a student dropping out of a course, sent to the UKBA are rarely even acknowledged let alone acted upon. Now the UKBA is spending millions of pounds of tax payers money employing private companies to track them down – shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Why didn’t the UKBA deal with them when they had their addresses at the time they were reported? Meanwhile UKBA bosses pay themselves massive bonuses, which the Chairman of Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz MP says should be repaid following reports that UKBA officers misled Parliament over another backlog of asylum cases. The UKBA launched ‘Operation Mayapple’ (which sounds like something out of a Bond movie) last May to “identify” student who could still be in the UK and not complying with their Tier 4 visa conditions. ‘Operation Rosehip’ was launched by the at the same time to target students who should have left Britain. As a result 23,000 students had been ordered to comply with their student visas or face enforcement action. Responding to the report, the Immigration Minister, Mark Harper, said: "We are the first government to tackle the historically high levels of abuse in the student visa system. We have toughened the rules to ensure that genuine students are not taken advantage of by organisations looking to sell immigration not education. "At the same time, we have a great offer for the brightest and best international talent who want to study at our world class institutions." Labour's Shadow Immigration Minister, Chris Bryant, said this is yet another damning report about the UKBA and a scandalous situation. Bryant conveniently failed to mention that Labour introduced the points based system and were in power when the backlog of overstayers built up. Cynthia Barker of immigration advisers Concept Care Solutions has helped over-staying students who were arrested and detained pending removal orders. One Nigerian university student client, who had never been in trouble, spent 80 days detained in prison conditions, refused bail, sharing cells with convicted criminals and terror suspects. She said: “Young students from good families are intimidated by the experience of being detained and feel pressured into leaving voluntarily or are scared to seek legal advice. “Some clients leave voluntarily when they had a right to appeal or stay in the UK, for instance because they are in a relationship and have children. “Visa overstayers can avoid removal if they have an EEA partner. In this case we managed to pull him off a deportation flight ten minutes before take off because he was in a genuine relationship, and therefore a human right to a family life under article 8, with his Eastern European girlfriend.” If you have overstayed your visa or need any immigration advice or are worried about the new immigration rules or need help with Sponsorship or Tier 2, Tier 4, applying for university if your college has closed down, Visa, ILR, Settlement, Citizenship, Dependent Visa or an appeal against a UK Border Agency or British Embassy refusal, or if you have been waiting for a reply from the Home Office for longer than a year, please email or visit

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