UK Border Agency ordered to crack down on bogus student visas

The UKBA must crack down on bogus student visas ahead of the roll-out of its troubled e-Borders program, MPs have urged

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) must crack down on bogus student visas ahead of the roll-out of its troubled e-borders programme, MPs have urged.

In 2009, the number of migrants who abused the student route to work rather than study went up by as much as 40,000 to 50,000, as a result of botched planning, according to a report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The e-Borders system for counting all migrants in and out of the UK currently only covers 55% of air flights and will not be fully rolled out until 2015 at the earliest. The programme began in 2007.

“It is not good enough to wait for e-Borders to eventually provide 100% coverage to get robust data,” said the Public Accounts Committee. "The agency should identify and make better use of alternative sources of data until e-Borders provides 100% coverage."

Margaret Hodge, chair of the PAC, said it was extraordinary the UK Border Agency had introduced its new points-based system for students before putting in place proper controls to replace the old ones.

“The result of the agency's poorly planned and ill-thought-out course of action was chaos: an immediate high level of abuse of the new system and a surge in the number of student visas," she said.

As a consequence, the UKBA has created a huge amount of bureaucracy for universities and an increasingly complex system for students to navigate, said Hodge.

The UKBA revoked London Metropolitan University's highly-trusted status for sponsoring international students from outside the EU after it found irregularities in the university's administration of their immigration status and attendance records.

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