Category Archives: UK Immigration News 2013

Applying for a UK visa? You can now Provide Feedback

If you are making a visa application in the UK you now have the opportunity to tell the authorities about your experience through a new customer satisfaction survey.

The survey is currently open to customers making visit, work, study, family and permanent migration applications in the UK. It does not include intermediaries (such as sponsors, representatives), asylum applicants or cases dealt with by our immigration enforcement team. You can take part whether you use our standard service or our public enquiry office premium service. From December, the survey will also be available to customers who have made applications to UK Visas & Immigration from overseas.

The aim of the survey is to find out how well the application process meets your needs and how authorities can improve in the future.

When you receive your decision letter, it will include a web link and QR (quick response) code to a 10 minute online questionnaire, asking you about the service you have received.

Your feedback will be completely anonymous; it cannot and will not be linked with your application in any way.

The success of research depends entirely on your voluntary co-operation, and we do hope you will be able to take part.

Visa4UK Unavailable from 14 November 2013

The Visa4UK website will be temporarily unavailable from 08:00 GMT on Thursday 14 November 2013, while the site is upgraded. You will be unable to apply for a visa online during this time.

The service may be unavailable for up to 48 hours, however the outage will be shorter for most locations.

If you need to apply for a visa online, please complete your application before Thursday 14 November, and book an appointment if you are required to submit your biometrics. Biometric collection will not be affected by this outage.

Be Vigilant Against UK Visa Scams

We know that criminals around the world are trying to use the UK Border Agency name to steal money from people. They use a number of tricks, often known as ‘scams’. This page tells you about the tricks we know about and gives you advice on protecting yourself.

If you receive an unexpected email, telephone call or letter from someone who claims to be from the UK Border Agency, it may be a scam. We will never contact you to ask for money or your personal details.

How the fraudsters may contact you

We know that criminals are:

  • telephoning people in the UK and other countries;
  • using websites to offer fake services; and
  • using email addresses that look official but are not.

Tricks they use

The criminals try to make you believe that they can offer you something very easily, such as a visa for the UK, or that there is a problem with your application or visa. They will try to make themselves seem very genuine. They may use language that sounds official and may already seem to know something about you, such as your name and address, or that you have applied for a visa. Then they ask you for money or for your personal information.

We know about the following scams.

  • Websites that offer jobs in the UK that do not exist. If you apply for one, they tell you that you have the job and ask you to pay visa and work permit fees. That is not how our visa system works, and there are no shortcuts to a job in the UK. A genuine employer would direct you to this website, where you can make an official application. If the job offer sounds too good to be true, it could be a scam. We will never guarantee a job in the UK.
  • A person who pretends to be a UK Border Agency officer and goes to someone’s home to ask for money to process his partner’s visa. We will never visit you at home to collect money.
  • Calls from people who claim they work for the UK Border Agency and tell you there is a serious problem with your visa. They contact people within the UK and in other countries, and often target students. They appear to be genuine and convincing , and may give a false name and return phone number. They tell you to send money as soon as possible to prevent some kind of action, such as deportation or cancellation of your visa.
  • People who target applicants for UK work visas. They ask you to pay a deposit as proof that you have enough funds to support you in the UK until you receive your first salary. As part of the official application process, you must give us evidence that you have enough money to support yourself, but we will never ask you to give us money.
  • Agents who tell you they can get you a visa using forged documents. We have advanced methods of identifying forgeries and will refuse your application if you use them.
  • Agents who say they can speed up the process of getting a visa. They cannot.
  • People outside the UK who pretend to be one of our visa officers and offer to meet you somewhere. Legitimate visa officers will only meet you at their offices and will never contact you to ask for money.
  • Fake websites designed to look like official ones for the UK government or its official visa enquiry services. Always get your visa information from this website.

These scams have been reported by us to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre. There may be others that we do not know about.

How to protect yourself

You should be suspicious if:

  • What they offer seems too good to be true – an easy job in the UK, or a way to get a UK visa quickly and easily.
  • They ask you for money, particularly if they ask you for cash or to pay using insecure payment methods such as money transfer, Ukash voucher or Paysafecard (which you buy at a shop). These methods do not allow the recipient to be traced.
  • They ask for your bank account or credit card details, or confidential information.
  • They demand secrecy or try to force you to act immediately.
  • The website does not look professional (badly written or designed) or does not include any information about the organisation.
  • You are asked to reply to a free email account such as hotmail, yahoomail, or gmail. The UK government never uses this type of email account to contact you.

Always get your information from official websites. Official UK government websites always have ‘.gov.uk’ at the end of their website address.

Official UK Border Agency email addresses are always in one of two formats:

  • name.surname@ukba.gsi.gov.uk
  • name.surname@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
  • name.surname@fco.gov.uk
  • xxxxxxxxx@fco.gov.uk

Sometimes the email address you see on the screen of a fake website or email is in that format, but when you click on it, it creates an email that will be sent to a different address. Always check the actual address on the email you are sending.

If you are suspicious:

  • Do not give out any personal information, or confirm that any personal information they have is correct.
  • Do not pay them any money.
  • Report your suspicions to Action Fraud

You can help to stop scammers by warning your friends and family, and by making Action Fraud aware of any scams that you have encountered.

Now Closed UKBA Still Faces Criticism

Only 1.5% of reports alleging illegal immigration result in a person being removed from the UK, MPs have said.

The Home Affairs Committee also said the now-defunct UK Border Agency had a backlog of 432,029 immigration and asylum cases when it was scrapped at the end of March.

Its chairman, Labour MP Keith Vaz, urged the coalition to take “effective action” to amend a “poor record”.

The government responded that it was “getting tough” on illegal immigration.

The committee looked at the allegations database set up by the UKBA to follow up tip-offs by the public. It replaced a system where allegations and removals were held separately.

It revealed that about 6% of claims had led to an investigation and 1.5% had resulted in removals.

‘Incomprehensible’

The committee said it was “extremely concerned about the number of allegations that are made to the Allegations Management System that are not investigated.

“We recommend that all allegations are actioned and checked against national databases. It is incomprehensible that only 1.5 in 100 reports of illegal immigration result in someone being removed from the country.”

Mr Vaz said there was a “very poor record” on removals, which did “not give confidence to those who go out of their way to help the Home Office”.

The committee’s report revealed that between its introduction on 30 September last year and 30 June this year, the database had received 48,660 allegations – about 178 a day.

It said the rates of investigation and removal risked undermining confidence in the system and “could lead to reluctance to report such allegations if the public perceive that no action is being taken”.

The MPs recommended that those who made allegations of illegal immigration be told the outcome of investigations, in an effort to improve public confidence.

After a series of damning reports, Home Secretary Theresa May abolished the UKBA and replaced it with UK Visas and Immigration and an Immigration Enforcement command, which were brought back under the control of ministers.

‘Confidence’

“There are still over 430,000 cases languishing in the backlogs, enough to fill Wembley Stadium almost five times over,” Mr Vaz went on.

“As we have said on numerous occasions, the backlogs must be cleared as a matter of priority. Only then will the Home Office be able to tackle the deeper problems in the immigration system.”

Immigration minister Mark Harper said: “The UK Border Agency was a troubled organisation since its formation in 2008 and its performance was not good enough. That is why we split the agency and brought its work into the Home Office under two distinct directorates.”

He added: “Our newly created UK Visa and Immigration directorate is focused on delivering a high-volume, high-quality visa service, while Immigration Enforcement is getting tough on those who break our immigration laws.”

Mr Harper also said: “We are building an immigration system that the public can have confidence in. We have already reformed the immigration rules and net migration is down by a third since its peak in 2010.”

Under plans announced by the Home office last month, landlords would be asked to check the immigration status of their tenants.

There would also be new powers to check driving licence applicants’ immigration status and a reduction in the number of grounds for appeal against deportation decisions from 17 to four.

Chinese Teachers Face UK Visa Woes

First Minister Alex Salmond has accused the Home Office of “sabotage” after visas were denied for two Chinese teachers returning to work in Scotland through a partnership programme.

Mr Salmond, who is currently on a visit to China, has lodged a protest.

He said the move amounted to sabotage of Scottish government efforts to build cultural links.

The Home Office promised a review and said the situation was being treated seriously.

The teaching programme is run by the Confucius Institute backed by Strathclyde University and the Scottish government.

It involves teachers from China offering Scottish pupils the chance to acquire skills in Mandarin and Chinese culture.

Five teachers from Tian Jin municipality were due to return to Scotland for a second year, but two of them have been told their visas will not be renewed.

Mr Salmond has written to Home Secretary Theresa May voicing his shock and dismay and warned that the episode risks damaging Scotland’s relationship with China.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, the first minister said: “It is an absolutely extraordinary situation you couldn’t make it up. It is deeply offensive to the Chinese and it is a decision that needs to be reversed as soon as possible.

“This amounts to sabotage of a programme that everyone thinks absolutely fantastic and doing great work in Scotland.

“The importance of this is quite fundamental. Our argument is to have a successful economic relationship with China you must have it underpinned by a successful cultural relationship, that is the view of the Chinese, that is the view of the Scottish government.

“If you undermine one you undermine the other.”

An Investigation into Student Visitors – Visa Nationals: Unsuccessful Applicants

Research Report into UK Student Visitors (Migration and Border Analysis, Home Office Science)

Student visitors requiring a visa: Unsuccessful applicants

About unsuccessful applicants

The population of unsuccessful applicants is dominated by applicants from Turkey (18%). Almost one-half of unsuccessful applicants (44%) are from the top five nationalities (Chinese, Indian, Nigerian, Russia and Turkish).

Table 7: Nationalities of unsuccessful visa applicants in sample and population compared

Nationality Number in sample % in sample Number in population % in population
Chinese 30 9.9 608 8.1
Indian 30 9.9 390 5.2
Nigerian 30 9.9 593 7.9
Russian 30 9.9 360 4.8
Turkish 46 15.1 1,371 18.3
Rest 138 45.4 4,184 55.8
Totals 304 100 7,506 100

The sample was designed to be representative of the population. Weighting was used to adjust for oversampling of some nationalities (Chinese, Indians, Nigerians and Russians).

Analysis of refused applicants by nationality was only possible for Turkish applicants. The majority of Chinese, Nigerian and Indian refused applicants did not have an on-line application form and only limited information was available on the Central Reference System (CRS) for Russian applicants.

Unsuccessful applicants (13%) were less likely than successful applicants (19%) to have dependent children and more than twice as likely to be unemployed as successful visa applicants (17% compared with 7%). Unsuccessful Turkish applicants were less likely to have dependent children (2%) than unsuccessful applicants overall.

Unsuccessful applicants employed in their country of nationality had a lower median net monthly income than successful applicants (median £610 compared with £1,000).

More unsuccessful applicants (16%) had family and friends in the UK than successful applicants (9%).

Unsuccessful applicants were more likely to be male (67%) than successful applicants for which the gender split was roughly equal (48% male).

Courses proposed

In total, 79 per cent of unsuccessful applicants proposed to attend institutions on the Tier 4 Register, a lower proportion than successful applicants (90%).

Unsuccessful applicants were more likely to propose studying English language (73%) than successful applicants (64%, Table C8). Turkish unsuccessful applicants were less likely to be proposing to study English language (93%) than unsuccessful applicants overall.

The proposed length of course and intended length of stay in the UK were considerably longer for unsuccessful applicants than successful applicants (median course length 58 days and median trip length 77 days, compared with a median course length of 27 days and trip length of 29 days for successful applicants).

A slightly smaller proportion of unsuccessful applicants (91%) than successful applicants (96%) had enrolled or been accepted on a course in the UK when they applied for a visa.

Costs related to study in the UK

The data suggest that unsuccessful applicants proposed to attend cheaper courses than successful applicants. The median course fee for unsuccessful applicants (£1,432) was similar to successful applicants (£1,457) but it was more likely to include accommodation and/or living costs.

A similar proportion of unsuccessful applicants (76%) to successful applicants (72%) had paid some costs towards their course before submitting their visa application.

However, costs to the applicant personally were higher for unsuccessful applicants (median £1,985) compared with successful applicants (median £1,400, Table C19). The costs of studying in the UK for Turkish applicants personally (median £2,873) was higher than for unsuccessful applicants overall.

However, Turkish unsuccessful applicants had paid considerably less before submitting their application (median £265) than unsuccessful applicants overall (median £845).

Previous trips to the UK and immigration history

Unsuccessful applicants were less likely than successful applicants to have travelled to the UK or to other countries before and were more likely than successful applicants to have been refused a visa or refused entry at the border.

Unsuccessful applicants were less likely than successful applicants to have:

  • studied in the UK before (11% compared with 19%);
  • travelled to the UK in the last 10 years (17% compared with 31%);
  • travelled elsewhere in the last 10 years (58% compared with 72%); or
  • been granted a visa to the UK in the last 10 years (15% compared with 25%).

They were more likely than successful applicants to have been:

  • refused entry to the UK in the last 10 years (3% compared with 1%); or
  • refused a visa for any country (25% compared with 7%).

Reasons for refusal

The reasons for refusal outlined in the applicants’ refusal letter were coded (Table 8 below). Each refused case may have been given more than one reason for refusal. Each of the following reasons were given in around one-half of all cases:

  • insufficient documents/information submitted;
  • no intention to leave UK after studies;
  • no intention to study/seeking employment; and
  • funds not genuinely available.

Table 8: Reasons for refusal

Applicants % of all reasons given % of cases with this reason
Insufficient documents/information submitted 151 19.0 50.4
No intention to leave UK after studies 138 17.4 46.2
No intention to study/seeking employment 136 17.2 45.8
Funds not genuinely available 125 15.9 42.2
Studies are inconsistent with student/employment history 79 10.1 26.8
Inconsistencies in the evidence/information provided 46 5.8 15.2
Photocopied/unofficial documents not accepted 28 3.2 8.5
Deception – false representations/documents 24 3.0 8.1
Sponsor not licensed/accredited 17 1.9 5.1
Adverse immigration history 13 1.5 4.1
Studies fall under Tier 4 not Student Visitor 11 1.1 2.9
Not enrolled on a course of study 9 0.9 2.5
Other reasons for refusal 22 2.8 7.2
Totals 799 100.0

Part 5 of 5

Part 1 – Summary
Part 2 – Introduction
Part 3 – Non-visa nationals
Part 4 – Visa nationals: successful applicants
Part 5 – Visa nationals: unsuccessful applicants

An Investigation into Student Visitors – Visa Nationals: Successful Applicants

Research Report into UK Student Visitors (Migration and Border Analysis, Home Office Science)

Student visitors requiring a visa: Successful applicants

About successful applicants

The top five nationalities in the study period were Russian, Chinese, Turkish, Saudi Arabian, and Indian, making up around two-thirds of successful applicants.

Analysis of visa nationals is based on visa application data rather than arrivals data, therefore a minority of successful applicants may have been granted a visa but have not then used it to enter the UK.

Table 5: Nationalities of successful applicants for a student visit visa, 1 June 2011–31 May 2012

Nationality Number in sample % in sample Number in population % in population
Russian 143 19.1 11,395 18.8
Chinese 117 15.6 9,353 15.5
Turkish 96 12.8 7,687 12.7
Saudi Arabian 71 9.5 5,665 9.4
Indian 49 6.6 3,864 6.4
Rest 272 36.4 22,528 37.2
Totals 748 100 60,492 100

The sample was designed so the nationalities of applicants in the sample were representative of the population as a whole.

One-quarter of successful applicants were married or in a civil partnership, almost one in five (19%) had dependent children and almost one-half (44%) were employed in their country of nationality. Around one-half (49%) of successful applicants in the study period were students in their country of nationality. Just seven per cent were not working or unemployed in their country of nationality.

Turkish successful applicants were more likely to be single (87%) and to be unemployed (16%), and less likely to have dependent children (8%) than successful applicants of other nationalities.

Saudi Arabian successful applicants were also more likely to be unemployed (18%) than successful applicants overall. Chinese applicants were more likely to be students in their country of nationality (70%) than successful applicants overall (49%) and were more likely to be single (87%).

The majority (91%) did not have family or friends in the UK and hardly any had a UK National Insurance number (<1%). Saudi Arabian applicants (12%) were slightly more likely than successful applicants overall to have family or friends in the UK.

The employed applicants reported a wide range of occupations but almost one-quarter (23%) were teachers. Net monthly income for employed applicants ranged from £27 to £14,982 a month. The median income was £1,000 a month, but 17 per cent of applicants earned more than £3,000 a month.

Most Chinese (71%) and Russian (68%) successful applicants were women and most Saudi Arabian (80%) and Indian (74%) applicants were men.

Proposed visit to the UK

Successful applicants reported their intended travel dates to and from the UK on their application forms. The median length was 29 days. Around 11 per cent of applicants proposed to stay between five and six months.

Courses studied

Length of courses

The median course length was 27 days, consistent with the reported median intended length of stay in the UK of 29 days.

Saudi Arabian and Turkish applicants were proposing to take longer courses than other successful applicants (median 57 days and 53 days respectively, compared with 27 days for applicants overall). Their proposed length of stay in the UK was also longer (68 and 55 days respectively, compared with 29 days for applicants overall). Russian applicants’ median trip length was shorter than successful applicants overall (20 days compared with 29 days).

A few applicants (11 cases) reported course lengths of more than six months. Some of these applicants were undertaking longer courses for which only part of their studies were in the UK.

Types of courses

Almost two-thirds of successful applicants proposed to study English language (64%), a similar proportion as the non-visa sample (62%). Around seven per cent were coming for summer school or exchange programmes, with seven per cent studying degree programmes. Around six per cent were studying business courses and nine per cent were studying other skilled courses or maritime training. A further four per cent were studying recreational courses, e.g French pastry making.

Whilst the majority of Saudi Arabian, Chinese and Russian applicants were coming to study English language (93%, 87% and 86% respectively), less than one-half of Chinese applicants (49%) and hardly any Indians (2%) were coming for this reason. Chinese applicants were the most likely to be attending summer school or exchange programmes (23%), whilst Indians were the most likely to be studying degrees (23%) or maritime courses (21%).

Over two-thirds (69%) were attending courses where accommodation was provided.

Table 6: Courses studied by visa nationals

Course type Total
English – general 44.9
English – intensive 11.4
Degree 6.7
Other skilled 6.5
Business course 5.6
Summer school 4.8
Recreational 4.4
English – specialist 3.2
Teacher training 3
English – IELTS 2.8
Exchange 2.8
Maritime 2.2
Teaching English as a foreign language 1
Seminar 0.4
Total 682

Qualifications

In a similar fashion to non-visa nationals, only limited information was available on the qualifications the courses would lead to. Most successful applicants stated on their visa application form they would get a certificate or would improve their English rather than the qualification or level of course they were proposing to study. In addition, it was not always clear whether the certificate was for attending the course or for meeting a required level at the end of the course. From the limited information available it was found that 10 per cent were proposing to come to the UK for a degree level course (NQF levels 6 to 8). This included three per cent studying at postgraduate level (NQF level 7).

Figure 4: Level of course (according to the National Qualifications Framework) recorded by successful visa applicants.

fig4_course-level_sucapp

Institutions, sponsorship and accreditation

The majority of successful applicants (90%) proposed to study at an institution on the Tier 4 Register. This included two per cent proposing to study at legacy institutions and eight per cent at A-Rated institutions.

Figure 5: Tier 4 Register status of institutions attended by successful visa national student visitors

fig5_register-status_sucapps

A further nine per cent proposed to study at institutions that were not on the Tier 4 Register but were accredited by Home Office approved organisations. Less than one per cent were attending institutions that had a status which could not be not determined.

The median course length and trip length was longer for successful applicants who proposed to study at institutions with HTS status than for applicants who proposed to study at institutions without HTS status (trip length of 29.5 days compared with 20 days, course length 28 days compared with 20 days).

There were no differences between successful applicants proposing to study at institutions with HTS status and those proposing to study at institutions without HTS status when looking at type of course (English language course compared with other type of course), course fees, or having been refused a visa before.

Additionally, one per cent of student visitors were attending institutions that had their Tier 4 status revoked prior to the time of application. A further five per cent were attending institutions that have since had their Tier 4 status revoked. However, in none of these instances was the sponsor licence revoked for a breach of sponsorship obligations.

Costs related to study in the UK

The median course fee for successful applicants was £1,457 (range £0 to £57,378). Almost 14 per cent of applicants were paying over £4,000 in fees.

The median course fees reported by Russian (£1,120) and Chinese (£1,002) successful applicants were lower than for successful applicants overall (£1,457). The fees reported by Saudi Arabians (£2,465) were higher, but this is likely to reflect the longer length of their proposed courses.

Over one-half (57%) of applicants stated that their course fees included accommodation. Russian (74%) and Chinese (68%) applicants were more likely to be on courses where accommodation was included in the fees, but this was less likely to be the case for Indians (23%). Almost one-half of courses being studied included some or all living expenses (such as meals). Russian applicants (55%) were slightly more likely than all successful applicants (45%) to have living expenses included in the fees.

Most (72%) of the successful applicants had paid some costs towards their course before submitting their visa application (median £553). Chinese (65%), Turkish (55%) and Saudi Arabian (55%) applicants were less likely than other applicants (72%) to have paid some costs already at the visa application stage, and Russians (87%) more likely to have done so.

Applicants were also asked what the cost of coming to the UK was to them personally. The median cost was £1,400 (range £0 to £34,000). Over one-fifth (22%) stated it would not cost them anything, because someone else was paying the costs, e.g. a family member or employer.

Previous trips

Less than 1 in 5 (19%) successful applicants reported having studied in the UK before.

However, many applicants had visited the UK or other countries before. Almost one-third (31%) reported having travelled to the UK within the previous 10 years. Just under three-quarters of these trips (72%) were for study purposes.

Turkish (12%) and Chinese (5%) successful applicants were much less likely than successful applicants overall (19%) to have studied in the UK before. They were also less likely to have travelled to the UK in the past 10 years (Turkish 16% and Chinese 12%, compared with 31% of successful applicants overall).

One-quarter of successful applicants indicated they had been issued a visa to the UK in the past 10 years. Just over three-quarters of these visas (76%) were for study. Indian successful applicants were almost twice as likely to have been granted a visa to the UK in the past 10 years than successful applicants overall (47% compared with 25%).

Just under one-quarter (23%) of successful applicants had a previous successful visa application recorded on the Central Reference System (CRS). Of those who had a previous successful application recorded, most had just one application recorded (14%), but a small proportion had between 3 and 10 successful applications recorded (4%). Around 59 per cent of these linked applications were for study purposes.

Few successful applicants had adverse immigration histories:

  • less than one per cent reported having been refused entry to the UK in the past ten years;
  • seven per cent reported having been refused a visa (for travel to any country); and
  • less than one per cent reported having been deported from any country in the past ten years.

Applicants from three of the top five countries of nationality (Turkey 4%, China 3%, Saudi Arabia 3%) were less likely than successful applicants overall (7%) to have been refused a visa for travel to any country.

Part 4 of 5

Part 1 – Summary
Part 2 – Introduction
Part 3 – Non-visa nationals
Part 4 – Visa nationals: successful applicants
Part 5 – Visa nationals: unsuccessful applicants

An Investigation into Student Visitors – Non-visa nationals

Research Report into UK Student Visitors (Migration and Border Analysis, Home Office Science)

Student visitors not requiring a visa

About the sample

The top four nationalities in the non-visa sample were Brazilians, US nationals, Japanese and Koreans. All other nationalities each made up less than two per cent of the sample, and were therefore grouped. The category of ‘Other Americas’ consists of nationals from Canada, Mexico,
Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Salvador. ‘Other Asia’ consists of nationals from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The ‘All Others’ category consists of nationals from Israel, New Zealand and Australia.

Table 2: Nationalities of non-visa student visitors in the population and sample compared

Nationality Number in sample (2012) % in sample (2012) Number in non-visa population (2011) % in non-visa population (2011)
Brazilian 325 34.5 19,300 10.4
US 254 27.0 115,000 61.8
Japanese 164 17.4 15,800 8.5
Korean 68 7.2 5,510 3.0
Rest 131 13.9 30,540 16.4
Totals 942 100 186,150 100

The distribution of nationalities in the sample (2012) differs from the distribution of nationalities in the population (2011). It is possible that population characteristics have changed during this time, however, the sample may not be representative and so can only be taken to give an indication of the population.

The majority of sampled student visitors were aged between 18 and 25 (56%), with a further 26 per cent aged between 26 and 35. The median age was 23. At the other end of the scale, the proportion of sampled student visitors aged over 46 was five per cent.

The majority of those in the sample were female (61%).

Proposed visit to the UK

The median length of stay was seven weeks. Less than one-quarter of the sample (23%) were staying for more than 12 weeks, showing the majority of the sampled student visitors came for less than one-half of the time allowed. There were some differences by nationality: 57 per cent of Koreans were staying longer than 12 weeks. However, this applied to only 11 per cent of Brazilians.

Most student visitors sampled reported they intended to stay in the UK for a similar length of time as their course length. Only 10 per cent of the sample reported staying for at least two weeks longer than the duration of their course, with only one per cent (seven cases) staying eight weeks or longer than their course duration. US nationals were the least likely to stay longer, with four per cent staying at least two weeks longer than their course duration. Koreans were most likely to stay for at least two weeks longer than the length of their course.

Courses studied

Length of courses

Course length was distributed in a similar fashion to the length of stay but on average was longer. This reflects the fact that some students were re-entering the UK part way through a course, and so not staying for the full duration of the course. Additionally, a small minority of students were studying part-time courses of several years in length, and so not making visits for the entire duration of the
course.

The median value for the length of courses studied was eight weeks. The most common value was 4 weeks (19%) and another common value was 12 weeks (13%). These values are likely to reflect common English language course and university term lengths respectively.

Types of courses

Around two-thirds of student visitors in the sample came to study English language courses (62%). Aside from differences arising from comparison of English and non-English speaking countries, whilst between 85 per cent and 95 per cent of Japanese, Brazilian and Korean student visitors were studying English language, for nationals of countries in the ‘Other Asian’ category this was only 48 per cent. Instead these student visitors were more likely to report studying business-related or other skilled courses (14% for both).

Exchange courses (often in conjunction with a university in the student visitor’s country of nationality) were also popular (26%) particularly for US nationals, 85 per cent of whom were taking part in one. A small proportion of student visitors were studying courses classed as ‘other skilled’ and ‘recreational’ (3% for each). Examples of the former include military vehicle propulsion and parliamentary reporting, whereas examples of the latter include fashion design and French pastry making.

Table 3: Courses to be studied, by non-visa national sample

Course type All %
Standard English 44.9
Exchange Programme 26.2
Intensive English 11.1
Other skilled 3.4
Recreational 3.4
Postgraduate programme based in UK 2.9
Business English 2.2
Business-related 2.2
Vacation English 1.8
Teaching English as a foreign language 1.8
Total 942

Qualifications

Limited information was reported on the qualifications that the sampled student visitors would attain in many cases making it impossible to determine the corresponding National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level . Some respondents reported that their course led to a certificate, of which the level was unknown. Additionally, some respondents (those studying English language courses in particular) reported that they would receive a qualification, the level of which would depend on the level of fluency attained during the course and thus was unknown before the start.

Figure 2: Level of course studied (according to National Qualifications Framework) recorded by non-visa national student visitors in the sample.

fig2_course-level

Just under two- thirds (65%) reported that they would receive no qualification, or one without equivalence to the NQF. This was particularly prevalent among the sampled student visitors from countries in the ‘Other Americas’ group (93%), Brazilians (92%) and Japanese (88%).

Just under one-third (30%) of the sample were studying courses equivalent to degree level. This represents 23 per cent taking courses equivalent to undergraduate degree level (NQF level 6) and 7 per cent taking courses equivalent to postgraduate degree level (NQF levels 7 and 8).

Whilst 72 per cent of US nationals were taking level 6 qualifications, only 1 per cent of the Japanese nationals and none of the Brazilians in the sample were studying at this level. This can largely be attributed to the majority of US nationals visiting as part of an exchange programme, usually in partnership with a host university in the US.

Additionally, whilst 25 per cent of nationals of countries within the category of ‘All Others’ were studying qualifications at levels 7 or 8, only 2 per cent of Japanese and 4 per cent of Brazilians were studying for qualifications at these levels.

Institutions, sponsorship and accreditation

The majority of student visitors (87%), were coming to study at institutions on the Tier 4 Register (Figure 3). This included 82 per cent studying at institutions with highly trusted sponsor (HTS) status. This status is given by the Home Office to institutions with at least a 12 month proven track record of satisfactory compliance with immigration requirements. An additional 3 per cent were studying at A-Rated institutions, and 2 per cent were studying at ‘legacy’ institutions. Of those sampled, 27 per cent were attending universities.

Figure 3: Tier 4 Register status of institutions attended by non-visa national student visitors in the sample.

fig3_register-status

Of those institutions not listed on the Tier 4 Register, eight per cent of institutions were accredited by the British Accreditation Council or Accreditation UK. A small minority (5%) were attending institutions whose sponsorship or accreditation status could not be determined.

Additionally, five per cent of student visitors were attending institutions that had their Tier 4 sponsor licences revoked. However, none of these had their licences revoked for a breach of sponsorship duties.

Students attending institutions with HTS status were also attending longer courses – a median of ten weeks, in comparison with a median of four weeks for those attending institutions without HTS status.

Costs related to study in the UK

In many cases no information was provided for fees or an explanation was given that the student’s parents or government had paid. Additionally, many of the sampled student visitors from the US had already paid fees to the home institution in the US, which included the cost of exchange. Cases were excluded from the analysis where this was evident.

The median fee value in the sample was £2,308. Fees ranged in value from £0 to £94,000. Values above £30,000 were examined to see if they may be errors. However, all corresponded to long courses at NQF levels 7 or 8, (with the £94,000 representing a PhD in
education research) and so were deemed likely to be accurate and left in the analysis.

The US nationals in the sample had paid the highest fees by far, with a median of £9,000. However, this figure may in some cases still represent the amount paid annually to the host institution, rather than just the cost of exchange. The next highest median was for Koreans, who had paid £2,503. Brazilian and Japanese student visitors had paid the least (median £1,500 for both groups).

Fees varied by the institutions’ accreditation status. Those on the Tier 4 Register that had HTS status were the most expensive (median £2,500), while the least expensive (3% of cases) were those with ‘A-Rated’ status (median £580). Those that were not on the Tier 4 Register at all were much less expensive than those with HTS status, with a median of £1,862 (Table A12). Amongst all courses in the sample, postgraduate courses based in the UK (18 cases) were the most expensive with a median of £12,875. Exchange programmes were also expensive, with a median of £8,686. Recreational courses cost much less, with a median of £490. Among English language courses, all were less expensive than the median fee but intensive English courses cost the most (median £1,969). Business English courses (19 cases) were least expensive, with a median of £1,100.

Previous trips

A minority (7%) of the sampled student visitors reported having previously come to the UK as a student visitor. Table 4 shows the number of times sampled student visitors have visited previously. These repeat visits have been examined by the number of times visited and by whether the visits were prior to or during 2012.

Table 4: Previous visits made by sampled non-visa national student visitors

Description of previous visit Number
One previous visit before 2012 31
Multiple visits before 2012 10
One previous visit during 2012 6
Multiple visits, including during 2012 7
Total 54

Where multiple visits had been made, the number of visits ranged from 2 to 14 previous times, with the most common number of previous visits being 3. An additional eight cases could be identified where multiple visits had been made, but the student was studying a long part-time course and the visits appeared to be linked to this same course. This may have also been the case for some other of the repeat visits identified, but it was not possible to tell from the data collected.

Part 3 of 5

Part 1 – Summary
Part 2 – Introduction
Part 3 – Non-visa nationals
Part 4 – Visa nationals: successful applicants
Part 5 – Visa nationals: unsuccessful applicants

An Investigation into Student Visitors – Introduction

Research Report into UK Student Visitors (Migration and Border Analysis, Home Office Science)

Introduction

Overview of student visitor route

The student visitor route was introduced in 2007 to enable people to visit the UK to undertake a short course of study for up to six months. Unlike students seeking entry under Tier 4 of the Points-Based System, student visitors do not have to be sponsored by an educational institution, but they must attend an institution that is accredited to provide education. Student visitors may take any course of six months or less in duration but cannot undertake work or work experience placements, bring dependents or switch to another immigration category whilst in the UK.

Visa nationals require entry clearance while non-visa nationals can receive entry clearance at the port in the UK. Entry Clearance Officers and Border Force Officers have discretionary powers to refuse a visa and/or entry if they are not satisfied about the credibility of the student visitor’s intentions.

The extended student visitor route allows entry for up to 11 months for those studying English language courses. Entering the UK on this route requires entry clearance prior to arrival for both visa and non-visa nationals. This route is included in the population statistics, however, it is not covered by the samples analysed in this report.

Aim of the study

The Government has recently reformed the Tier 4 student route to attract and retain the brightest and the best students, whilst also reducing abuse. In the context of these changes, there has been debate on the student visitor route. The aim of this study is to develop the evidence base on student visitors and establish if this short term study route is being used as intended. This report will inform future
decisions taken by the Home Office in relation to the route.

The study examines non-visa national and visa national student visitors, as well as those who applied for a student visit visa but were unsuccessful. The similarities and differences between these groups are analysed.

Key areas of interest covered in the report include:

  • the characteristics of courses student visitors are undertaking;
  • the nature of the institutions they are attending; and
  • their immigration histories.

Overview of the student visitor population

The most recent data on passenger arrivals show that in 2011, 262,000 people were admitted to the UK under the student visitor route. The majority of these (186,150) were non-visa nationals, including (115,000) from the US. During 2012, 68,372 people were issued student visit visas. This included Russian (10,246), Chinese (9,190) and Turkish nationals (7,621).

Table 1: Student arrivals in the UK, 2011

Country of nationality Tier 4 Student Visitors 2010 Student Visitors 2011
US 12,400 126,000 115,000
Brazil 1,410 10,500 19,300
Russia 3,240 13,900 17,200
Japan 3,230 13,400 15,800
China 48,000 9,240 11,500
Turkey 2,990 8,040 11,000
Saudi Arabia 5,490 5,310 5,920
Taiwan 2,970 4,750 5,570
S. Korea 4,710 4,210 5,510
Mexico 945 2,550 3,890
Canada 3,230 3,330 3,750
India 29,700 3,580 3,610
Hong Kong 6,070 3,360 2,940
Thailand 4,730 2,010 2,700
Australia 1,220 1,490 2,670
Argentina 95 1,810 2,430
Ukraine 955 1,650 2,270
Columbia 2,510 1,120 2,100
Nigeria 10,400 1,950 1,830
Rest of the world 81,380 21,800 26,575
Totals 226,000 218,000 262,000

Source: Migration Statistics. Table ad.03.s: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/science-research-statistics/research-statistics/immigration-asylum-research/immigration-tabs-q3-2012/admissions-q3-2012-tabs

The number of student visitor arrivals in 2011 represents a 9 per cent increase on 2010 arrivals. This increase was higher for some nationalities and particularly high (84%) for Brazilians. Additionally, visa statistics suggest the number of student visitors has continued to increase since 2011; in the year ending March 2013, 69,542 people were issued student visitor visas, a 6% increase on the previous year.

Figure 1: Trends in student visitor entries, 2007–2011

fig1_svv-trends

Source: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/science-research-statistics/research-statistics/immigration-asylum-research/immigration-tabs-q3-2012/admissions-q3-2012-tabs

Methods

Non-visa nationals

A four-week period (6 November–2 December 2012) was spent collecting a pilot sample of non-visa national student visitors at Heathrow (Terminals 1, 3, 4 and 5). Heathrow was chosen for the collection of the sample as it receives more student visitors than any other port. Border Force Officers captured information on every non-visa national student visitor coming through the port. This is the only point at which non-visa nationals give their details to the Home Office and therefore this was the most appropriate method for capturing the sample. Although Border Force officers routinely record details of each student visitor on landing cards, specially designed pro-formas were used in the exercise for ease of data collection.

Due to the untested nature of this method of data collection, the sample is not representative. Therefore whilst it can give helpful indications about the people who use the route, caution should be taken when generalising sample findings to the population of non-visa national student visitors as a whole.

Due to the nature of the sample design, the information provided on non-visa nationals is more limited than for visa nationals; however it still covers the key areas of interest.

Visa nationals

Student visitor visa application forms were used to provide this sample. The information obtained for each person in the sample is the same information provided in the visa application.

To select the sample, a list of all applicants for a student visit visa for a one year period between June 2011 and 31 May 2012 was drawn from the Central Reference System (CRS), the database used to record and process visa applications. There were 67,998 cases: 60,492 successful applicants, 7,506 unsuccessful applicants. Unresolved cases were excluded.

Samples of successful and unsuccessful applicants were drawn separately. For successful applicants, a simple random sample using systematic selection was drawn. Cases were ordered by nationality, visa-issuing post, age and date of application and a systematic random sample was
drawn. This ensured that the sample represented a spread of nationalities, visa-issuing posts, ages and application dates. For unsuccessful cases, a systematic random sample from a random start was also drawn, but four of the top five nationalities (Russians, Nigerians, Indians, Chinese) were oversampled to maximise the possibility of analysis by nationality. In all, 750 successful applicants were selected and 306 unsuccessful applicants.

Weighting was used to compensate for the oversampling to ensure the correct representation.

Only statistically significant findings (to 95% level) are reported in the text.

Part 2 of 5

Part 1 – Summary
Part 2 – Introduction
Part 3 – Non-visa nationals
Part 4 – Visa nationals: successful applicants
Part 5 – Visa nationals: unsuccessful applicants

An Investigation into Student Visitors – Summary

Research Report into UK Student Visitors (Migration and Border Analysis, Home Office Science)

Background

The student visitor route was introduced in 2007 and allows people to visit the UK to undertake a short course of study for up to six months.

The Government has recently reformed the Tier 4 student route to attract and retain the brightest and the best students, whilst also reducing abuse. In the context of these changes, there has been debate on the student visitor route. The aim of this study is to develop the evidence base on student visitors and establish if this short term study route is being used as intended. This report will inform future decisions taken by the Home Office in relation to the route.

The study examines non-visa national and visa national student visitors, as well as those who applied for a student visit visa but were unsuccessful. Key areas of interest covered in the report include the characteristics of courses student visitors are undertaking, the type of the institutions they are attending, and their immigration histories.

Unlike students seeking entry under Tier 4 of the Points-Based System, student visitors do not have to be formally sponsored by an educational institution, but they must attend an institution that is accredited to provide education. Student visitors may take any course of six months or less in duration but cannot undertake work or work experience placements, bring dependants or switch to another immigration category whilst in the UK.

Visa nationals require entry clearance while non-visa nationals can apply for entry at the port in the UK. Entry Clearance Officers and Border Force Officers have discretionary powers to refuse a visa and/or entry if they are not satisfied that the applicant is a genuine student visitor.

The most recent statistics on entry to the UK show that during 2011, 262,000 student visitors came to the UK. Most of these student visitors were from non-visa countries (186,150), including 115,000 from the US. More recent statistics on visas issued show 68,372 student visit visas were issued during 2012. This included Russians (10,246), Chinese (9,190) and Turkish nationals (7,621). The number of student visitor arrivals has been increasing each year, and increased by 9 per cent from 2010 to 2011.

These figures include the extended student visitor route (permitting entry for up to 11 months for the study of English language courses) introduced in January 2011 and for which both visa and non-visa nationals are required to gain prior entry clearance. This route, however, is not covered in the scope of the report.

Method

Visa nationals

A sample of 750 successful and 306 unsuccessful student visit visa applications was drawn from the Central Reference System (the database where visa applications are recorded
and processed) for the period 1 June 2011 to 31 May 2012. A systematic random sampling method was used to ensure the sample was representative.

Non-visa nationals

A sample of 947 student visitor arrivals was surveyed at Heathrow in November 2012 in a pilot exercise. Border Force Officers were asked to complete a pro forma for each non-visa national arrival answering questions about the applicant’s intentions for their stay in the UK. Due to the nature of the sample design, the sample is not representative of the population as a whole but gives an indication of the usage of the route.

Findings

The evidence suggests the student visitor route is being used as intended and abuse is minimal.

Non-visa nationals and visa nationals: successful applicants

  • Around two-thirds of both visa and non-visa national student visitors (64% and 62% respectively) were coming to the UK to study an English language course. Other popular courses included exchange programmes – this applied to 85 per cent of US nationals in the non-visa sample.
  • The majority of student visitors in the sample were coming to study at institutions on the Tier 4 Register (87% of non-visa nationals and 90% of visa nationals). No student visitors were admitted to attend institutions where the Tier 4 licence had been revoked due to a breach of sponsorship obligations.
  • Most student visitors were studying for less than three months. The median length of courses studied was eight weeks in length for non-visa nationals and four weeks for visa nationals. In both samples, students reported staying in the UK for a similar time as the length of their course.
  • Nationalities: The majority of sampled non-visa national student visitors were Brazilian (35%) or US nationals (27%), with a further 17 per cent of the sample being Japanese, and 7 per cent Korean. For visa nationals, around two-thirds of successful applicants were from the top five nationalities (Russians, Chinese, Turkish, Saudi Arabians and Indians).
  • Course fees: The median course fee for sampled non-visa national student visitors was £2,308. Visa nationals on average paid less (median of £1,457). Most (72%) of the successful applicants for a student visit visa paid some costs towards their course before applying for a visa.
  • Qualifications studied for: The majority of courses taken by both visa and non-visa national student visitors did not lead to a qualification with equivalence to the National Qualification Framework (NQF). However, almost one-third of the non-visa sample, including 89 per cent of US national student visitors were studying courses leading to qualifications equivalent to degree level (NQF levels 6–8).
  • Previous visits: A minority (7%) of non-visa nationals reported previous dates they had come to the UK as a student visitor. Of visa nationals, 19 per cent of successful applicants reported having studied in the UK previously.
  • Immigration histories: Less than one per cent of successful applicants for student visit visas had been refused entry to the UK in the previous ten years.

Unsuccessful applicants for a student visit visa

  • Background and intentions: The unsuccessful visa applicants were more than twice as likely to be unemployed as successful visa applicants (17% compared with 7%), and those in employment had a lower net monthly income than successful applicants (median £610 compared with £1,000). Additionally, the intended length of course and stay in the UK were considerably longer for unsuccessful applicants (median course length 58 days and trip length 77 days compared with medians of 27 days and 29 days for successful applicants).
  • Courses and institutions: Unsuccessful applicants were more likely to propose studying English language courses (74% compared with 64% for successful visa applicants) and less likely to propose to attend institutions on the Tier 4 Register (79% compared with 90% for successful visa
    applicants).
  • Reasons for refusal: In around one-half of all cases each of the following reasons were given (where each case may have been given more than one reason): insufficient documents or
    information submitted with the application; doubt over the applicant’s intention to leave at the end of their studies; doubt over the applicant genuinely coming to the UK to study and belief they may be coming to seek work; and doubt over the availability of funds to cover the costs related to coming to the UK to study.

Part 1 of 5

Part 1 – Summary
Part 2 – Introduction
Part 3 – Non-visa nationals
Part 4 – Visa nationals: successful applicants
Part 5 – Visa nationals: unsuccessful applicants