17032015Tue

Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Non-EU student visa applicants to have face-to-face interviews

The Home Office will begin conducting face-to-face interviews with student visa applicants, in addition to making checks on documents, Home Secretary Theresa May has announced.

Border staff at embassies in outside the European Economic Area will question more than 100,000 people beginning next April in a bid to end the use of student visas as a "backdoor route" to work.

Mrs May said the new plan is essential to dealing with 'overstayers'.

Last year the UK Border Agency began a pilot scheme in Pakistan where 'high-risk student visa applicants' were interviewed rather than undergoing the usual checks on documents such as bank statements and educational qualifications.

Commenting on the scheme which screened more than 2500 visa applicants, Mrs May said: "The lesson from that pilot was clear - abuse was rife, paper-based checks weren‟t working, and interviews, conducted by entry clearance officers with the freedom to use their judgement, work."

She added: "So I can announce that, from today, we will extend radically the Border Agency's interviewing programme. Starting with the highest-risk countries, and focusing on the route to Britain that is widely abused, student visas, we will increase the number of interviews to considerably more than 100,000, starting next financial year.

"From there, we will extend the interviewing programme further across all routes to Britain, wherever the evidence takes us. I believe this new approach will help us to root out the abuse of British visas, and improve the integrity of our immigration system."

Reports say potential students will be quizzed on their knowledge of English and details about the courses they intend to follow.

The home secretary also announced that from April non-European PhD students who have completed their studies at UK universities will be automatically allowed to stay on for a year while trying to find a job or start a business.

Mrs May said the coalition government had been left to deal with Labour's policy of "uncontrolled, mass immigration".  

And she also blamed immigration for one-third of all new housing demand - saying that house prices could be 10% lower without the massive influx of migrants - and that it was "putting pressure on infrastructure and public services".

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