Genuine Students Test
Most people will not have noticed, unless you are one of the thousands of international students still willing to pay a fortune to study in the UK, that in July 2013 the Home Office introduced a seemingly innocuous phrase into the immigration rules: ‘The entry clearance officer must be satisfied that the applicant is a genuine student’ (paragraph 245ZV(k) of the Immigration Rules, HC 395 as amended).
It would have been helpful if the Home Office had also provided some guidance about how exactly an immigration officer is meant to assess whether or not an applicant is a genuine student! In the absence of such guidance we now have immigration officers being very inventive and entirely illogical in applying the new rules. In deciding whether or not applicants are ‘genuine’ students, entry clearance officers have almost a carte blanche to refuse a visa. There have already been instances of students being refused because one did not know the name of the football team in the English city in which he intended to study, while another was refused solely because his father had never studied before. The immigration officer obviously came to the conclusion that as the father was uneducated there was no reason why his children should seek an education either! The Home Office says that they will carry out 100,000 of these interviews this year alone. It must be pretty daunting being a foreign student willing to spend tens if not hundreds of thousands of Pounds in the UK and having to convince to an entry clearance officer of your ‘genuineness’. All because a minority of students have historically breached immigration rules.
The genuine student test, combined with the impending new landlord checks announced in October 2013 and coming immediately after the ‘go home’ vans campaign and the latest ‘Go Home’ text message campaign is unlikely to maintain UK education as a world leader for much longer. Let us not forget that foreign students spend an incredible £10.2bn per year in tuition fees and living expenses in the UK and their contribution to the UK economy is immense. They create jobs and pay for huge advances in our universities and yet they are being treated like criminals even before they arrive.
If the Home Secretary really wants to make foreigners feel ‘unwelcome’ in the UK then she must be commended on a job very well done. It is however unfortunate that in this day and age, while we live in a truly multi-cultural society, a Government can be permitted to wreak such havoc across our immigration system. The effects of this will be felt for generations to come in the UK and those effects will not be pleasant. Pursuing such a meaningless tirade of abuse against legal migrants contributing to our society will leave the UK behind in all manner of development as the rest of the world speeds past. Foreign students have a huge contribution to make to our economy and it is not just in spending money. Many of our most successful economic barons came from immigrant backgrounds. People should realise that these actions do little if indeed anything to stop the tide of illegal migration. If the Government truly want to stop illegal migration to the UK they should concentrate on those entering and staying illegally, not students bringing money, assets and education to the UK. Despite all these new rules and vans and text messages, let us not lose sight of the fact that it is easier to hop on a lorry bound for Dover than to get a student visa and bring £50,000 to the UK to spend legally!
The real message we are sending out to the world is, we are a nation that welcomes illegal entrants and state spongers but if you have something to offer us, we don’t want you! Or in the words of the Home Secretary ‘Go Home’!