Thousands of applicants for visas to study in the UK are to be subjected to interviews in a new measure to crack down on bogus students announced by Home Secretary Theresa May.
In a speech Mrs May rejected claims that the controversial clampdown on student visas was damaging business and universities by making it harder for non-EU nationals to come to the UK to learn.
Speaking to the think tank Policy Exchange, the Home Secretary insisted that the policy was blocking thousands of applicants who want to use a student visa as “a backdoor route into working in Britain”, and was at the same time increasing the overall number of foreign students on legitimate courses at UK universities.
UK Border Agency officials will conduct interviews with more than 100,000 applicants from “high-risk” countries outside the EU, replacing paper-based checks which have been shown to be open to abuse, said Mrs May. They are likely to be quizzed on their knowledge of English and details of the course they are planning to study.
She 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, so Britain can benefit from their skills. And she said that 1,000 more places a year will be made available for MBA graduates who want to stay in Britain and start up businesses.
Mrs May acknowledged the Government has “a way to go” to deliver on its promise to get annual net non-EU immigration below 100,000: it currently stands at 183,000. But she insisted their policies were “beginning to bite” and predicted “we can expect immigration to continue to fall”, with the latest statistics showing a drop of 4 per cent in work visas, 15 per cent in family visas and 26 per cent in student visas.
She launched a full-frontal assault on Labour’s failure to measure the impact of immigration on public services and housing and for assuming it had no impact on the jobs and wages of the settled population.
Mass immigration undermines social cohesion by making it “impossible” to establish the relationships, family ties and social bonds that create a community, she said. And she blamed immigration for a third of all new housing demand, saying prices could be 10 per cent lower without the influx of migrants.