A recent announcement that student visas will be restricted by the Government has caused worry on campus.
New restrictions to the current student visa system will come into force on 3 March. These restrictions will mean that students who have spouses or dependants will no longer be able to bring their families with them if they are on a study course that lasts six months or less.
This restriction has been made in order to ensure that students from overseas are in the UK to study, rather than to work illegally.
Despite the changes, LUSU’s Vice President (Equality, Welfare and Diversity) Torri Crapper says that there is no need for Lancaster students to worry, as the only students who will be affected are those on courses that last for less than six months. “For our students this change will not affect their studies or right to study in the UK. It won’t have any implications for any potential international students who are here to study for their degree,” she told SCAN.
Currently people from within the European Economic Area (EEA) can volunteer and work without any restrictions in the United Kingdom, and those with a student visa can work and volunteer part time for up to twenty hours per week. When the new regulations come into force at the beginning of next month this time allowed for part time work and volunteering will be cut to ten hours.
The students who will be affected by these new visa restrictions are those in other universities and colleges in the UK studying for qualifications below degree level. For the most part, international students at Lancaster University will not be affected.
The restrictions have been imposed in response to worries over a scam that appears to have been taking place in North India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Applications from women in these countries has risen by 250% since 2008, and there have been significant concerns over the last few months that some of these women planning to bring their husbands to Britain, who will then work illegally. It has also been suggested that in some cases these women are not planning to study at all, and are in fact using the student visa as a means of fast entry into the country.
Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, backs the new restrictions and believes that they will help to stop these kinds of visa scams. Quoted in The Times, he said: “Since we took steps to bar unskilled workers from coming to the UK, there have been clear indications that the student visa route is being exploited by those whose real intention is not to study, but to find low, unskilled work for themselves and their families.”
At the time of going to press Pat McFadden, the Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, confirmed that this restriction on students who plan to take a course that lasts for less than six months will stay in place for the foreseeable future. McFadden pointed out that there are no restrictions on students from abroad who wish to come to the UK to study for any form of higher education, whether it is a foundation, undergraduate or postgraduate degree. She observed that international students bring a great deal of revenue to this country, almost £8.5 billion per annum, and that universities rely on them for financial purposes.
Alan Johnson added that the restrictions have simply been designed to cut down on ‘bogus students’ and that international students are a very valuable part of British universities.