Parliament: Student visa checks in 'chaos'

Sept. 4, 2012 at 10:22 AM
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LONDON, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- Tens of thousands of immigrants allowed into England as students are actually not in school but working illegally, a Parliament committee charges.

A program to check the immigrants' visa status is in "chaos," the panel says, three years after it was put in place, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The U.K. Border Agency abandoned existing checks on foreign students in 2009 before a new monitoring program was fully in place, Commons Public Accounts Committee said in a report issued Monday.

As a result, between 40,000 and 50,000 immigrants claiming to be students came to the United Kingdom in the first year alone but worked instead, the report claimed.

Since then, the Border Agency has been "playing catch-up," said Margaret Hodge, the chairperson of the committee.

"The result of the agency's poorly planned and ill-thought out course of action was chaos: an immediate high level of abuse of the new system and a surge in the number of student visas," she said.

The report was released a week after authorities revoked London Metropolitan University's ability to accept foreign students after it failed to address what immigration minister Damian Green called "serious systemic failings."

The vice-chancellor of LMU, Malcolm Gillies, said Tuesday the university would "fundamentally contest" the revocation, The Guardian reported.

Gillies said the Border Agency had changed its requirements at least 14 times in the last three years and that it had failed to notify the university of its concerns over the past six months.

He added that the agency had not checked its findings with the university before banning it from accepting foreign students.

Gillies said the university would contest the decision in court this week. If the order stands, he said it would affect to 2,600 foreign students and cost the school $47.6 million.

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