UK Tightens Pakistani Student Immigration Requirements
By Lynn Maleh
A recent study from the UK Home Office discovered that current Pakistani student visa applications do not provide veritable representations of the applicants’ English language skills. The study was conducted by a pilot program that supplemented the traditional paper applications with face-to-face interviews between applicants and immigration officials. The pilot program revealed that 20 percent of applicants, who previously would have been accepted based on their paper applications, did not have the English proficiency demonstrated by their written answers and required for advanced study in the UK.
Previously, approximately twenty percent of Pakistani applicants were rejected for UK student visas due to inadequate English skills. Since Home Secretary Theresa May instituted the interview element to the application process, the rejection rate has risen to 40 percent. The pilot program is now being implemented in 14 additional countries, including China, India, Egypt, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.
While these regulations may seem harsh, they are based on intensive studies from the National Audit Office, which uncovered records of at least 40,000 – 50,000 bogus Pakistani students, who had been issued UK Tier 4 visas in 2012 alone. Many of these bogus students used their UK Tier 4 visas to work in the UK, rather than complete their proposed studies. The number of these bogus students has risen approximately ten times from previous predictions from UK immigration officials, and many of these “students” are presently untraceable. While current UK immigration laws allow higher education students with UK Tier 4 visas to work part time during school sessions and full time during holidays, entirely disregarding the student element of their student visas is completely illegal. A government spokesperson has stated, “Britain is open for business to the best and the brightest, but our message to bogus students is clear. You will be found out, and you will be prevented from coming.”
Despite these findings, many Pakistani students (including members of The National Union of Pakistani Students (NUPS) and participants of the Oxford University seminar, “New British Immigration”), as well as several members of the European and UK parliaments, believe the laws are discriminatory against Pakistani students.
Qaism Raza, NUPS Director General and Oxford student, argues that the new application system delays the overall visa process, causing time losses up to entire academic years for many Pakistani applicants. Raza encourages his government to protect its students from such excessive and discriminatory application practices.
Other young thinkers, such as co-chairman of the Internal Affairs of Pakistan Young Leaders Council, Hussain Nadeem, believe this act reflects Pakistan-Indian tensions. Followers of this school of thought worry that the UK policy will last as long as the war on terror, and thus indefinitely. These believers blame their own army for interfering with foreign policy.
Hira Omar, the chairperson of the Education Committee of Pakistan Young Leaders Conference and student of Oxford University, looks wisely at the situation. She believes poor English language education in Pakistan is to blame for the high level of post-interview rejections. Hira would like to promote English education through the Pakistani government and encourages curriculum improvements in this direction.
Additional research for this article was performed at ZulkiePartners.com, business immigration law firm in the United States.