HC Deb 23 June 1989 vol 155 cc265-6W
Mr. Hannam

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the new immigration rule which prevents visitors switching to student status whilst in the United Kingdom will be applied to visa nationals only; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Renton

Yes. The generous provisions in the current rules have been abused by some who are not students but whose aim is to take work or to remain here permanently. Many of these enter as visitors and subsequently switch to student status, but have no intention whatsoever of pursuing genuine study here. The "no-switching" provision is designed to prevent this abuse and has been confined to visa nationals because the available evidence suggests that passengers from visa countries are the major source of the abuse. Hence, while in recent years visa nationals have made up only about 20 per cent. of those admitted to the country as students, they have constituted 60 per cent. of grants of extensions of stay as a student to those originally admitted as visitors. Further, two exercises conducted by the immigration service and the police against suspect educational establishments revealed that, of some 6,000 alleged students on the books of these establishments, 95 per cent. were visa nationals and 95 per cent. of these had been orginally admitted as ordinary or business visitors. The educational facilities offered were adequate for only a fraction of the number on the books.

The change is therefore necessary to ensure the effective operation of the visa system. It would he wasteful of resources and unnecessary to extend it to non-visa nationals; in particular such an extension would require the needless issue of over 100,000 additional entry clearances worldwide each year. Visa nationals will still be able to come to the United Kingdom for study, even if they have been unable to finalise all the arrangements beforehand, provided that they make their intentions clear and obtain the necessary visa in advance. Genuine visitors will not be affected in any way.