UK visa refusal credibility questioned

18 Apr 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The credibility of the grounds used to refuse UK visas for international students has been questioned in a report from the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).

Border agency officers have been accused in the report of refusing UK visas on "arbitrary" grounds.

The introduction of face-to-face interviews resulted in "unpredictable and subjective" decisions, stated the report, which was seen by the Times Higher Education supplement. For example, one student was reportedly refused a visa because he had not previously travelled outside Pakistan and so was unable to "demonstrate any previous compliance with the immigration rules of another country".

Another student had allegedly been refused a visa to study in the UK because the staff decided that her decision to study abroad was a bad use of the money she had inherited from her deceased father; this decision was, however, later overturned.

The face-to-face credibility tests were introduced in July 2012 following a trial earlier in the year that apparently proved more successful in uncovering visa applicants that were judged to be not genuine. The tests are now carried out for around five per cent of applicants who are deemed most likely to be fraudulent.

One area the areas tested by the interviews is English. However, one respondent to the report explained that it is "unclear what training or qualifications the [border officers] have to make them able to decide who is a 'genuine' student" or who has the appropriate level of English language.

The report comes shortly after the UK Border Agency reinstated London Metropolitan University's status as a highly trusted sponsor of international students. The university had previously had its licence revoked after the UKBA decided that it had not been monitoring its international students sufficiently to ensure that they were adhering to their visa requirements.