The UK Border Agency (UKBA) on Saturday announced that it would temporarily stop accepting student visa applications under Tier 4 of the Points Based System at visa application centres in New Delhi, Chandigarh and Jalandhar.
Chris Dix, the regional director of UKBA, said the decision to suspend accepting and processing visa applications was taken “in response to the unexpectedly high numbers of student visa applications” in North India.
Dix clarified that the visa application centres in Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad as well as in rest of India would remain open for Tier 4 visa applications, but the applicants would have to seek prior appointments to submit applications in those centres from Monday.
The UKBA is responsible for securing the borders and controlling migration in Britain. It manages border control for the UK, enforcing immigration and customs regulations. It also considers applications for permission to enter or stay in the UK.
“The temporary suspension will allow the agency to continue to scrutinise applications thoroughly and to manage the visa process efficiently for all our customers in North India,” said Dix. The suspension might continue till the last week of February.
The British High Commissioner to India, Richard Stagg, said attempts were being made to abuse the visa processing system of the UK.
“I am keen that Indian students continue to study in the UK and am pleased that so many Indian students are taking up this opportunity. But some applicants are attempting to abuse our visa processes and we will not let that happen,” he said.
Stagg said this temporary measure was designed to protect genuine students, professional agents and good education providers from anyone who is not currently playing by the rules.
“I am confident that a normal visa service will be resumed in good time for students who want to study in the United Kingdom in the next academic year,” he added.
Dix said the UKBA had already taken up with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Human Resource Development the issue of unexpectedly high-number of visa-seekers from northern India.
The centres in Chandigarh, Jalandhar and New Delhi received nearly 1,000 student visa applications in between October and December in 2007, the number increased to 1,800 during the same period in 2008 and jumped to 13,500 during the corresponding period last year.
Dix said that certain education agencies in North India might be misleading people by telling them that they could get entry to the UK for other purposes by using the student visa route. “We want to ensure that student visa system attracts bona fide students,” he said.