It has largely gone unnoticed, unless you are one of the thousands of international students still willing to pay a fortune to study in the UK, that in July the Home Office introduced this seemingly innocuous phrase into the immigration rules: ‘The entry clearance officer must be satisfied that the applicant is a genuine student’ (paragraph 245ZV(k) of the Immigration Rules, HC 395 as amended).
If the rules had also defined how an entry clearance officer was to determine whether or not a student was ‘genuine’, then all might be well (and perhaps even lawful). But they do not. Entry clearance officers have carte blanche to refuse a visa. We have already heard of one student being refused because he did not know the name of the football team in the English city in which he intended to study, while another was refused solely because his father had never studied. The Home Office has said that it will carry out 100,000 of these interviews this year and the peak application period is right now.
The genuine student test, combined with the impending new landlord checks and coming immediately after the ‘go home’ vans campaign (which was picked up around the world) is unlikely to create a welcoming environment for international students whom the government still insists are wanted, welcome and worth £10.2bn per year in tuition fees and living expenses.
Surely it is time to start fighting for our international friends to be treated in a respectful and lawful manner, rather than continually being regarded as pawns in the legally bonkers net migration game?
Nichola Carter, Carter Thomas, London WC2