NPC Visa Appeal Letter

Here is a copy of a letter sent to Lords regarding the right of appeal for visa extensions. Feel free to use it as a template to contact Ministers and Lords. The second reading takes place on the 6th December 2005.

Simon Felton
General Secretary
National Postgraduate Committee
c/o The University of Birmingham Guild of Students
B15 2TU
0121 251 2499

28th November 2005

I am writing this letter on behalf of the National Postgraduate Committee, representing over 500,000 postgraduate students to bring to the attention of the government an issue of great importance to all international students coming to study in the UK and to UK Universities and to the vitality of our universities.

The Government announced in the Five Year Strategy for Immigration and Asylum on 8th February that they intend to remove the right of appeal for, amongst other groups, international students who are denied visas. They have also announced a new way in which international students are being assessed to see if they are fit to come and study in the UK. The final reading of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationalities Bill comes before you on the 6th December 2005.

The National Postgraduate Committee has grave concerns over these proposals and their impact upon postgraduate study. Some 39 per cent of postgraduate research students are international with a high proportion of students in Science, Engineering and technology subjects. The European Commission notes that Europe is 700,000 scientists short of reaching the Lisbon goal of making Europe into a competitive and dynamic set of knowledge driven economies. The Bill contradicts this aim and challenges the Prime Ministers initiative of 1999 to attract an extra 50,000 international students to higher education by 2004 which some in government plan to renew.

The UK attracts 13 per cent of all international students but according to the OECD has lost 3 per cent of the market between 1998 and 2002. Evidence show that appeals are useful for international students, with government figures from 2003 showing that 25% of student visa appeals were successful! Furthermore the Immigration Advisory Service reports that of the appeals which they handle, 60-75% international student visa appeals are successful.

At The University of Sheffield over 90 per cent of cases involving international students who had accepted offers and who were refused visas were successful in appeal or more commonly the entry clearance post reconsidered the case before it reached appeal. Without the right of appeal the incentive for entry clearance officers to reverse a visa refusal following representations will no longer exist. In 1992 the Shadow Home Secretary noted when a right of appeal is removed, what is removed is a valuable and necessary constraint on those who exercise original jurisdiction. The USA has seen an increase in student applications following its relaxing of visa restrictions and by the concentration on the intention or ability to study rather than on the intention to leave on completion of the course.

International students from higher risk countries or visa categories will need to deposit a financial bond, which would be forfeited if they did not leave the country at the end of their stay, according to the new plans. This is concerning for two reasons. Firstly, poorer students and students on scholarships may be priced out of studying in the UK. Secondly, students need to extend their stay at HEIs in the UK for a variety of very good reasons. Combined with some significant increases in visa extension charges (up to 500.00), students may very well end up unable to finish their studies, and may be put off studying here in the first place. Furthermore the appeal against removal that students will be able to lodge will not be exercisable in the UK, so that students who find they need to stay for an extra couple of weeks must return home to appeal against the decision to remove them and risk missing the occasion for which they required leave to remain.

As the Higher Education market becomes increasingly global, and UK institutions need to attract even more international students and develop their international reputations, the government appear to be taking steps backwards in our collective goal. If top HEIs are to continue to prosper, underfunded as they are, the UK needs to be seen as a key destination for study. There are 210,510 international students in higher education in the UK today with international fee income accounting for 8 per cent of the total income to the higher education sector, approximately 1.5 billion a year. International students contribute about 5 billion to the UK economy but furthermore they make a long term lifetime contribution of their links to the UK and their proud achievement of studying in the UK.

You have the opportunity to voice these concerns when the Bill comes before you on the 6th December this year. It is a government priority to make sure that UK Higher Education is world class, and that the UK is a prime destination for international study. Implementing the above changes will mean that international students will favor the USA and Australia to the UK for their study. Please stop this from happening.

Yours sincerely,

Simon Felton