Critics claim UK Tier 4 student visa gives "back door" entry to the UK

Migration Watch UK, an anti-immigration independent think tank, are calling for more restrictions on granting UK Tier 4 student visas, claiming that the visas provide "back door" entry to the UK.

The group recently published study urged UK immigration to continue to deny requests from UK universities to remove student visa numbers from net migration numbers.

"This would achieve nothing except to destroy public confidence in the government's immigration policy while any significant expansion of foreign students could blow the government's immigration policy seriously off course," Migration Watch UK said in a statement.

The study pointed out Universities UK, which represents university leaders, accepts that about 20 percent of students stay in the UK after graduating, amounting to net migration of 50,000 a year. Furthermore they added that "those from poorer countries are likely to stay on illegally. Migration Watch estimate that they could add a further 25,000 per year bringing the total to 75,000."

They also noted that the US, Canada and Australia also include foreign students in their net migration figures.

"Foreign students are valuable but the present system is far too easily abused. Sadly, the student route has become the back door to Britain and it is wide open," said Sir Andrew Green, the group's chairman. "Unlike our main competitors, we do not interview students before they come to confirm that they are genuine and there are no checks on their departure".

UK Immigration Minister Damian Green commented on the study saying: "We are glad that Migration Watch agree with us that overseas students should remain part of the net migration figures and that action needs to be taken to prevent abuse of student visas".

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, admitted that the study made important points, but it was "wrong in calling for international students to be counted within the UK's migration figures".

"The chancellors were calling for the Government to remove international students from net migration figures in order to make a clear distinction between temporary and permanent migrants for the UK's own internal policy purposes," Dandridge added. "International students come to the UK for a period, then they go home. The small numbers who wish to stay after their studies must then apply for another visa. If that application is unsuccessful, they must return home."

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