5 Immigration |
Number of visas issued
67. There has been a decline 16% in the number of
visas issued in the year up to the end of June 2012. The table
opposite shows the decrease in the number of visas issued by category.
Visas issued by reason (excluding visitor
and transit visas)
||Study (excl student visit visas)
||Dependent joining/ accompanying
|Change: latest 12 months
68. There has also been a significant decline in
the number of settlement visas issued in the second quarter of
this year compared to the previous three quarters.
Grants of settlement by category, Q3 2011-
|Family formation and reunion
69. Settlement visas relate to individuals applying
for permanent leave to reside in the UK. There has been a 27%
decrease in the total number of settlement visas granted between
March and June of this year. Asylum and "other" categories
have seen the largest decline by 33% and 34% respectively.
PROGRESS AGAINST NET MIGRATION TARGETS
70. The latest quarterly figures show that the government
is making progress in meeting its target to reduce immigration.
Net migration in the year to December 2011 however still stood
at 216,000 which is lower than the previous year, 252,000, but
still a long way off from the government's target of a reduction
from "hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands".
The Office for National Statistics reported that this change was
not statistically significant. The fact that a change of such
a large magnitude is not statistically significant highlights
how inaccurate all immigration figures are, and hence the limits
of validity of setting numeric targets.
71. There has been a decrease of 30% on the previous
year in the number of student visas issued in the year up to June
2012. However, study is still the main reason for immigration,
accounting for 41% of the visas issued in the year up to the end
of June 2012.
Student visas (excl visit visas) issued
||Total issued to June 11
||Total issued to June 12
|Study (excl student visitors)
72. The Minister of State for Universities and Science
has recently emphasised that the Government does not want to limit
the number of international students coming to the UK from outside
the European Union and announced that students are to be disaggregated
in the migration figures.
We welcome the Minister's
announcement that student numbers would be disaggregated in migration
figures, but we cannot see how the Government will be able to
reach its target of reducing net migration to tens of thousands
without drastically reducing the number of student visas issued.
This is a move that the Home Office itself estimated would cost
in the region of £2.4bn. We therefore recommend that, in
correspondence with the publication of disaggregated figures,
the Government should specify that it will remove student migrants
from its reduced net migration target.
STUDENT VISA INTERVIEWS
73. The Committee welcomes the introduction of interviews
for a number of international student visa applicants. We hope
however that the interviews will be designed in the best way possible
to catch out fraudulent applicants. The Agency ran a pilot interview
scheme between December 2011 and February 2012. Under this scheme,
entry clearance officers assessed candidates for their credibility
as a genuine student applicant after they had decided whether
or not to grant a visa under existing powers. Officers then recorded
the number of refusals they could have potentially made using
the credibility test as compared to the refusals made under the
existing rules. The pilot used four tests to establish credibility:
the applicants' intention and ability to study their proposed
course, their ability to maintain themselves and any dependents
throughout and their intention to leave the UK on completion of
their studies. The pilot showed that, had the Agency been able
to use these criteria to decide whether to grant a visa, 32% of
the applicants granted a visa under the existing rules would have
been refused. Entry clearance officers identified doubts about
an applicant's intention to study and doubts about their intention
to leave the UK on completing their studies to be the two most
important factors in assessing credibility. The former being a
factor in 88% of all potential refusals and the latter being a
factor in 85%.
74. The Agency's guidance to entry clearance officers
however appears to imply that testing an applicant's intention
to remain in the UK upon completion of their studies may not be
a factor in entry clearance interviews, or, if it is to be used,
will not carry as much weight as other factors. The guidance states
For those considered to be genuine students, intention
to leave the UK at the end of the course is not relevant as there
are many bases on which an individually could lawfully remain
in the UK.
In his oral evidence to the Committee however Mr
Whiteman stated that intention to leave the UK upon completing
their studies would be a test in the entry clearance interviews.
Can I just try to clarify something you said just now, not referring
to the pilot but referring to the interviews you are now conducting;
these 10,000 to 15,000. Can you confirm whether the applicant
intends to leave the country at the end of their studies one of
the criteria to assess credibility?
Rob Whiteman: Yes.
If we believe that there would be visa abuse and that somebody
would not leave at the end of their visa, as said, or some other
abuse of the immigration system, then we can take that into consideration
for the credibility test.
welcome the introduction of interviews for student visa applicants,
a measure this Committee has repeatedly called for. However the
Agency should clarify whether and how it intends to use the "intention
to leave the UK upon completion of studies" test. We recommend
that the Agency also clarifies its position around the use of
this test to its team of entry clearance officers. If face to
face interviews are to be a success it is important that the interviews
are as robust as possible and that officers have recourse to the
most useful tests of credibility. We therefore recommend that
an assessment of applicant's intentions upon completion of their
course is made as part of entry clearance interviews. Applicants
should either intend to return home or have credible plans for
further study or skilled post-study work in the UK.
Students registering with the
Overseas Visitor Records Office (OVRO)
76. International students from a number of specified
countries are required to register with the police within seven
days of their arrival in the UK. At the start of the academic
year high volumes of students entering the country meant that
London saw queues of hundreds of students waiting through the
night to register with OVRO.
77. We understand from the Metropolitan Police that
the information submitted by students when they register is kept
on a standalone database at OVRO. Much of the data submitted is
already available to the Agency but some additional information
such as a student's address in the UK may not be. The Metropolitan
Police Commissioner tells us that whilst the data is available
to the police for policing purposes he is 'not aware of any case
that has been fundamentally affected by the information in the
78. A fee of £34 per student is charged but
the funds do not nearly cover the cost to the Metropolitan Police.
The cost to the Metropolitan Police was £133,861 in 2011-12
and is projected to be £96,266 in 2012-13. 
79. We are pleased
to hear that the police have taken short term measures to mitigate
the queues at ORVO, by allowing individual universities to take
a co-ordinating role. However due to the cost and the very limited
value the police believe the information to have we do not think
that maintaining the current process can be justified. We therefore
welcome the commitment from the Immigration Minister to review
both the value offered by registration and the list of countries
whose citizens are required to do so at the beginning of 2013.
Visa processing times
80. The Agency continues to process the majority
of out-of country visa applications within its target service
standards: 90% within 15 days, 98% within 30 days and 100% within
60 days. There is no significant variation from its performance
in the first quarter of this year. We
welcome the Agency's continued achievement of its targets in this
Visa applications processed within 15,
30 and 60 days, Q2 2012
Immigration casework and settlement
81. At the time of our last report we were concerned
about the huge rise in immigration casework in progress between
February and March 2012. There was still a significant increase
in the number of cases between March and April of this year (62%
for temporary migration casework and 26% for permanent). However
we welcome the fact that a much more stable caseload appears to
have been maintained throughout the second quarter of this year,
with temporary migration casework rising by 3% over the quarter
and permanent migration casework by 9%.
In-country immigration cases in progress
at the end of each month January-June 2012
82. We were surprised to learn that the Agency's
service standards for processing settlement applications made
within the UK were 24 hours for an application made in person
but six months for a postal application.
We acknowledge that the 24 hour service is a premium one, for
which the user pays a fee of £1,377. However we cannot understand
why it takes so much longer to process a postal application which
still costs applicants a considerable fee of £990.
The discrepancy is even more surprising considering the target
for processing settlement applications made from overseas is to
complete 95% of them in 12 weeks.
83. In our view,
taking six months to process an application that could be processed
within 24 hours provides a very poor service to users. We recommend
that the Agency alters its in-country service standard to processing
95% of in-country postal applications in 12 weeks, the same standard
it works to for settlement applications made from overseas. We
also expect to hear from the Agency whether or not the service
standard for overseas applications will alter now that all applications
from Commonwealth countries (with the exception of Hong Kong)
also have to be made by post and not via the relevant British
Consulate or High Commission.
55 Home Office Immigration Statistics April - June
2012 Before Entry Briefing Back
Home Office Immigration Statistics, April-June 2012, settlement
1. Data from Q1 2010 are provisional
2. Data excludes dependants of EEA and
Swiss nationals in confirmed relationships granted permanent residence.
3. Includes reconsideration cases and
the outcome of appeals.
4. May include a small number of cases
in which a decision is recorded twice, where an individual has
5. Excludes EEA nationals.
6. Grants of settlement in the PBS Tiers
1, 2 and 5 include persons who have completed combined qualifying
periods of residence in these Tiers and other pre PBS categories.
7. 'Asylum' includes grants under the
Family ILR exercise.
8. 'Family formation and reunion' are
defined as spouses and dependants joining British citizens or
persons previously granted settlement.
9. 'Other grants on a discretionary
basis' include people granted indefinite leave outside the immigration
rules under measures aimed at clearing the backlog of outstanding
unresolved cases from 2007.
10. 'Other grants on a discretionary
basis' include dependants.
11. 'Refusals' relates to in-country
refusals of settlement. Back
'Other' includes: people granted indefinite leave outside the
immigration rules under measures aimed at clearing the backlog
of outstanding unresolved cases from 2007 and dependents. Back
HC Deb, 23 November 2010, col 169 Back
Home Office, table be.04.q: Entry clearance visas issued by category Back
Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Speech to Universities UK Conference,
Keele University, 13 September 2012 Back
Tier 4 Student Credibility Pilot Analysis of Quantitative and
Qualitative Data, Home Office, July 2012 Back
UKBA Guidance: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/policyandlaw/guidance/ecg/sty/sty2/ Back
Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Correspondence with the
Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, 10th October
2012, p1-2. Back
Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Correspondence with the
Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, 10th October
2012, p2 Back
Ev 18 [Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive, UK Border Agency] Back
Percentage of migration applications decided within published
standards (xls) (46KB opens in a new window), http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/aboutus/percentage-of-migration/ Back