100 fake UK colleges in visa scam
More than 100 "colleges" in England and Wales have been exposed as bogus vehicles for an immigration scam as a result of the first phase of a crackdown on the abuse of student visas, Home Office officials revealed last night.
MPs were told yesterday that immigration staff have visited 400 "colleges".
Bill Jeffrey, director of the Home Office's immigration and nationality directorate, told MPs last night that more than 100 of the 400 proved not to be genuine.
Police are now expected to trace the operators of the colleges and the "students" who used their addresses to enter the country illegally on student visas.
Two months ago the home secretary, David Blunkett, announced that he and the education secretary, Charles Clarke, are to set up a register of all education providers.
Mr Jeffrey told MPs on the House of Commons public accounts committee last night that the register should be in place by the end of this year.
Ministers are also considering legislation to place an obligation on registered colleges to inform the Home Office whether or not students attending courses on overseas visas turn up regularly.
A report by the National Audit Office published last week into the operation of the visa system to get into Britain highlighted the lack of checks that those who entered the country on student visas took the courses they applied for.
It said one tracking exercise carried out by British entry clearance officers in Accra, Ghana, found that only 37% of a sample of students issued with a student visa to come to the UK could be traced.
The education secretary, Mr Clarke, announced last Friday that any student applying to come to Britain to study at a college not on the register will not be allowed into Britain.
Colleges which already get public support or are accredited through existing UK bodies will automatically be included in the register. Private language schools are to be encouraged to be accredited with existing bodies such as the British Council.