Education Agents Exploit Loopholes as UK Visa Rules Tighten for Indian Students

by Antariksh Singh

In a frenzy to beat the clock before the UK government’s impending ban on dependants entering the country, education agents are capitalizing on Indian students, charging exorbitant fees to secure coveted spots in British universities. The ban, set to take effect on January 1, 2024, has triggered a surge in visa applications, prompting some universities to open up admissions as early as November and December.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement earlier this year came in response to an alarming eightfold increase in the number of family members accompanying foreign students. The ban specifically targets those not enrolled in “high-value” degree programs, as outlined by government plans.

Reports reveal that desperate students and their families are resorting to drastic measures to navigate the tightening regulations. A couple reportedly shelled out a staggering £30,000 to secure both a student visa and a dependant’s visa, a transaction that underscores the financial toll these new regulations are taking.

The Telegraph newspaper highlights instances where individuals are entering into “contract” marriages to bypass the stringent visa requirements. In one such case, a man lacking the necessary academic and language qualifications reportedly paid £30,000 for his wife’s tuition, visa, and admission fees on top of her living expenses in exchange for her sponsorship of his dependant visa, allowing him to work in the UK.

Rinku Sharma from Ahmedabad even went to the extent of selling his agricultural land, parting with £11,000 to secure admission for a master’s course and a dependant visa for his wife. When interviewed by The Telegraph, Sharma justified the hefty expense as a “one-time investment,” foreseeing a promising future with a UK degree and work experience.

Sahil Bhatia, the head of Om Visa, a Punjab-based visa consultancy, disclosed that the rush to beat the impending ban is palpable, with his agency receiving between 30 and 40 spouse applications daily. Bhatia also pointed out that universities such as BPP in London, Birmingham, and Bedfordshire are capitalizing on the surge, accepting students even in November and December.

The economic significance of international students to the UK cannot be overstated, with estimates suggesting they contribute £35 billion annually. Last year alone, 490,763 students were granted visas, with fees ranging from £10,000 to £26,000. Additionally, a National Health Service (NHS) surcharge of £400 per year for students and £600 for dependants further adds to the economic impact, as noted by UK-based New Way Consultancy.

As the race against the January 1 deadline intensifies, the exploitation of loopholes and the financial strain on Indian students highlight the complex challenges posed by evolving immigration policies and their far-reaching consequences on aspiring scholars and their families.

Antariksh Singh

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