Student visas to UK may be halved

Non-EU countries such as Pakistan to bear the brunt of British immigration cuts.

Imrana Khwaja November 23, 2010

LONDON: Student visas to the United Kingdom may be halved as the British government prepares to announce a massive reduction in annual net migration to the UK.

Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Prime Minister David Cameron reiterated his pledge to reduce annual net migration to the UK from 196,000 last year to tens of thousands a year. As a member of the European Union, the UK cannot restrict migration from other EU countries. The brunt of the crackdown will therefore be borne by non-EU immigrants such as those from Pakistan.

Earlier this month, Theresa May, the home secretary, announced that the government will ‘drastically reduce’ the number of non-EU students coming to study in Britain and end the right to permanent settlement for skilled workers and overseas students. Those coming to study at Britain’s ‘prestigious universities’ for degree-level courses and above would not be affected, she had said. Students hoping for places at privately-funded colleges are more likely to bear the brunt of the curbs.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), a public body sponsored by the Home Office, published its advice to the government on November 18 stating, “To reach the tens of thousands the student and family routes [to migration] will have to take a substantial share of any overall reduction”. The MAC proposed that work related visas be cut by 25 per cent.

MAC Chairman Professor David Metcalf has said that this could mean cutting the current annual flow of 163,000 overseas students from outside Europe by 87,000 with deep cuts also required in the 55,000 people who come to join their families settled in the UK.

Ministers have already introduced a temporary cap ahead of a permanent restriction to be introduced from April 2011.

Business leaders and organisations such as the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) have opposed a cap on work-related visas arguing that it would put Britain at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the world. The PM responded to their criticism some two weeks ago by excluding ‘intra-company transfers’ from the proposals.

A detailed announcement of the government’s policy is expected later this week.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2010.

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