UK Border Agency abolished: How will students be affected, and what can they do?
Home secretary Theresa May has announced that the UK Border Agency is to be abolished in the UK. Going forward, the work previously performed by the UKBA will be delegated back to the Home Office; this work will be split into visa applications and immigration law enforcement.
This is big news for international students who depend on their visa applications to be processed in an efficient manner, in time for the beginning of their course. Described as having a ‘closed, secretive and defensive culture’, the agency was further criticised for its slow performance; leading to a backlog of applications for visas. The results of this change may well influence how other countries treat visa applications for students in the future.
While May said the system was competitive with other countries, she stated that there was room for improvement. A huge shake-up like this comes at a testing time; this month, the Home Office are beginning the process of interviewing over 100, 000 Tier 4 applicants, wishing to study in the UK. Preliminary interviews as part of the pilot scheme have been reported to take nearly an hour each.
Like any process which goes through reorganisation, expect some things to take slightly longer than usual. Employees at the Home Office may take some time to get used to the new system (as well as going through the interview process mentioned above). Though it’s easy to say to applicants, that they should remain calm throughout, it can create a lot of stress; especially while organising plans from another country.
What can students who are planning to study abroad, in the UK or elsewhere, learn from this? Below are a few tips that we recommend:
Keep all documentation you receive well organised, in chronological order which you receive it. Split documents into relevant areas e.g. course, accommodation etc. Print out everything some you have a hard copy; or, if you want to save on paper, bookmark web pages and create special folders. Also, back up these files in case you aren’t near your computer or device; send them to another email address you have too.
Ask for dates for when you should hear back for something. It's easy to just wait for something to happen on its own. Sometimes you need to make things happen! Create a calendar for yourself to mark important dates or deadlines, so you can see if you have yet to hear back from someone. Then you can follow up with them appropriately.
When you speak on the phone to someone, ask for their name (preferably first and last name), and their position. If you call again and speak to someone different, you can prove you did in fact speak to their colleague previously (they may even put you through to them). If you’re worried about being rude, thank them for their help when they give you their name; if you say their name when you thank them, it will seem more personal and they may even remember you. Also, write down their name, and the date you spoke to them.
If you do have an interview scheduled, you may have to wait a bit longer, as we mentioned above. Sometimes there are delays with so many students to interview. Make sure you take something to keep you busy or entertained. Charge up your phone or iPad, or take a book (something relevant to your course would appear favourable to your interviewer, and give you something to talk about). However, this is not an excuse to arrive late.
If you are concerned that something is taking longer than it should, speak up or make an enquiry! It rarely happens, but if something has gone awry, you need to notify someone immediately. Keep your parents informed, or speak to your friends about their applications (though theirs may differ slightly depending on where they are studying). It will save you a lot of hassle later on to deal with an issue now. It may even be worthwhile to set a Google Alert for terms such as 'students application' or 'international students'; check these once a week, to remind you of things you need to do.
Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.