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UKBA to set interview tests for overseas students

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Overseas students who apply for visas to study in Britain are to face compulsory interview tests as part of a new UK Border Agency effort to filter out abuse of the student visa route.

According to the Sunday Times, the decision comes as Prime Minister David Cameron is said to be likely to reverse immigration policy and remove international students from official immigration figures. Instead, overseas applicants will face interviews by consular officials in their countries, who will also have the power to grant or refuse applications based on the interview.

UKBA staff are to be given a new power to refuse entry to any overseas students whose credibility remains in doubt after being interviewed. Those who fail to turn up for the interview will also be refused entry to Britain if they fail to give a reasonable explanation.

According to the UKBA, the student visa interview programme, which is due to start on 30 July, will result in 10,000 to 14,000 - around 5% of the total - applicants for student visas interviewed each year. It is believed that students from Burma, India and Bangladesh will be among those hardest hit.

The new interview approch is based on a pilot scheme that run from December to February this year. According to the Home Office, the pilot scheme found 32% of almost 2,000 students from outside the EU who were interviewed and granted a UK visa would have been denied one if UKBA officials had the power to refuse visas because they suspected the applicant was not a genuine student.

As university leaders have campaigned for the removal of international students from the migration figures arguing that international students bring £8 billion annually to the British economy, The Sunday Times quoted a source at 10 Downing Street as saying: "The prime minister understands these arguments and is definitely considering a change of policy".

The immigration minister, Damian Green, has rejected the universities' argument that students are not migrants and should be excluded as "fiddling the figures", but according to the Sunday Times report, Cameron now accepts that there is a risk that overseas students are turning their backs on Britain.


For more information

Visit the UKBA Home Office website.

Also find the directory of UK embassies around the world here.

Read more about applying for a UK student visa.

Read more about studying in the UK.

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Aspiring journalist and Cambridge University graduate, Londoner 'by adoption'. Tweeting for @hotcourses_Abrd