London, Feb 11(ANI): Tougher new rules for student visas will be introduced by United Kingdom from next month after officials spotted a suspected scam involving female applicants from North India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Under the new rules announced by the Home Office, applicants from outside the EU would need a higher standard of English to attend courses below degree level, and the number of hours they can work will be halved to ten hours a week in term time.
Students on courses of less than six months will be banned from bringing their spouses and children with them, and dependants of anyone studying on a course lower than an undergraduate degree are to be banned from working.
The U.K. Border Agency (UKBA) had earlier suspended student visa facilities from February 1, 2010 as it was investigating an inexplicable six-fold increase in demand.
Chief executive of the UKBA Lin Homer said that applications from the parts of Indian subcontinent have risen by more than 250 per cent.
Officials spotted that large numbers of older women were applying for student visas and that many of them had finished formal education years ago.
They suspected that a scam was being planned in which the women would then bring dependant husbands with them, who would then work illegally.
The Home Secretary Alan Johnson said the latest moves to abuse the student visa route as a way of entering the country had occurred after the Government barred unskilled workers from outside the EU from coming to Britain.
"Since we took steps to bar unskilled workers from coming to the UK, there have been clear indications that the student visa route is being exploited by those whose real intention is not to study, but to find low skilled work for themselves or their families," The Times quoted Johnson, as saying.
According to official statistics, UKBA received 13,500 applications in October-December 2009, whereas in the same period in 2008 it was 1,800 and in 2007 it was 1,000.
The suspension will last until the end of February at which point staff at UKBA is expected to have trawled through the huge influx of requests.
Interviews and appointments as well as paper applications have been suspended during the same period. (ANI)