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A mountain to climb for international students

The Home Office often tells us that the UK is open for business to international students, yet the experience on the ground belies this rhetoric.  This week we ran a roundtable workshop with university, college and language school members to better understand the raft of further hoops being placed in front of international talent wishing to study here, such as biometric resident permits and NHS surcharge payments, and the tightening of compliance requirements that their institutions are having to deal with.

Whilst it is right that the Government should be clamping down on bogus activity and that genuine education institutions play by the rules, it is clear that ahead of the general election the Home Office is doing all it can to salvage some credibility from its failing net migration target, by making the bureaucratic barriers so inflexible and onerous as to put international students off from coming here in the first place.  And this is the UK’s 8th largest export sector, worth in excess of £10bn a year to the UK, so the stakes are high.

Working with Julia Onslow Cole, PWC Legal’s Global Head of Immigration and chair of the London First Immigration Group, we provided useful advice to institutions on how best to tackle the Home Office’s compliance requirements.  We’ll now write to the Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire MP, to set out our concerns and propose a number of areas that he might address, to lessen the burden on those genuine institutions who play by the rules and shift the focus to the fraudulent activity that continues to give the UK education sector a bad name.

Contact: Mark Hilton, mhilton@londonfirst.co.uk

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