Visa Versa

In the light of the current (or recent – the government still cannot decide on this) crisis immigration rules took a nasty habit to change as frequent as the weather this winter. This may not be applicable to home and most EU students, but the problem is a constant headache for international students who want to stay in the country after they graduate. Well, getting into a UK university is not becoming easier either, and even if one pockets an offer from a certified educational institution the new visa application process (Tier 4 for students) means that many potential students will not be able to study in the UK or will be late for the beginning of the term.

Point based system has been successful in controlling immigration, but I refuse to see how it complies with one of the fundamental human rights of free movement. The system is very flexible, and whenever the government want to slow down immigration they just increase the points you need to get to be eligible for a visa. Reminds me of a gate in a sheep fold. The government can open it wider to let fat sheep in, or shut it thin for slimmer ones to come in. This creates a great deal of uncertainty for anyone trying to come in the UK, especially for students. Such situation will do good neither for the UK universities nor for the UK’s reputation as an open society.

I have been in the UK for 5 years now since the age of 15 and lower 6th form. I have held 3 student visas and I paid a significantly larger amount of money each time for the same type of visa – around £40, £60 and £90 respectively. Now a student visa is £145 if applying from outside the UK, and goes up to £565 if applying from within the UK at a public enquiries office. One of the “excuses” for enormous fees is that the fees should reflect the value for a successful applicant. Fine, but what about unsuccessful applicants? Be sure, the fee is non-refundable and if you are refused the visa (and nowadays this is more and more likely with the rules that change every month or so), you loose a huge lot of money and no one will explain why. A friend of mine a Russian citizen was in the middle of her masters course at York when she applied to extend her visa and was refused. She lost the visa fee, had to interrupt studies, go home to reapply there, pay another fee, pay accommodation back in the UK, pay university fees, and got nothing in return. This isn’t a fair system, is it?

Many students who graduate from universities all around the UK would like to stay in the country. Many of them, like myself, probably went to a school here and were brought up like their British peers. I know some of my friends have been in the UK since their GCSEs. I now feel more British than Moldovan, and I’m sure those who did their GCSEs here are even more British. Yet the country does not want us to stay. What we are offered is a Post Study visa for £700 that will let me stay for 2 years. I can live and work with no restrictions, but it is impossible to begin a career on this visa. Most employers who do not provide work permits (the majority of them) require to have a permanent permission to work. If an employer wants to be able to employ foreigners they will have to pay a licence fee to Home Office. There is a fee for each work permit issued as well. So why would a firm want to pay all these fees in a ‘chilly’ economy if they have the whole of EU labour market? On the other hand, why would a country make it so difficult for highly skilled graduates to stay? Who will ever argue against the benefits that skilled labour brings in? What make the whole issue even more unfair is that I have been working during my studies and contributed a great deal in taxes, not to mention all the stuff I bought here in the 5 years and how much VAT I paid.

I am looking forward to the general elections this year, which will be held around the exams and graduation. It would be fun to see the Conservatives win and tighten up immigration policy even more, just after I graduate and just before I will need a job to start my career.


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