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February 2, 2010

India's plea to UK on visas for bonafide Indian students

     New Delhi: India on Tuesday took note of United Kingdom's decision to temporarily halt accepting student visa applications at its centres in New Delhi, Chandigarh and Jalandhar. External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said the Government will ensure that the students are not 'adversely impacted'. "The Ministry of External Affairs has been in touch with the British High Commission (BHC) on this matter to better understand the reasons behind this decision and also to ensure that bonafide Indian students planning to go to the UK for studies are not adversely impacted," Prakash said. "The Ministry has taken note of the fact that in parallel with the decision taken to temporarily suspend accepting student visa applications under Tier 4 of the Point Based System at Visa Application Centres in New Delhi, Chandigarh and Jalandhar, the UK Border Agency is also investigating a number of UK education providers and has, in the last week, suspended approximately 60 from the education sponsors register," the statement added. Prakash also emphasized that educational cooperation between India and UK is an important facet of bilateral relationship between the two countries, and said: "Student exchanges form a vital component of this cooperation. We would remain in touch with the BHC on this matter." The U.K. Border Agency (UKBA) stopped student visa facilities from February 1, 2010 as it is investigating an inexplicable six-fold increase in demand. 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 started from Monday and will last until the end of the month 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. Earlier, the head of the points-based system at the UK Border Agency, Jeremy Oppenheim, said that his office continually checks and monitors the student application system. "As a result of this routine monitoring and an increase in applications, we have temporarily stopped accepting new applications from North India, Nepal, and Bangladesh while we carry out an investigation to ensure they are all genuine," Oppenheim said. "We will take tough action against those who attempt to abuse the system," he added.
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