British MPs flay new student visa policy

London: Tough new rules for student visas that came into effect earlier this month have been criticised by the Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons on the ground that it could damage Britain's economy. By the Home Office's impact assessment, the new policy could adversely affect the recruitment of the high fee-paying international students and cost the economy 3.6 billion pounds annually.

Thousands of Indian students come to Britain every year to study at various institutions. Keith Vaz, chairman of the committee, said: "The Government appears to be not only making policy without adequate immigration statistics, but also ignoring its own evidence. We reiterate the need for an immigration policy which is both evidence-based and does not adversely affect the British economy." The new visa rules as part of the David Cameron government's efforts to reduce migration to Britain involves tougher English language tests, greater scrutiny of private colleges and restrictions on when students and their dependents can work. Officials estimate that the plans will eventually reduce the number of students by 75,000 a year, down from roughly 250,000 a year at present. The new restrictions came into effect on 4 July.

More restrictions are scheduled to come into effect from April 2011, including the closure of the post-study work visa, which currently enables non-EU students to take up work for two years after completing studies in a UK university. The committee said it was concerned that an impact assessment which highlights the cost of the student visas policy had been published 12 weeks after the policy had been announced.

The assessment, which states the policy could cost the economy as much as 3.6 billion pounds,has led to the committee concluding that the government is failing to establish a solid evidence base before embarking on policy changes which could damage Britain's economic recovery. "The committee are fully supportive of the need to address the flaws of the current system of immigration. However, the Home Secretary's dismissal of the Impact Assessment is very disappointing," Vaz said. However, Immigration Minister Damian Green said: "The changes were introduced after full and extensive consultation. The extent of the crisis which this government inherited in the immigration system meant that tough early action was necessary."

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