Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Immigration Minister To Be Challenged Over Visa Delays

Business leaders and university representatives are to be given the chance to challenge Immigration Minister, Mark Harper on visa delays for overseas academics, students an high-skilled employees following an invitation from the city’s MP Julian Huppert.

Julian invited Mr Harper to come and find out for himself how the “over-bureaucratic” border controls are causing problems for the city’s leading organisations.

And he also asked Home Secretary, Theresa May to make the trip to Cambridge to discuss the backlog of visa applications that is slowing down entry into the country for visitors.

He said yesterday (Monday, February 11) in the Commons: “The Home Secretary will be well aware of many of the long delays, and I, like many members, have a number of constituents waiting for responses from the UK Border Agency.

“This is causing great concern for businesses and the universities in Cambridge, as are some of the over-bureaucratic controls that they feel they are being forced to apply on academics and students.”

Mrs May told him: “I understand that the Immigration Minister has already agreed to come to Cambridge to meet representatives of the university on the issue. I meet representatives of the Russell Group and Universities UK when we were developing our policy on ensuring that we can drive out abuse of the student visa system.

“We have a student visa system that ensures that the brightest and the best students – those who are coming to an institution that is genuinely providing education, to study a genuine degree course or educational course, and are intending to be students and not to use the visa to work – can come to the UK, while we are driving out abuse.”

Julian said later: “We have genuine visa applicants in Cambridge and across the country who are facing unacceptable waiting times to get agreement to travel to the UK. These delays are causing problems for businesses and the university as they wait for students, academics and business people to be given visas for genuine visits.

“I totally accept that we have to get tough to stop abuse of the visa rules but when we have reputable organisations whose daily business is being disrupted by unnecessary bureaucracy then we have real problems.

“Our country needs to be a welcoming place for these people but instead we are putting up unnecessary hurdles and I am worried that eventually they will choose to go elsewhere instead. This has the potential to be extremely damaging for our academic institutions and our economy as a whole.”