Rules meant to stop immigrants falsely coming to Britain with student visas were overturned by a judge yesterday. The High Court decision will mean a flood of migrants entering the country in the guise of language students, politicians and migration analysts warned.

Former Labour Home Secretary Alan Johnson laid down regulations earlier this year blocking students from coming into the country to start language courses unless they already spoke English to a good standard.

But Mr Justice Foskett said that the rules had been wrongly established through changes to existing guidelines. There should have been a legally binding change to the rules approved by Parliament, he found.

The decision was a victory for language schools headed by the English UK group, which represents 440 schools and colleges based on the south coast, London, Oxford and Cambridge.

Its chief executive Tony Milns said: ‘We believe that his decision is good for the UK economy, to which the English language sector contributes about £1.5billion in foreign earnings each year.’ Last year 273,445 students were given visas to come to Britain for courses, nearly 50,000 more than in 2008. Critics say that many cheat the system to get into the country and stay permanently.

Apart from abuses by migrants who have no intention of attending the courses for which their visas are granted, the student system is also thought to have been exploited by women looking to bring husbands into the country.

In March Mr Johnson made it more difficult to get a visa under Labour’s ‘points based’ system by raising the level of English required for those looking to come on English language courses to ‘intermediate’ from ‘elementary’.

Home Secretary Theresa May will now have to choose whether to remake the Labour rules – this time ensuring they have been correctly approved by MPs – or to postpone changes until wider reforms of the immigration system are pushed through.

Mrs May has pledged to get population increases through immigration down to the ‘tens of thousands’ per year level last seen in the 1990s.

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We are carefully considering this judgment. This Government is committed to undertake a review into the Student Tier of the points based system in its entirety later this year to ensure that every student who comes to the UK is genuine.’

But shadow immigration minister Phil Woolas, who was Immigration Minister when the rules were brought in, said: ‘If the Government is serious about tackling illegal immigration it will mount an immediate and robust appeal against this decision.

‘This follows on from the decision of the new Home Secretary to drop the English language requirement for spouses and families of asylum seekers. For all its bluster, the Conservative-led government already appears to be losing its grip on immigration policy.’

Sir Andrew Green of the Migrationwatch think-tank said: ‘Student visas are a huge gap in our immigration system. The previous government’s points-based system, still in effect, has led to a flood of applications from India, Bangladesh and Nepal, often from people with completely inadequate English for the course they clam to be joining.’

‘It is now absolutely essential that this massive loophole be closed by whatever formalities are necessary,’ he added.

SOURCE

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