In a report by Whitehall’s spending watchdog the National Audit Office found that due to non adherence to key controls up to 50,000 migrants might have exploited the flaws in the student visa system which let a new student to work in his first year.
In 2009 the Labour had brought changes which needed each student to be sponsored by a college licensed by the UKBA and not allowing students to change institution without gaining permission.
There was no limit on the enrolment of numbers of non – European Economic Area students by a college and the students were even free to change college and course without notifying the UK Border Agency.
The Home Office said “tough new rules” were cutting student visa numbers.
Colleges were responsible for judging people’s intentions to study.
But the audit office said the system had been brought in “before the key controls were in place” and that “in its first year of operation, between 40,000 and 50,000 individuals may have entered the UK, to work rather than to study.
It added the UKBA did not check on those who entered the UK as students whether they were attending college.
The report continued that the agency had not taken any action to prevent and detect students overstaying or working in breach of their visa conditions as it considered them as low-priority compared to illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers.
Even though the agency started removing 2,700 students since 1 April 2009, it was not done with any urgency when there was a cause to do so the Audit office said.
It meant that, in many cases, enforcement teams were unable to apprehend students who were working and not attending college.
Addresses for almost a fifth of more than 800 migrants wanted by the agency were found in just one week at a cost of £3,000 by a contractor hired by the watchdog.
Amyas Morse, head of the audit office, said the flaws in the student visa system had been “both predictable and avoidable”.
Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who chairs the Commons Public Accounts Committee said, it was a case of poor management leading to abuse.
But immigration minister Damian Green said that the government had introduced radical reforms in order to stamp out abuse and restore order to the uncontrolled student visa system that it inherited.