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   Inside Out Extra: Monday March 14, 2005

LANGUAGE SCHOOL VISA SCAM

Chris Packham disguised as Bulgarian Christov Pacamski
Can Chris convince Mr David he is Bulgarian Christov Pacamski?

Every year around 500,000 students come to the UK to learn English, enrolling in language schools around the country. But reports suggest that some language schools are more concerned with visas than vocabulary.

Posing as Bulgarian Christov Pacamski, Inside Out's Chris Packham goes undercover to expose a visa scam at a Brighton language school.

The Home Office grants permission to migrants to stay in the UK if they are full time students, studying for a minimum of three hours a day.

But some language schools have become a front for obtaining visas.

According to the Home Office, the Bedford School in Brighton was one such language school.

Seeing double

The school was run by a man going by the name of Mr Joseph who denied the school was a front for obtaining visas.

But despite his denial, the Bedford School was closed after the Home Office threatened to deport its students.

The Bedford School may have closed, but a sign on the door directs students to the West School situated up the road, which is apparently owned by a Mr David.

Mr David 2004Mr Joseph 2002
Mr David (left) bears an uncanny resemblance to Mr Joseph (right) filmed in August 2002

Mr David claims to have had no previous connection with the Bedford School, yet he bears an uncanny resemblance to Mr Joseph.

Inside Out sends Claudia, an undercover Romanian reporter, to enrol.

Too good to be true?

For the sum of £300, Claudia enrols as a student for a year at the West School and according to Mr David, she is getting a good deal.

Tony Millns
"It would be impossible to provide an educational course of any value for £300 a year."
Tony Millns, of the Association for Accredited English Language Schools

Secret filming captures Mr David saying, "Can you afford £300 for the year? That's a very special offer because we normally charge £600 for the letter."

The letter Mr David is referring to is confirmation that Claudia is a full time student, allowing her to gain permission to remain in the UK.

But Tony Millns, of the Association for Accredited English Language Schools, insists that the £300 fees could in no way cover the cost of a bona fide educational course.

"It would be impossible to provide an educational course of any value for £300 a year," he says.

"It would mean 35 to 40 pence per lesson.

"A genuine language course - an accredited one - is likely to start at around £1,000 a year."

First day of school

The West School employs a teacher, but on Claudia's first day there are only two students in the classroom, yet there are many more students obtaining visas as Mr David insists:

Mr David secretly filmed
"Legally, by law, to be a student you must come everyday to school."
Mr David being secretly filmed

"Hundreds and thousands (of students) get a visa," he says. "It's one of the best schools in Sussex."

As Claudia's first day of lessons comes to an end, Mr David, in whispered tones, offers her £70 commission for every friend she brings to the school.

Claudia agrees to bring along a Bulgarian friend.

When Claudia returns the following day, she is the only student present - even the teacher is absent.

But Mr David informs her that this is the norm.

"They come to school, they get a visa. When they get a visa, they work.

"You can't tell anybody I am telling you this," he warns, "because it is illegal."

Studying English in Britain

Considering learning English in Britain? Here are some points to consider.

Accreditation
Choose a course that is accredited by The English in Britain Accreditation Scheme. The Accreditation Scheme provides students with a guarantee of choice and quality and provides English language centres with a range of promotional and developmental benefits.

Visas
If you are a national of a country that is on the 'visa national list' (see UK Visas website) it is compulsory to obtain a visa before travelling.

If you are a national of the USA, Canada, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Hong Kong (unless you are a British National Overseas), Japan, Australia or New Zealand and you are coming to the UK for more than six months, you must obtain entry clearance from your nearest British diplomatic post before travelling to the UK.

If you arrive without entry clearance, you will not be allowed to enter the UK.

Even if your country is not on either of these lists, and entry clearance is not compulsory for you, we recommend that you get optional entry clearance in the following circumstances:

if you are coming to the UK as a student with your family, or

if you are coming to the UK as a 'prospective student' or

if you are coming to the UK to do a course of 6 months or less.

You should apply for entry clearance before you come to the UK by contacting the British Embassy or High Commission in your country.

Working
Most students on courses of more than six months will be given a passport stamp or visa sticker that allows them to work part-time during the term (up to 20 hours a week) and full-time during the vacations.

However, for immigration, you must be able to show that you can afford to study and live in the UK without having to work.

Source: UK Visas

So Claudia is left to study alone, that is however, until the arrival of her Bulgarian friend.

Undercover

Christov Pacamski, aka, Chris Packham pays a visit to the West School.

With a new hair and skin colour, Chris is made to look Bulgarian.

He is also taught how to speak broken English by Claudia.

Posing as his Bulgarian alter ego, Chris explains to Mr David that he wishes to obtain a student visa without actually studying English.

Using a secret camera, Chris records Mr David explaining how he can register as a full-time student without actually attending any lessons.

"He knows that I have no intention of studying, but he still offers me a letter saying that I am full-time," says Chris.

"All I have to do is pay £400. I can then use that letter to get permission to stay in this country."

Loophole

Tony Millns is concerned that bogus language schools are not only exploiting the visa system, but they are also damaging the reputation of legitimate courses.

"It makes me extremely angry," says Tony.

"My members are working very hard at genuine language schools and they are providing courses of real educational value.

"This man is just undermining the reputation of the UK for quality education."

In denial

When confronted by Chris, Mr David, whose real name Inside Out discovers is Yousif Abdul-Salam, refuses to comment.

He denies having ever received £400 from a Christov Pacamski in return for a letter confirming he is a student.

Inside Out has passed on all evidence collected to the Home Office in the hope that this bogus school will be closing its doors for good.

See also ...

On Inside Out
SAWS scam
Canadian lottery scam
Bogus cancer cure
Charity scam
Solicitor's malpractice exposed
Animal sanctuary exposed
Mobile phone scam
Spamming and scamming

On bbc.co.uk
BBC Languages

On the rest of the web
English UK
The National Centre for Languages
The Council for International Education
The British Council
UK Visas

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Ana Diaz
This is not the only school running a scam. I know some schools in Oxford Street, London, where teachers are not even English nor do they have English as a mother tongue. My Spanish friend enrolled as a student in two different schools a year ago and was very disappointed because the teachers were foreign students with the same level as my friend! My friend was upset and disappointed; she did not complete the course and went back to Spain; it was like throwing money down the drain! Unfortunately, there is no regulatory body in the UK to keep track of these schools of English as a Foreign Language.

Anonymous
This programme certainly was a repeat - I live in Temple Street in Brighton where 'Mr David' continues to operate almost a year on. There are never any students in the building (except those presumably coming to pick up their letters for their visas) How is this man allowed to continue doing this? It is particularly scary in these times when the government is banging on about being tough on terrorism - surely this must be a fairly easy way for suspect people to enter our country. What is the Home Office doing - surely the fact that he as closed down previously and threatened with deportation, shouldn't mean that he can just buy another house and start up again 100 yeards up the road!!

Christopher James micheletti
This is not something new to say the least! I am now fifty six years old, and i can tell you when i was a student at the age of 19, that an immigration official accompanied by a Police officer arrived in the classroom looking for a student. He was very, very lucky, he was told because he was found in the classroom! He failed to renew his Visa and the Home Office was on his heels. He was ordered to renew his visa immediately! What happened to that system? all the Home Office needs is a register of visa holders and 6 officers going round to the various Schools and Colleges. You are either there and your Visa is renewed next time round, or You are not, and out of the Door. one could not be fairer than that!

john
Yes this guy appears to be running a visa scam. I am a little concerned that a liciencing scheme could close some small groups, that are effectively teaching English. I know of one small group with two people teaching basic English on weekends (which is generally the best time for people to learn). school during weekdays or evenings is not so effective after a day working at a factory job from 6 am (normal start time for factorys in this area). The local college does cambridge certificate but this requires a fundamental grasp of english. Luckily these classes now have backing from another college but it was a grass roots effort to bring english language tuition to people who really need it. now visa's have no relevance to these classes and never will have but if you insist on language schools being registered essential specialised groups like this could be closed down and make learning much harder and much more expensive. Thanks to the backing of the college the classes are subsidised to a certain extent and each student pays around £45 a year. the thing with these classes is a lot of teaching is actually carried out in the students native language. non of the colleges can offer this. so please dont tar all small language schools with the same brush. its difficult enough as it is.

Gavin Russell
Its a joke that people like that can re-open another Business, our laws should provide to deport him or least make it a criminal act to conduct that type of fraud.

Ken Punter
This news item was a repeat! It was not only the same man being caught again, but a repeat of him being caught again! This was shown as if it was news, but the information must be at least a year old. I would rather see an update which reassures me that the criminal has finally been stopped.



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