LANGUAGE SCHOOL VISA SCAM
|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.
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 (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.
|"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:
|"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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.