Wednesday, 01 December 2010

Pakistanis Are Overstaying and Abusing Student Visas

Written by  Malik Ayub Sumbal

More than 40,000 Pakistani nationals are in the United Kingdom on student visas that have been expired for several years, despite the fact that the Pakistanis are working at various outlets to earn a livelihood instead of studying to gain a degree.

According to well-placed sources in the Foreign Office Islamabad, it has been revealed that these people went to the United Kingdom on the study visas by claiming that they had been admitted into various dummy colleges and universities but not studying upon arrival in Britain, as they preferred to work rather than studying there.

It has been also revealed from the sources that those Pakistanis, whose visas are now not extendable, alter their passports with computers. Several techniques are used, and many also send their visas to Pakistan to experts who change their visa expiration dates using Adobe and Photoshop. After extending the dates of their visas, they then submit them to the owners of the various department stores and private firms at which they are working.

Some Pakistanis are even becoming employed using photocopies of the others' passports. Because it is very easy to make changes to a photocopy of documents, they make minor changes to names and addresses. The sources confirmed to this correspondent that private firms and department stores in Britain do not strictly inspect documents; they just require a photocopy of a visa.

Even students who do actually study break Britain's employment laws. A number of students studying in the U.K. confirmed that those students who are studying in Britain work beyond their limits and violate the rules and regulations of the British government in which the government restricts students to working no more than 20 hours in a week.

To sidestep government rules, the students mostly prefer to work in Pakistani-run outlets. The students can earn extra money by working longer hours, and the storeowners gain by paying low hourly rates — in the range of two or three pounds per hour.

Sajjad Ahmed, a student who was visiting Gujrat, Pakistan, a city of the Punjab province, said: "I am studying in Middlesex university, and I work eight hours daily, but the owner of the outlet is a Pakistani, and he obliged me in the working more hours and I comprise on the low rate of per hours as he give me three pounds per hour."

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He said that the payment of the 20 hours goes to the bank according to the contract and the rules and regulations, and the other extra amount is paid cash in hand to him. The store manager is a Pakistani, and this deal is between him and manager.

The New American questioned a student as to why these students did not complain to the British government against this injustice.

Saleem Raza, a student, said: "We cannot complain because we are guilty against this offense. We are violating the rules and regulations and worked more than 87 hours a week ... [though] limited to the 20 hours per week."

He added that if they complain then definitely they will have to face deportation back to Pakistan.

Sajjad said that there are hundreds of Pakistanis who have been residing in Britain for the last several years and had not visited Pakistan since their departure from Pakistan because they are working on illegal visas and they are in danger that next time they could not enter into the U.K.

When this correspondent contacted the concerned department of the Foreign Office Islamabad, the official on duty said that the office cannot comment on this issue and that they do not have any kind of information about Pakistanis who are residing illegally in the United Kingdom.

Malik Ayub Sumbal is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Photo of Pakistani women: AP Images