For Your information
Foreign education and immigration law
Mufassil M M Islam
The flight took off from the runway of the international airport in Dhaka. Aboard many passengers on it there was a young man with eyes filled with dreams of a new life laurelled with education and respect from many. Years have passed since that time and I have travelled and lived in many lands. Earned education and professional experience in my field which have broadened my view and have given me the acumen to write the following few lines as a guidance for the future travellers in the academic and professional starry path and to remember the legal barriers therewith. The major destinations of the students of our country are USA, Canada, Australia and the UK. There are many other countries which pre-occupy our youngsters in the pursuit of education, namely, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Sweden and others.
The pre-visa matters
The academic institutions follow different procedures for admission and that differs from one country to the other. The leading and well-established academic institutions usually are very strict in having third party representatives for their institutions and usually tend to have their own offices in foreign countries in order to have foreign students from those countries. The UK immigration authorities have unusually flexible approach towards students from developed countries than from the under-developed countries. For example, a Japanese student who came to UK as a visitor can switch his/her status from that of a visitor to that of a student quite easily unlike a Bangladeshi.
The main reason is economic. There are several issues a visa officer of any developed country would follow to either grant or refuse a visa to a student. Against the principles of equity applicable in almost all legal spheres, in the matter of visa applications, the prospective student has to prove that he/she has enough financial capabilities to complete his/her education and would not become reliant on public funds or benefits offices in that foreign country or in other words would not become a charge on tax payers. It becomes a financial burden even for foreign Government to deport a failed student from that country even though it is the duty and our right as per agreement on the passport application, for the Bangladesh Government to bring back the stranded Bangladeshis abroad. A very few cases are there to prove that our Government had done that in the past even in dire situations. To establish the economic criteria, the prospective student will have to prove that he/she has enough finance to pay:
* for the tuition fee for the whole course,
* for the regular expenses including rent for accommodation,
* for commuting and even to pay for his/her pass-times.
The source of the finance is also important and the entry clearance officers are aware that our country has a tradition of close-family bonding and even an uncle can sponsor a nephew. But in case of a sponsor other than own parents the judgement criteria swings on the basis of other responsibilities of the sponsor. For example, whether the sponsor has children whose future financial expenses are well planned and whether the sponsor has any ulterior intention in sponsoring the individual. The Australian High Commission has handcuffed the peripheral of the sponsors by various categories as per relation and level of academic intentions. The age of the prospective student is not usually a negative reason to the entry clearance officer as developed countries do appreciate academic pursuits by any individual as long as he/she can justify the true reasons of that pursuit. The sponsor is expected to have a solid constant earning source and he is not expected to spend that amount of money for the beneficiary which if spent would jeopardise his/her own future economic security. The prospective student will also have to prove that he has a planned future for his post-academic life upon return to Bangladesh. It is applauding if the student can establish that there are innumerable job vacancies in the market for a person with the targeted academic/professional qualification. In USA, Australia and Ireland the medical expenses are an issue for the student's academic life and the student is expected to establish that he/she has taken relevant steps to safe-guard that. In UK, NHS (National Health Service) provides for free health service for the foreign student. A prospective student can do the relevant research on the web by searching into some of the following links to know more about related Immigration rules:
* Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Australia www.immi.gov.au;
* UK Border Agency www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk;
* USIS www.uscis.gov
* Canada Immigration Service www.canadaimmigrationservice.com
* Immigration Bureau of Japan www.immi-moj.go.jp/ english/index.html
* ICA Singapore www.ica.gov.sg
It must be mentioned that the entry clearance officers in Bangladesh or any representative officer in any of the offices cannot work whimsically with regard to refusing the visas. It is often misunderstood that the visa processing centres or certain countries are the final authorities to issue or refuse visas and with this excuse there have been a number of cases where the prospective visa applicant was subjected to unexpected harsh behaviour. Any justifiable complain against any staff of the embassy is treated very efficiently and quickly by the superior authorities. The visa applicant can easily get informed about the complaint procedure from various websites including the embassy websites and from the Immigration and Home Ministry websites of the relevant countries.
The prospective student can and should take assistance from the intended academic institutions with regard to accommodation and even with regard to being picked up from the airport.
After arrival issues
The student should take registered taxis only and it is usually yellow coloured taxis for USA and Australia and Black Cabs for UK. Even though these registered taxis are more expensive than other cab services, they are far safer than other non-registered ones. It will not be wise to rely on relatives and friends immensely with regard to accommodation, part-time jobs and other issues, as lives in the developed countries are comparatively much busier than we often can imagine. A student should get registered with a GP (General Practitioner) or a Doctor at the earliest opportunity and should try to open a bank account. But owing to international money laundering rules, now-a-days banks in Europe are far stricter than they used to be and a letter from a college and a proof of address in the form of a utility bill are often primary requirements to open an account. Australia and USA are still more flexible in this area but banking rules will require a Social Security Number which can be obtained by producing passport and visa to the nearest Town Hall in USA. UK issues National Insurance number to student which is a must even to get a part-time job. The local Council Office should assist with that.
Student in UK and Ireland are not expected to rely on own earnings in any way if he/she really intends to finish the education as the Immigration raids are very common in those countries now and a student without real progress in academic area may become subject to deportation. It is true that Australia has much more flexible immigration rules for students and they can apply for residence upon completing their education in certain areas. A student from Bangladesh may be subjected to reporting obligations at times to immigration authorities in USA but once education is complete; transferring to working H category visa is not that difficult.
There are innumerable colleges and academic institutions around the world who are not up to the expected level and the Immigration Authorities do not recognise them and it is advisable to check their validity with the relevant Government authorities and with the colleges directly as well. Any payment made to the agent can also be verified with the college administration abroad as well. DFES (www.standards.dfes.gov.uk) are the authority to check the status of an academic institution in UK.
If a student decides to become permanent in Australia, the Immigration authorities are far more welcoming than many other developed countries. There are a number of lawyers are practising in UK, USA, Canada and Australia and they can help with immigration rules and applications as well.
A student must be aware that it is not easy for a student to change from one course to the other simply on the ground that the initially intended course of study is harder or more expensive and he is not expected to work far from his academic institution. It must also be remembered that there have grown mushroom like colleges in many of these developed countries which are apparently run by very efficient people but in reality the institutions are being run by invisible corrupt operatives at times which may jeopardise a student's academic life and even extension of visa whilst abroad.
I believe that if a student is going to get admitted in an external college in the foreign land rather than as an internal student, he/she should consider our local well-established academic institutions who are working as the external colleges of those foreign universities. The academic backgrounds of the actual professors of the foreign academics should be checked and it is a legal right of the prospective student.
It must be remembered by all students at large that we hail from a developing country and it is expected, desired and advisable to return to this motherland upon completion of their studies and to take part in its further development as we who have migrated abroad often feel a migrant is nothing more than a teardrop for our mother Bangladesh.
The writer is CEO, Law Offices of Islam and Associates.