By Artemio A. Dumlao
BAGUIO CITY (June 13, 2011) – Many Filipino professionals, probably thousands by now, are being duped into a “student visa” scheme of recruitment agencies which promised them a “good life” in the United Kingdom.
John Bautista a Filipino immigration professional and owner of the Pilipino Agency Limited, an immigration consultancy firm in London, said that many Filipinos who left the country for UK with a student visa were encountering problems abroad.
“A lot of them, mostly from the Cordillera, were told that upon arriving in UK, they can find a job and become permanent residents. Unfortunately, these were all lies,” Bautista said during a visit to Baguio City. “A student visa or any kind of visa cannot be changed to another visa unless the person goes back home and applies for a new one,” he explained.
The UK government does not permit a student visa to be elevated into a working visa, a professional visa, and more so, to a resident visa, said the immigration consultant registered in UK government since 2001.
Thus, most professionals who had left for UK with a student visa were duped by Philippine-based recruiters that they could land a job in that country.
This, although many overseas domestic helpers who applied for work in the UK and went through the process of immigration are now permanent citizens there. But using a student visa scheme “will not work,” Bautista warned. Someone holding a student visa is not allowed to work there, he said.
“Scheming Recruitment Agencies”
Recruitment agencies in the Philippines who assist in securing student visas charge as much as P400,000 to P700,000, when a visa can be legally processed in the UK for only £600 pounds or about P45,000, Bautista said.
Only those holding a TIER 2 student visa can work but only for a maximum of 20 hours a week, the UK-based immigration consultant professional said.
A holder of student visa who can land a domestic job are paid less than the £10 per hour minimum. Moat of them receive £5 to £7.
“So many lives and families have been wrecked because of this ‘student visa scheme’”, Bautista lamented. Another common thing among “victims”, Bautista noted, is that although most would rather go back home becaue of the difficulties in UK, they still opted to try their luck in UK because their families had spent so much on them and because they are ashamed.
Bautista further lamented that that many who sought help from the Philippine Embassy do not get its sympathy nor help.
Bautista also warned about advertisements for “study and work in the UK”.
“I wonder why there is no information to the public about this because we do encounter a lot of its victims in UK.”
Philippine Overseas Employment Administration- Cordillera director Delfina Camarillo admitted that right now, there is no government agency regulating such trade although they knew that many Filipinos become victims of such illegal activities.
The system, she said, has become a front for illegal recruiters. Many people are being enticed because of the promise of better life in UK.
She said that the POEA’s jurisdiction is overseas workers, much like that of OWWA.
Filipinos who left the country using student visas are not considered as overseas workers.
“There is no such thing as study and work in abroad”, Camarillo said, adding that, “they can study, as student visa holders, but they cannot work.”
According to Bautista, even UK residents found to be employing a person holding a student visa can be held criminally liable.
“There are thousands upon thousands of Filipinos suffering from that (student visa to work visa) scheme,” Bautista said as he further urged the Philippine authorities to resolve the problem.