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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 June, 2004, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
At-a-glance: Visa scam report
The National Audit Office's damning report into the way the Home Office handled abuses of the visa system in Bulgaria and Romania has caused government embarrassment.

Here are the watchdog's main findings:

  • Visas were granted to applicants who had entered the UK in the past illegally, or had been refused asylum

  • At least 150 applicants submitted near identical "business plans" from the same agent and applicants who had "no idea what was in their business plan"

  • Other applicants did not possess the necessary skills for their alleged business and had no command of English

  • Some Romanians and Bulgarians obtained either a tourist or student visa and then switched quickly to European Community Association Agreements ECAA visas

  • There was no feedback to entry clearance staff about whether successful applicants were adhering to the terms of their entry into Britain, for example whether they were setting up the type of businesses they described during the visa application process.

  • Nobody told the people issuing the visas that this switching was taking place

  • Bus loads of applicants were arriving in the UK and switching quickly to ECCA visas

  • The lack of feedback made it impossible for entry clearance officers to measure the risks involved in issuing visas

  • In the Bulgarian capital Sofia the increase in applications was from 63 in 2001/2 to 8,034 in 2003/4 - enough to set "alarm bells ringing"

  • There were potential abuses in other areas of the world, with one Home Office exercise revealing 37% of Ghanaian students granted a visa to enter the UK as students could not now be traced

  • There were also concerns in Beijing, with students not enrolling at their stated college on arrival in the UK and evidence of forged documents

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