Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Growing number of foreign students overstaying visas

Many foreigners entering Korea with a student visa morph into illegal aliens as they overstay their visas to work here illegally.

According to data submitted to Rep. Lee Jung-hyun of the governing Grand National Party (GNP) by the Ministry of Justice, Wednesday, the number of non-Koreans, who originally arrive as students enrolled in Korean language institutes operated by domestic universities but then later became undocumented aliens, totaled 4,338 as of April.

The figure is equivalent to 26.4 percent of the 16,681 foreign students currently registered at 175 domestic universities nationwide in a Korean language program.

By nationality, Chinese accounted for 78.3 percent of the total, or 3,437, followed by Mongolians with 281, Uzbekistanis at 277 and Vietnamese at 224.

A total of 165 foreign students have enrolled in a Korean language program administered by Chungcheong University in Cheongwon, North Chungcheong Province. Of the 165 students, 159 were found to have overstayed their visas. Calvin University in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, and Serabol University in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, also saw 69 and 63 of their language program trainees become illegal sojourners, respectively.

“An increasing number of foreigners are taking advantage of loopholes in the nation’s immigration screening system. Schools should also be held accountable for the numerous illegal aliens here by inviting unqualified students from overseas purely to generate income,” Rep. Lee told The Korea Times. 

He stressed that for Korea to become a truly multicultural society, it should make an all-out effort to avoid allowing undocumented foreign residents to live here and to set up an effective immigration screening process.

An immigration official also said that more people from China and Southeast Asian countries are coming here as language students enrolled in local universities because it is much easier for them to get a student visa than a worker visa. 

“But even after their visas expire, they continue to stay here to work and make money. The universities are partially responsible for the increase in undocumented foreigners because they do not properly screen and select qualified students,” he said. 

The official said in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the immigration office will strengthen the screening of student visa applicants and crack down on those who stay here illegally. “Students enrolled in language programs are more likely to overstay their visas than those studying for Master’s and Ph.D. degrees.”

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