Organised crime gangs are believed to have been involved in a new scam involving potentially thousands of bogus visa applications.
The Home Office has said it will toughen up checks on its “entrepreneur” visa scheme, after a massive increase in the number of people who have applied to stay in the country under the initiative.
In 2009, there were just 118 applications, but by last year this had risen by almost 100 per cent to almost 10,000.
It is understood that in some cases criminal gangs are charging applicants to lend them £50,000, which is required to prove that the person has the capital to invest in business schemes.
The scam was uncovered after immigration officials discovered many of the purported entrepreneurs had been working full-time after obtaining their visas, often in low-skilled jobs.
Under the terms of the visa, the holder is only allowed to work for their own business and can’t take employment elsewhere.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire has said that the Government would not hesitate to act if it found evidence that criminals were targeting perceived weaknesses in the rules.
“This government is building an immigration system that is fair to British citizens and legitimate migrants and tough on those who abuse the system and flout the law,” he said.
Following the concerns, applicants will now have to provide more evidence of their business activities if they are to receive a visa.