Asians left waiting for permit

Applicants from Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh are undergoing additional scrutiny before being granted a residence permit to study in the Netherlands.
By Traci White

A dramatic increase in the number of applications by aspiring students from the three Southeast Asian countries raised concerns that recruitment agents from these countries were applying on behalf of students to study at Dutch universities under false pretences, even though there are no reported cases.

But the additional scrutiny means that applicants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal are experiencing a longer waiting time before having their legal status in the Netherlands approved. Citizens of all three nations are required by the Netherlands to obtain a visa before entering the country.

If the IND has any doubts about an application, the 90-day waiting period may start all over again.

‘In the case of Nepal, we thought that – as result of the earthquake – more students may have been applying to leave the country’, says Floor van Donselaar, communication advisor for EP-Nuffic, the organisation for internationalisation of education in the Netherlands. ‘But it was such a significant increase that the IND decided to inform the universities to be extra precautious during this peak period of applications in the summer.’

Warning signs

In June, the IND – Immigration and Naturalisation Service – issued a notice about the credibility of certain applicants from Southeast Asian countries, titled ‘Warning signs for students from Southeast Asia’. The countries mentioned by name in the letter were Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

‘Several institutions of higher education have indicated to the IND that they are experiencing an unexpectedly high number of applications from students from Southeast Asia’, the statement read.

Dramatic increase

The IND warning discouraged institutions from ‘working with agents who are not already known and trusted, and to examine the applications of the students extremely vigilantly.’ The message was sent in response to multiple universities approaching the IND themselves and reporting a dramatic increase in the numbers of applicants from those countries.

Many universities rely on recruitment agents in foreign countries to attract scholars from abroad. Judith Barthel from the RUG’s marketing department says that the RUG has trusted representatives in Indonesia and India, as well as a handful of other foreign countries. Barthel says that the RUG is currently developing an institutional policy for working with agents and representatives abroad.

‘Within 90 days’

Janet Takens, a press representative for the IND, would not confirm that any specific countries undergo extra scrutiny or how long of a delay that could create. Takens instead recommended checking the IND’s ‘klantdienstwijzer’ – residence wizard – to find out how long of a wait specific nationalities can expect while their application is being processed. However, the wizard, which is only available in Dutch, does not list any differing waiting period for the three countries.

According to the IND site, the organisation ‘usually makes a decision about a residence request within 90 days’. But if the IND has any doubts about a single document in an application, the 90-day period may start all over again.

The RUG does not have many students from the Southeast Asian nations in question – in the 2015-2016 academic year, there were three Nepali, two Bangladeshi and seven Pakistani students enrolled at the RUG. EP-Nuffic’s mobility statistics show that 94 Nepali, 158 Pakistani and 74 Bangladeshi students were enrolled at Dutch institutions in the 2015-2016 academic year.

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