MPs from the three main political parties joined English UK members for a lively evening in the House of Commons this week.
Robert Syms, Julian Huppert, Andrew Smith, Paul Blomfield, Julian Brazier and Steve Brine were among the MPs who mingled with English UK members from universities, FE colleges, private centres and independent schools.
Robert Syms, the Poole MP who sponsored the evening, told guests that the UK had some of the best language centres in the world and that the MPs wanted to support them. "Lots of people want to come here, if they had the certainty of knowing what the rules were and they didn't keep changing the immigration system. We need to make further representations to ministers."
He added: "If this country is going to be a success your industry needs to be a success… you are invisibles [on the UK balance sheet] and we need you to sell to the world and get people coming in, coming to the UK and coming back as tourists and on business. It's vitally important we get people to the UK."
Mr Syms said the MPs had made some progress on the visa changes although it had been "painful" and said he hoped to be able to come back in a year's time and tell English UK members that they had made further progress.
Praising the work of English UK in lobbying for its members, he said that it was important for people to continue to make representations to the UKBA. "They are the real problem. The UKBA doesn't understand what many of you do. There was a meeting earlier this year in Eastbourne and the chief executive [Lin Homer] was there. I think it was an eye-opener for her to see how some of these things are impacting on your business."
Oxford MP Andrew Smith also spoke, saying: "If we close our doors to what is one of the biggest assets this country has in the world is English culture, English language is at the heart of business. Saying you can only come here to learn English if you know it already – we are shooting ourselves in the foot big time."
Mr Smith said he had been against the visa changes made by Labour as well as those made by the Coalition government.
"We will work together on this... it is vitally important for your businesses and the host families - that income means a lot and it isn't going to be readily replaced in the current situation. I am proud of what you do and I hope you are proud of what we do."
Tony Millns, Chief Executive of English UK, thanked the MPs for attending and being so supportive, and said the annual event was valued because it gave members a chance to talk to constituency MPs.
English UK members found the reception useful. Helen Murphy of Regency College in Brighton said: "I've had a good evening, talking to several people and thought the MPs were very supportive." David Morgan, principal of the Centre of English Studies in Wimbledon, had also spoken to the MPs and added: "It's always useful to come here."