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New Restrictions on Visitor Visas Announced by Home Office | Immigration Matters

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Immigration Matters asks if new measures to strengthen visitor visas conditions prevent illegal immigration or just scare off tourists.

New proposals to ensure visitors to the UK comply with the conditions of their visa were announced by the Home Office in a consultation published yesterday.

The proposed changes would include:

Reducing the length of time a tourist can stay in the UK to three months from the current six months
Creating a specific business and specialist visa
Requiring some people to make a £1000 refundable financial deposit designed to ensure that any foreign national family members visiting them return home before their visa expires
Creating a specific visa for one-off events such as the Olympics

Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said:

“Tougher checks abroad mean we keep risky people out. By next Spring we’ll check everyone’s fingerprints when they apply for a visa; now we’re proposing a financial guarantee as well – not for everyone, but where we think there’s a risk

“Our aim is to make the system both more secure, but also to ensure that we maintain the UK‘s position as a destination of choice for tourists. In 2006, people from overseas spent £15.4 billion in the UK with the tourism industry employing 1.4 million people.”

More than 120 countries worldwide are required to provide fingerprints if they want to visit the UK for work, study or tourism. Biometric checks have identified over 10,000 visa applicants who have previously been fingerprinted in the UK in connection with immigration cases or asylum applications.

From spring 2008 the aim is for the biometric programme to be extended to all visa applicants globally.

Immigration Matters Comment

Whilst we welcome any measures to control illegal immigration, reducing the visitors visa term from the current six to three months will do little to stop determined ‘visa overstayers’. If someone wants to disappear, they can do it on a day trip.

The proposed £1000 ‘bond’ for family sponsored visitors will make families more accountable for their visiting relatives, but may also deter visitors from coming to the UK altogether.

Until we have tighter border controls with a system which monitors who is coming in to the UK and who is leaving, we will never know the exact numbers of illegal immigrants.

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