By Charles Kelly
28 June 2008
Tough sanctions are be imposed on those who fail to ensure family members visiting from abroad return home, the Government announced this week.
If you want your family to visit you from abroad, you will need to become ‘licensed’ under proposed changes to the visa system. Sponsors will have to ensure that their visitors leave before their visa runs out, or face a ban on bringing anyone into the country, penalties of up to £5,000 or a jail sentence.
The new sponsored family visa is just one of the “firm but fair” changes being made to the short-term visa system, which will run alongside the Government’s new Points Based System introduced earlier this year.
Other proposed changes include:
- two new business visas for sportspeople and entertainers
- setting the maximum leave for visitors at six months
- an appeal system for those coming in under the family route
- a new short-term, low-cost group travel visa to promote British tourism
- a visa for people coming to the UK for one-off cultural events
Border and Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said:
“Now we are introducing an Australian-style points system for selective migration, it makes sense to tighten visit visas at the same time.
“The changes I am announcing today will help create a fairer Britain with fair treatment for those who play by the rules, but tough action against those who break the law.
“We want the UK to stay open and attractive for both business and visitors. But at the same time we are determined to deliver a system of border security which is among the most secure in the world.”
The Home Office also announced plans for two new visitor routes for sportspeople and entertainers. The following sportspeople and entertainers will now be able to enter the UK for up to six months under the new routes:
- sportspeople and support staff coming for specific events;
- amateur sportspeople joining UK amateur teams;
- professional entertainers coming to the UK to take part in music competitions;
- amateur entertainers travelling to the UK for a specific engagement;
- professional entertainers taking part in a charity show
- professional and amateur entertainers taking part in a ‘permit-free festival’.
The tourism industry is worth £85 billion a year to the UK. To encourage even more tourists a new shorter three-month group visa is being proposed at a possible reduced cost of £44.
The Home Office also set out its intention to keep the maximum leave for tourists at six months and to introduce a visa that would allow people to come to the UK for big one-off sporting or cultural events.
Those travelling into the UK will be “locked into” one identity with the introduction of fingerprinting for all visa applicants, a new hi-tech system for counting people in and out of the country, and the roll out of ID cards for all foreign nationals.
With an estimated half a million plus illegal immigrants in the UK, this may seem like a case of ‘shutting the door after the horse has bolted’, however, many countries already have a counting in and out system and ID checks for all visitors.
People on a visitor’s visa cannot switch into another visa category, so those who wish to come to the UK to work or study should obtain the correct visa.