Starting today visitors to the United Kingdom from South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland will require a visa to travel.
Visitors will be fingerprinted and checked against watch-lists before being issued with entry clearance to travel.
The Government say the new rules were introduced to counter passport and identity fraud.
The move follows the first global review of who needs a visa to come to the UK for a short-term visit.
Visa regimes for visitors have now been imposed on five new countries – Bolivia, Venezuela, South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.
The Government has carried out a “global assessment” of all non-European countries to “determine the level of risk their citizens potentially pose to the United Kingdom in terms of illegal immigration, crime and security”.
People from over 100 countries now require a visa to come to the UK, and the UK Border Agency has already collected more than four million fingerprints from people applying for visas worldwide.
Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said:
‘Already our shake-up of border security is delivering results, with fingerprint visas helping us catch thousands of people trying to hide their true identity or a criminal past.
‘Today sees visa checks come into effect in the remaining countries that failed to pass our strict visa waiver test.
‘I am determined that the UK Border Agency should continue to strengthen the border and 2009 is the year of delivery. As well as applying greater scrutiny to visitors, we are being more selective about who can work in the UK and coming down hard on rule breakers.’
In February, Home Secretary Alan Johnson pledged to make a number of immigration changes including a commitment to increase detention space by opening a 426-bed immigration removal centre Brook House.
This facility near Gatwick Airport enables the Government to continue to “remove record numbers of foreign lawbreakers from the United Kingdom – with the Government vowing to send home a further 5,800 by the end of this year”.
The Government claims the points based system has ensured migration matches the country’s needs, with employers having to advertise all skilled ‘tier 2’ jobs to resident workers through JobCentre Plus before they can bring migrant workers in from outside Europe.
The criteria for highly skilled migrants under Tier 1 has also been tightened by raising the qualifications and salary level required for highly skilled workers to a Masters degree and a minimum salary of £20,000.
The announcement is clearly designed to reassure the public that the Labour Government is taking steps to secure and strengthen Britain’s borders.
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