In a move that sparked protests from immigration groups, the British government on Tuesday announced plans to reduce the duration of tourist visas for non-European Union nationals from the current six months to three months, and to impose restrictions on people visiting their relatives in Britain under the “sponsored family” scheme.
Families, who sponsor visitors, will be required to deposit £1,000 for a cash bond, which will be forfeited if their guests do not leave after the expiry of their visa.
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne, who set out the proposals in a consultation paper ahead of a radical overhaul of the immigration system early next year, said the aim was to keep the “risky people out.”
New measures will include fingerprinting of all non-EU visa applicants — a practice now restricted to countries seen as sources of illegal immigration.
“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 more secure and to ensure that we maintain the U.K.’s position as a destination of choice for tourists,” Mr. Byrne said.
The announcement provoked angry reaction from immigrants, who said the move to demand financial guarantees for sponsoring relatives abroad would hit poorer families, especially those from Asia and Africa.
“The government is trying to deter people from family visits. This is unfair,” chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants Habib Rahman told the BBC