Families told to pay bond for relatives to visit them in Britain
Richard Ford, Home Correspondent
From The Times
December 17, 2007
Curbs on foreign visitors to Britain, which include making families pay a cash bond to ensure that their foreign relatives leave, are to be proposed by the Home Office tomorrow.
The length of time for tourist visas is also to be cut from six months to three. In addition, the Home Office will announce proposals to create a special visa for businessmen and visas for one-off events including the 2012 Olympics. But the plan to make families who sponsor relatives coming from overseas pay a cash bond which could be more than 1,000 is likely to provoke fierce criticism from ethnic communities.
It could also affect Labour support among ethnic minority voters and threaten the party hold of some marginal seats with large numbers of voters from the Indian sub-continent.
Ministers are confident that this time the proposed scheme will win support among Labour MPs because the bond is payable by the British citizen rather than the foreign visitor.
Liam Byrne, the Immigration Minister, is to visit India in February to explain the proposal and seek to ensure that any system introduced is rigorous and not open to abuse.
A consultation document to be published tomorrow will outline proposals for sponsored family visits which include suggesting that they should be restricted only to British citizens who have full residency rights in Britain.
The sponsor would be expected to put up a cash bond before their relative is given a visa to enter Britain, which would be forfeited if the visitor failed to leave or abide by visa restrictions. The proposals will also suggest scaling back the right of appeal to an immigration officer refusal to offer a visa. In 2000 the Government suggested that sponsors should pay 3,000, but the idea was abandoned after the Commission for Racial Equality said it was discriminatory. Bill Morris, then the leader of the Transport and General Workers Union, said at the time that visas should be issued on merit, not on the size of a person wallet.
Two years ago, the Home Office suggested that low-skilled migrants from outside the EU should also put up a cash bond to ensure that they left the country when their visas expired. That proposal, too, was dropped.
The moves come after a series of poor opinion polls for the Government, the disclosure that thousands of failed asylum-seekers have been helped to set up businesses back home in a 36 million taxpayer-funded scheme and that 11,000 immigrants have been found working illegally in the private security industry.
The failed asylum-seekers have been helped to leave the country, with a free flight plus 1,000 cash and further assistance to help them to resettle in their homelands.
The scheme is administered on Britain behalf by the International Organisation for Migration. Ministers defend paying failed asylum-seekers to leave the country as a cheaper option than forcible removals, which cost an average of 11,000 per person.
A Home Office spokesman refused to provide further details of the consultation paper proposing the visa changes. The spokesman said that the department could not preempt an announcement to Parliament but admitted that the Government had trailed that the paper proposing the changes would be published.
David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: his is yet another desperate grab for headlines by an immigration minister who does not recognise the need for a strict limit on the number of economic migrants coming into Britain.
Shame of new immigration policy
11,000 security staff are working illegally