The UK Home Office has released new proposals to ensure visitors to the UK comply with the conditions of their visa. These include: people putting up financial deposits to ensure foreign nationals return home, reducing the length of time a tourist can stay in the UK to three months, creating a specific business visa, and creating specific visas for one-off events such as the Olympics or World Cup. The Home Office announced that over 1 million fingerprints have now been collected from overseas foreign nationals as part of its biometric visas program.
Proposals to strengthen visitor visas
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 today.
The consultation document seeks views on proposals which include:
people putting up a financial deposit to ensure any foreign national family members return home following their visit from overseas;
reducing the length of time a tourist can stay in the UK from six to three months;
creating a specific business and specialist visa; and
creating a specific visa for one-off events such as the Olympics.
The consultation was launched as the Government announced that over one million fingerprints have now been collected from overseas foreign nationals applying to come to the UK as part of its biometrics visas program.
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.” So far visa applicants in 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.
The visitor consultation proposals build on proposed new penalties on employers of illegal immigrants and a licensing system for any employer or college wishing to recruit from outside the EU. Together these form part of a series of changes the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) are introducing over the next 12 months including:
an Australian style points based system for managing migration;
a unified border force bringing together the Border and Immigration Agency, Customs and UK Visas providing a tougher, highly visible policing presence at Britain’s ports and airports; and
compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals allowing us to know who is here and what they are entitled to.
Taken together, these measures are the biggest shake-up of the immigration system in its history. They will allow the UK to continue to reap the benefits of migration, while also preventing abuse of the system.
In the strategy document ‘Securing the UK Border’ published in March 2007 the Government committed to looking at how it can modernize the system for those who visit the UK for tourism, business or to visit family, whilst ensuring the system is robust against abuse. ‘Securing the UK Border can be found at: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents.
Biometrics lock visa applicants into an identity at the earliest possible point in their journey. On application for a visa, biometrics are checked against immigration databases to identify if a prospective traveler has already been fingerprinted by the Border and Immigration Agency, in what identity and for what reason. Similarly those arriving in the UK undocumented, or making applications for asylum, can be traced back to any previous visa application they might have made.
The following case studies show how biometrics have helped frontline staff detect people who have no right to come to or remain in the UK:
Nigeria- A Nigerian visa applicant claimed he had not visited the UK before. A biometric check revealed he had been in the UK under a different identity, had been arrested for shoplifting and had completed an eight month prison sentence. At the conclusion of his sentence he was deported to Nigeria. His application for a six month visit visa was refused.
Lebanon – An applicant applied for a visa with a Lebanese passport. His biometrics proved he had previously applied for and been refused Asylum as a Palestinian national. His application was refused and he was prevented from travelling to the UK. Zambia – The fingerprints of a Zambian national applying for a UK visa were discovered to match an asylum claimant in 2001 from a Sierra Leone national with a different identity. The applicant initially denied but later admitted his attempted deception. The application was refused and the applicant stopped from travelling to the UK.
Finland – A Ugandan national, legally resident in Finland, applied for a visit visa. He said that this was his first application. Biometrics revealed the applicant had been fingerprinted previously when applying for a visa in a different identity in Kampala – and was refused. Further checks of his previous passport revealed a US refusal stamp. His application was refused and he was stopped from travelling to the UK.
Holland – An Iraqi citizen submitted an application in one identity. A fingerprint match revealed that she had applied for asylum in the UK in a different identity in November 2006. The application was refused and she was stopped from travelling to the UK.
Spain – A female Peruvian, married to a British National, applied for a UK settlement visa in Spain. She said that she had not applied for a UK visa before, however a biometric check revealed a match to a male applicant for a visa in Madrid earlier in the year. When interviewed she said the male applicant was her brother but was unable to explain the fingerprint match. Further examination of travel documents revealed that she had made a previous application, which had been refused, using her brother’s passport but replacing his photograph with hers. The second application was also refused.