LONDON: All Indians applying for visa to UK will not have to pay a £3000 cash bond from November this year, the UK home office said on Monday.
This comes following an uproar over Britain’s plans to introduce a hefty cash bond for visitors from six nations including India in a fresh crackdown on immigration abuse. The Home Affairs Select Committee has called the move discriminatory and has now decided to question home secretary Theresa May on July 16.
Chairman of the committee Keith Vaz demanded a full explanation and said, “The home secretary’s plans for bonds for visitors from certain countries are unfair and discriminatory. We will question the home secretary on the pilot when she appears before the Home Affairs Committee on the 16th July 2013.”
According to Vaz, the move “flies in the face of Prime Minister David Cameron’s intention to attract the brightest and best to Britain and sends out the wrong message to the countries concerned”. “The plans could potentially alienate already settled communities in the UK,” he said.
The home office said that the bond will only apply to “high risk individuals” who are “most liable to stay back” after the expiry of their visa. But they refused to divulge the profile of the typical “high risk individual”. There will also be a limit to the number of such bonds issued to those applying for a visa from India and not a blanket order for all those visiting UK after November.
The pilot scheme will operate in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nigeria and Ghana.
May said, “We’re planning a pilot that focuses on over-stayers and examines a couple of different ways of applying bonds. The pilot will apply to visitor visas, but if the scheme is successful we’d like to be able to apply it on an intelligence-led basis on any visa route and any country.”
She added, “The pilot will be highly selective and focused on the highest risk applicants – we will not require all visitors from the selected pilot countries to pay a bond.”
May said, “This is the next step in making sure our immigration system is more selective, bringing down net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands while still welcoming the brightest and the best to Britain. In the long run we’re interested in a system of bonds that deters overstaying and recovers costs if a foreign national has used our public services.”
UK Home Office added that they had “analyzed visitor profiles from India and identified types of people not likely to go back to India after the expiry of the visa”.
The cash bond will be £3000 (Rs 2.7 lakh) for an adult and will not be applicable to those below the age of 18.
An official said, “This is a pilot scheme for 12 months starting from November. Under the pilot, we have included only high risk countries which include India from where people coming to UK are likely to overstay. The pilot will tell us the effectiveness of the scheme and if found to be sound, we may include such a bond for all countries as a rule.”
The Home office said the bond payment will be returned if the visitor returns home after their visit visa has expired and within the time period specified by their visa.
To bring the scheme into force, May will lay a commencement order before Parliament to activate the power in the Immigration and Nationality Act 1999 for a bond from visitors, and make changes to the immigration rules.
The home office said Australia and New Zealand have similar schemes where financial bonds are applied to visitors in order to mitigate the risk of them overstaying. They apply similar amounts between 5,000 and 15,000 Australian dollars (£3k-£9k) and 5,000 and 10,000 NZ dollars (£2.5k – £5k), it added.
Vaz said, “there are a number of holes in the home secretary’s pilot. If this is to be workable she must have a proper consultation. She said she wants to deter over-stayers, yet with the mess that is E-Borders there is currently no way to monitor if people actually leave the country. The bond level of £3000 is completely unrealistic. If somebody was determined to work here illegally this could be earned back in a matter of months.”
A report by the Home Affairs Committee found that the already existing backlog of applications for visas will take 24 years to clear by the UK Border Agency.