07 January 2013

UK visa policy threatens Scottish cruise industry

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Changes to UK visa policy for cruise ship passengers threaten to impact the Scottish economy, claim cruise operators.

UK visa

Cruise passengers are now required to have their UK visa and identities checked at the first port of call in the UK.

The UK Border Force has stipulated that cruise passengers will now be required to have their UK visa and identity documents to be checked at the first port of call in the UK; previously documents could be checked in advance using ship manifests.

The Border Force insist the process is not the result of a rule change, just a change in interpretation of existing rules but Cruise Scotland argues the change will damage the country's £40 million industry.

"At a time when cruise lines are already facing increasing operational costs, this is effectively a new tax on their operations," said Richard Alexander, chairman of Cruise Scotland.

"They have also indicated that this will make the UK uncompetitive and unappealing and act as a deterrent for ships to call at UK ports."

SNP MSP Stuart Macmillan, convener of the Scottish Parliament's group on recreational boating and marine tourism, has contacted UK Immigration Mark Harper for clarification over the issue.

"I have heard passengers have faced lengthy delays as a result of this system which is having a detrimental effect on the industry in Scotland," said Mr Macmillan.

"Serious concerns have been raised about the UK Government's immigration checks for cruise ship passengers that cannot be ignored.

"I have written to Mr Harper to ask for clarity on how these rules are affecting Scotland as the voices from the industry say it is hugely negative and must be changed before it is too late."

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.

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