09 February 2009
South Africans will need visa to visit UK
After months of deliberation, the UK Home Office is expected to announce that South Africans will need a compulsory visa to visit the UK, reports The Times.
Over 400,000 South Africans land in Britain every year, and under the new rules they will all have to apply for a UK visa, even if it is just to use the UK as a transit stopover. In 2007, the numbers of South Africans visiting the UK comprised 168,000 tourists, 132,000 returning after absence abroad, 46,200 business travellers, 52,800 in transit, and 2,890 with work permits plus their 1,190 dependants. The Border Agency refused over one thousand South Africans from entering the UK.
Jacqui Smith, Home Secretary, is expected to answer questions regarding the move in Parliament today, defending her decision to make it harder for Britain's fifth largest group of tourists.
Smith had made it clear to the South African Government last year that the British Government would take this stance if they did not change their own passport rules to make it harder for non-South Africans to obtain South African citizenship.
The British Government has been battling an underground ring of illegal immigration using South African passports as their means of gaining access to Britain. They also have intelligence claiming that al-Qaeda training camps are using South Africa as their base before arriving in Britain.
Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said the clamp-down on South African visas is proof of the government's new tough stance on UK immigration laws and its commitment to protecting its residents from those who try to take advantage of it.
"The Government said it would get tough and we meant it. Already our shake-up of border security is delivering results, with three million fingerprints taken from visa applicants and 3,000 people caught trying to hide their identity," he said.
The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in UK visa and immigration services.