22 March 2013

Nick Clegg announces UK visa 'security bonds'

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Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said visitors from 'high risk' countries will be required to put up 'security bonds' with their UK visa applications which will be repayable when they leave the UK.

UK visa

Nick Clegg has said his party is at the 'forefront' of implementing a 'zero-tolerant of abuse' UK immigration system.

Mr Clegg, in his capacity as chair of the Cabinet's Home Affairs Committee, said he has asked the Home Office to begin a pilot security bonds scheme by the end of the year. While the list of countries deemed 'high risk' has not yet been finalised, it is thought to include Pakistan and some Middle Eastern countries.

The scheme, which is similar to one already in place in Australia, is intended to clamp down on visa overstayers. The Liberal Democrats leader said the scheme would be a 'powerful new tool' to tackle visa abusers.

"The challenge isn't just stopping people coming into Britain illegally, it's about dealing with individuals who come over legitimately but then become illegal once they're already here," said Mr Clegg.

The deputy PM said the scheme had potential to expedite visa applications but the amount required would have to be carefully considered and only applied in certain cases.

"The bonds would need to be well-targeted - so that they don't unfairly discriminate against particular groups. The amount would need to be proportionate - we mustn't penalise legitimate visa applicants who will struggle to get hold of the money.

"I would want a system that is welcomed by legitimate visitors. Rather than place a great burden on them - done right this would speed up the application process, giving [the UK Border Agency] greater confidence about people's intentions, allowing them to make better, faster decisions."

The Liberal Democrats have struggled against a reputation of being too soft on UK immigration; a perception Mr Clegg's announcement is thought to be redressing.

"I'm determined that we lay the foundations for an immigration system that embodies this nation's instincts and its values: our openness and tolerance on one hand; our sense of fair play on the other.

"The Liberal Democrats are at the forefront of that. We want to stay a tolerant Britain, and to that end we will be zero-tolerant of abuse."

However, Mr Clegg's announcement comes at odds with his fellow Liberal Democrat minister, Business Secretary Vince Cable, who said the Government's current UK immigration policy were not 'Government policy, it is Conservative policy'.

"We want to have lots of visitors from all over the world coming here without hassle, an easy flexible visa system," Mr Cable said, just hours before his party leader's speech.

"They've got to be able to come and go freely otherwise we are not going to be able to compete internationally."

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

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