16 January 2009

'Immigration tax' to be imposed on UK migrants

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Migrants to the UK will have to pay an 'immigration tax' as part of their visa fees in order to contribute to local community services, reports the Telegraph.

Under the new Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill that was published in Parliament yesterday, migrants will have to pay a levy towards schools, hospitals, and other local services so that any influxes of UK immigrants do not put pressure on the community.

The bill also maintains that migrants can be fast-tracked to UK citizenship if they contribute positively to the community through volunteer or community work.

The bill rules that those who are not full citizens or permanent residents of Britain will not have access to full services and benefits and social housing, so that more people would be encouraged to earn their citizenship.  Further, Parliament now requires those non-citizens who commit serious criminal offences to be subject to deportation.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said the new bill sends a clear message to migrants that the Government requires them to earn the right to stay in the UK.

"Migration only works if it brings benefits and these measures will ensure that only those migrants that make a positive impact on their local community will be able to stay in the UK," he said in a statement.

The bill also ensures that the rights of children are protected when dealing with the UK Border Agency.  It now allows children born in the UK to at least one parent who is a foreign or commonwealth member of the British armed forces to gain automatic British citizenship, and provides a contravening rule to counteract the situation whereby a father could pass on his British nationality to a child born abroad before 1961 while a mother could not.

The bill is part of the new Australian-style points-based system for immigration introduced in stages last year, which aims to control UK immigration so that only those needed in the British economy move to the UK and no more.

The levy is due to be enforced April this year, and will affect any UK visa holders entering the country.  The "transitional fund" will cost around £20 per visa holder, and it is hoped to raise tens of millions of pounds.  However, the Local Government Authority claims the scheme would not meet the required £250 million needed to support local services during migration influxes.

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in UK visa and immigration services.

Article by Jessica Bird, UK Visa Bureau.

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