Britain for new tourist visa regime

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London, Dec 18(UNI) In a major shift in the visa regime, the British government has queered the pitch for visiting non-EU tourists by slashing their visit by half from six months to only three months.

At the same time it calls for creation of a specfic business visa and special visas for one off events like Olympics.

Families whose members fail to return home on time may stand to forfeit their money.

All these proposals and others were part of the consultation paper unveiled by Immigration Minister Liam Byrne.

The consultation was launched as the Government announced that over one million fingerprints have now been collected from overseas foreign nationals applying to come to the UK as part of its biometrics visas programme.

''Tougher checks abroad mean we keep risky people out. By next spring we'll check everyone's fingerprints when they apply for a visa; now we're proposing a financial guarantee as well - not for everyone, but where we think there's a risk,'' said the Immigration Minister.

''Our aim is to make the system both more secure, but also to ensure that we maintain the UK's position as a destination of choice for tourists. In 2006, people from overseas spent 15.4 billion pounds in the UK with the tourism industry employing 1.4 million people,'' he said.

So far visa applicants in more than 120 countries worldwide are required to provide fingerprints if they want to visit the UK for work, study or tourism. Biometric checks have identified over 10,000 visa applicants who have previously been fingerprinted in the UK in connection with immigration cases or asylum applications.

From spring 2008 the aim is for the biometric programme to be extended to all visa applicants globally.

The visitor consultation proposals build on proposed new penalties on employers of illegal immigrants and a licensing system for any employer or college wishing to recruit from outside the EU.

Together these form part of a series of changes the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) are introducing over the next 12 months which include an Australian style points based system for managing migration.

A unified border force bringing together the Border and Immigration Agency, Customs and UK Visas providing a tougher, highly visible policing presence at Britain's ports and airports along with compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals are some of the plans that is on anvil.

UNI

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