UK toughening visa system for illegal immigrants

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New Delhi, Feb 6 (UNI) Alarmed at illegal immigration and security issues, Britain will introduce a points-based new visa system from February 29, making it easier for genuine visitors but more stringent for illegal immigrants by imposing heavy penalties on violators.

Mr Liam Byrne, MP, Home Office Minister of State for Borders and Immigration, said at a press conference here today the system would be introduced in India from April 1, following British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's statements during his visit here that India and UK must draw closer.

Mr Brown, who visited India last month-end, stressed on closer cooperation between India and UK.

The new visa system includes provisions for students to work for two years after completing studies, self assessment on the basis of points and more flexibility for businessmen.

Violators would be fined 10,000 pounds or even deported and barred from applying for visa for ten years.

Also in the pipeline are a special visa for UK and Europe, without becoming part of the 'Shengen Visa' that travellers to Europe are presently given, and a special 'Olympic visa' in view of the 2012 Olympics in London.

''We want to make the system more flexible and at the same time more secure...We have a big agenda to strengthen border security and check illegal immigration. The two have to go hand-in-hand...,'' he said.

Pointing out that nearly three-fourth of illegal immigration in UK was in the hands of organised crime, Mr Byrne said India and UK had collaborated in checking illegal immigration.

''Organised crime has no frontiers...We have a shared agenda, a shared understanding to promote close bilateral relations and a shared determination to toughen immigration laws...,'' he added.

Mr Byrne pointed out 300,000 visas had been issued in India last year and claimed the new system would ''dramatically improve'' visa services.

Britain has already introduced bio-metric visa system in India, which includes getting visa seekers digitally photographed and having their finger prints.

UNI RB HS HT2000

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