UK announces changes in visa system for India

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New Delhi, Jun 25 (UNI) In what the British Home Office has described as the ''biggest shake up to UK immigration system in 40 years,'' Britain today announced plans to tighten the visa system in India for those who break the law and at the same time, modernise the short-term visa system to ensure that the country is attractive to businessmen and tourists.

The key points of the new system include a new sponsored family visitor category with licensed sponsors vouching for their family members' visits, maximum leave for visitors at six months, a distinct category for business visitors and new proposals for tourist visas.

Addressing a live tele-press conference from London, British Minister of State for Borders and Immirgation, Liam Byrne, said the British government had issued a consultation document last year based on views and opinion of people.

Responding to questions about the changes, proposed to be introduced by 2009, he said to encourage the tourist industry, a new low-cost three-month group visa was being proposed.

The system for sponsored family visitors would see significant changes and British citizens and those with indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK would be required to become licensed sponsors before family members could visit from abroad.

Sponsors would have to ensure that their visitors comply with the terms of their visa, the Minister said.

Sponsorship programmes would mean that the UK visa services would be able to process genuine applicants more quickly and identify fraudulent applications more easily.

If sponsors fail in their duties, they face a ban on bringing anyone else into the country or fines upto 5000 Pounds or imprisonment.

It is also proposed to create a new visa for business visitors with greater clarity on the definition of a business visitor.

The maximum period of a business visit visa would be six- months.

There are also plans for new arrangements for sports persons, women and entertainers.

None of the changes would affect the Points-Based System (PBS) for long-term economic migration and for students.

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