25 June 2008
Tough new sanctions will be imposed on people who fail to ensure family members visiting from abroad play by the rules, the Government announced today.
People will have to become licensed to sponsor family members to visit from abroad under proposed changes to the visa system. Sponsors will have a duty to ensure that their visitors leave before their visa runs out. If sponsors fail in their duties, they face a ban on bringing anyone else over, penalties of up to £5,000 or a jail sentence.
The new sponsored family visa is just one of the firm but fair changes being made to the short-term visa system which will sit alongside the Government's new Points Based System introduced earlier this year. Further proposals announced today include:
- introducing two new business visas for sportspeople and entertainers;
- setting the maximum leave for visitors at six months;
- introducing an appeal system for those coming in under the family route;
- a new short-term, low-cost group travel visa to promote British tourism; and
- a visa for people coming to the UK for one-off cultural events such as the Edinburgh Festival.
Border and Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said:
"Now we are introducing an Australian-style points system for selective migration, it makes sense to tighten visit visas at the same time.
"The changes I am announcing today will help create a fairer Britain with fair treatment for those who play by the rules, but tough action against those who break the law.
"We want the UK to stay open and attractive for both business and visitors. But at the same time we are determined to deliver a system of border security which is among the most secure in the world."
Also today, the Home Office announced plans for two new visitor routes for sportspeople and entertainers, recognising the important contribution these individuals make to British cultural life. Under these new routes the following sportspeople and entertainers will now be able to enter the UK for up to six months:
- sportspeople and support staff coming for specific events;
- amateur sportspeople joining UK amateur teams;
- professional entertainers coming to the UK to take part in music competitions;
- amateur entertainers travelling to the UK for a specific engagement;
- professional entertainers coming to take part in a charity show or where they will receive no fee; and
- professional and amateur entertainers taking part in a 'permit-free festival'.
Welcoming today's announcement, Minister for Sport Gerry Sutcliffe said:
"If we are going to make the UK the world's best cultural and sporting nation by 2012 then we need to make sure that talented sportspeople and entertainers from all over the world come here to take part in the many sporting events, festivals, and shows we have on offer. Their presence makes our country a richer, more inspiring place to live and encourages more tourists to visit. We want next year to be a golden decade of sport, so it's good news that sportsmen and women competing in events here will keep the concessions that they previously enjoyed."
The tourism industry already brings £85 billion into the UK each year. To encourage even more tourists a new shorter three-month group visa is being proposed at a possible reduced cost of £44. Today the Home Office also set out its intention to keep the maximum leave for tourists at six months and to introduce a visa that would allow people to come to the UK for big one-off sporting or cultural events.
All of the changes outlined in today's document follow a consultation, which ran from December 2007 to March this year. In total 604 responses were received, the majority of which came from individual members of the public. Uniquely, this consultation process included engagement with foreign communities abroad, as well as UK communities at home.
Liam Byrne said:
"We know that many people have a stake in us getting this policy right. So we didn't just run an old fashioned consultation. I travelled around the UK listening to people, and led my own delegation of community leaders and businessmen to India to review first hand some of the issues in one of our most important overseas markets."
All of the changes proposed by the document published today will sit alongside the Points Based System, which replaced around eighty different work permit routes with just five tiers. Those travelling into the UK are locked into one identity through the introduction of fingerprinting for all visa applicants, a new hi-tech system for counting people in and out of the country, and the roll out of ID cards for all foreign nationals.