Great Britain will implement a pilot plan aimed at curbing illegal immigration by imposing a $4,600 cash bond on visas for visitors from six of its former colonies in Asia and Africa, the Home Office said Monday.
India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and Ghana will come under the plan.
London calls it a pilot initiative to “test the effectiveness of bonds as deterrent against visa abuse,” the International Business Times reported.
The program will run one year starting in November, and could be expanded to cover other countries and all types of visas.
Children younger than 18 years will be exempt; the bond is refundable if a visitor returns home within the time frame mandated by his or her visa, according to the British Home Office.
Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, who visited Britain in late June for talks on trade and investment, has expressed “serious concerns” over proposals to categorize India a high-risk country and subject its citizens to cash bonds on visa applications, according to the Indian High Commission in London.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Olugbenga Ashiru has expressed “displeasure,” describing the policy “as not only discriminatory but also capable of undermining the spirit of the Commonwealth family,” Agence France-Presse reported.
Critics, including the Indian newspaper The Hindu, say imposing bonds constitutes a form of racism against nonwhite members of the Commonwealth. Supporters say the bonds are targeted at countries with serious records of visa abuse.
In the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, businessman Syed Shahid Ali, who visits Britain frequently, told Associated Press
that the cash bond causes inconvenience and is “painful.”
“How can someone who wants to visit the U.K. for a couple of days for business meetings or something else afford to set aside 3,000 pounds?” he said. Foreign visitors may move their businesses elsewhere in Europe to avoid the payments, he said.
Britain’s clampdown on visa abuse comes at a time when the immigration-reform bill before Congress would slap higher visa fees on Indian outsourcing firms that depend heavily on temporary visas to bring workers into the U.S.
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