Home Office plans to introduce immigration bonds
28 June 2013
The Home Office is planning to introduce a pilot immigration bond scheme that will target high-risk visitors coming to the UK. Whilst the details of this scheme are currently being redrafted, the initial proposal outlined on 24/06/13 was as follows.
When high-risk visitors under this scheme come to the UK on six-month visitor visas, they would be charged a proposed 'bond' of £3,000 on arrival (children under 18 would be exempt). However, those who leave the country before their visa expires would have this amount paid back in full.
These bonds would initially be required from six-month visitors who are considered high risk from the following proposed countries:
- Sri Lanka
These countries were chosen, according to the Home Office, because they pose the highest risk of visitor visa abuse. The scheme would be very selective: not all visitors from the above countries would have to pay a bond and the number of bonds issues during the pilot (which will run for twelve months) would be limited.
According to Home Secretary Theresa May, these plans are intended to deter people from 'overstaying' once their visitor visas have run out. They are also hoped to "recover costs if a foreign national has used our public services".
Some details are still unclear about the scheme, for example what exit checks would be introduced. There are also concerns that targeting specific countries would weaken the UK's relationships with them; for instance, the Alliance for Accountable Governance has said this scheme "will not only have an adverse effect on [Ghana's] long standing trade relationship with Britain but will also place enormous burden on prospective visitors who are already burdened with exorbitant nonrefundable visa fees."
Others are concerned that this scheme may actually encourage overstaying if visitors feel that they have the 'right' to overstay if they forfeit their bond or that they can recover the cost from illegally working in the UK.
There are discussions about extending this scheme to foreign workers and students, as well as to visitors from other countries, if the twelve-month pilot is successful. A similar scheme is already in operation in the Australian and New Zealand immigration systems.
The details of this policy, including the size of the bond and the countries targeted, are currently being reconsidered following criticisms from senior politicians.