LONDON (eTN) – Tourists from outside the European Union face new restrictions including a sharp cut in the time they can stay here.
Under the new plans, expected to be announced this week, they will be given only a three-month visa. At present they can stay here for up to six months.
The proposed new restrictions will also apply to those visiting their relatives in the United Kingdom under the “sponsored family visits” scheme.
Families, who sponsor visitors, will be required to deposit a £1,000 cash bond which will be forfeited if their guests do not leave after the expiry of their visa.
The bond scheme was reportedly rejected by the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, after protests from rights groups, but the new government has brought it back in its zeal to sound tough on immigration as it seeks to appease voters disillusioned with Labour’s approach on the issue.
The new measures, likely to affect millions of non-EU tourists, are part of what Immigration Minister Liam Byrne on Sunday described as the “biggest shake-up of [Britain’s] immigration system in history.”
The government has already announced plans for an Australian-style points system for immigrants from outside the European Union, effectively restricting immigration to highly-skilled professionals.
“Over the 12 months we will see the biggest shake-up of the immigration system in its history. The final front, I believe, is foreign visitor routes where change is needed,” Mr. Byrne told The Sunday Telegraph.
Critics dismissed the move as a gimmick arguing that it would do little to check immigration.
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis dismissed it as “yet another desperate grab for headlines” as a new opinion poll showed a further slump in Labour’s lead, putting it 13 points behind the Tories.
Tory leader David Cameron has promised a cap on the number of immigrants allowed into Britain every year if his party is elected to power — a line also favoured by many Labour supporters, including some Labour MPs in private.