Indian business says UK immigration bonds will damage trade

A spokesman for the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has said that a UK government plan to require Indian nationals applying for UK visas to pay security bonds are 'a matter of concern'.

From November, some applicants for UK visas from six 'high risk' countries will be required to pay the bonds if the Home Office believes that they are likely to overstay their visa. The maximum bond payment will be £3,000. The money must be paid before a visa is issued and will only be repaid once the visa holder has left the country.

The plan was first proposed by the UK's Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, in March 2013. In June 2013, Home Secretary Theresa May confirmed that a pilot bond scheme would be launched in November 2013.

Bonds required from applicants from 'high risk' countries.

She said that some applicants for visitor visas from six countries; India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Ghana, would be required to pay the security bonds. These countries were chosen because Home Office figures suggest that a high proportion of visa holders from these countries fail to leave the UK when their visas expire.

Mrs May said that, if the pilot is successful, the scheme may be expanded to include other countries. It may also include applicants for other visas such as Tier 4 student visas, and perhaps Tier 2 skilled worker visas. The FICCI spokesman said 'It is hoped that the category won't include business representatives'.

The scheme would see applicants for UK visas assessed when their application is made. Those considered to pose the highest risk of overstaying would be required to pay bonds of £3,000 in order to receive a visa. This would be repayable once the visa holder left the UK.

Low risk applicants need not pay

Those deemed to be extremely low risk would not be required to pay a bond at all. Those posing an intermediate level off risk might be asked to pay a lesser sum.

The FICCI spokesman said that the scheme 'could certainly impact the Indian industry's investment plans for the UK'. He added that it was a concern to FICCI that India, the fourth largest investor in the UK's economy had been linked with the other countries on the list.

In March, when Mr Clegg first proposed the bond scheme, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said that it would launch legal action if it felt that the bond scheme was being imposed in a discriminatory fashion. It said that if there were no 'white Commonwealth countries' on the list of targeted countries, this would be a sign of discrimination.

Immigration changing the 'white Commonwealth'

The so-called 'white Commonwealth countries' are Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In fact, these countries are not nearly so homogenous as once they were.

There are, for example thirteen ethnic groupings with over one million representatives in Canada. Australia and New Zealand too are now experiencing high levels of immigration from countries in Asia.

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