Five countries face tough visa rules

First time visitors from South Africa will need to apply for visas 9th February 2009: UK has decided to introduce tough visa rules for five countries after they failed to pass the strict new Visa Waiver Test.

The Government announced today that regimes will now be introduced in Bolivia, Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland and Venezuela.

The Visa Waiver Test reviewed all non European countries and regions to determine the level of risk their citizens potentially posed to the UK in terms of illegal immigration, crime and security, by not having to apply for a visa before they travelled.

In July 2008 the UK Border Agency (UKBA) found 11 countries fell short of the required standard and over the past six months, along with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), has worked closely with them to improve their passport and border control systems. With the mitigation period over, it was decided visa checks would now be required for five of these countries in order to stop fraudulent attempts to enter Britain.

Already, nationals from Bolivia, Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland and Venezuela need a visa to work or settle in the UK, as do all non European Economic Area (EEA) nationals. Now visitors from these countries who are coming to the U K for less than six months will need to apply for a visa before they are given the all-clear to travel to the UK.

In the case of Venezuela, visitors who have new secure fingerprint passports issued since 2007 will be allowed to enter the UK without applying for a visa.

Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said: "The Government said it would get tough and we meant it. Already our shake-up of border security is delivering results, with three million fingerprints taken from visa applicants and 3,000 people caught trying to hide their identity.

"Today’s announcement sees these tough checks extended to a further five countries. Fingerprint visas make up one part of Britain’s triple ring of security, alongside hi-tech watch-list checks at the border and ID cards for foreign nationals.

"The message is clear – we will not shy away from widening the visa net further wherever we think there’s a risk to the UK."

Anyone wishing to travel from these five countries via the UK en route to a third country will also now need a transit visa. The same transit visa requirements have also been extended to Jamaican nationals wanting to pass through the UK.

Nationals of over 100 countries – three-quarters of the world’s population – must apply for a six-month visitor visa to come to the UK.

The UK’s visa checks now requires everyone to be fingerprinted, locking them to one identity, and checked against Government watchlists. They are then screened and counted in and out of the UK using the UK Border Agency’s e-Borders system.

Criteria for the Visa Waiver Test included: looking at passport security and integrity, the degree of cooperation over deportation or removal of a country’s nationals from the UK, levels of illegal working in the UK and other immigration abuse, levels of crime and terrorism risk posed to the UK and the extent to which a country’s authorities were addressing these threats.

First time visitors to the UK from South Africa will need to apply for visas from 3rd March 2009 with the full visa regime coming into effect by mid 2009, along with the rest of the new regimes.

This means that more than 400,000 South Africans who visit Britain every year are now required to apply for the visa.

Should the Government of South Africa decide to impose a visa regime on UK, it may affect some 50,000 UK-based rugby fans expected to travel to South Africa this summer for the Test series with the British and Irish Lions, while a similar number of British football supporters could visit the country in 2010 for the World Cup, The Telegraph reported.

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