South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland visitors to travel on visa from now
2nd July 2009: Coming to the United Kingdom from South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland? You will need a visa to travel from the beginning of this month. The visa regime for visitors has also been imposed on Bolivia and Venezuela.
The visitors will be fingerprinted and checked against watch-lists before being issued with a visa to travel. The new rules have been introduced to counter passport and identity fraud, and "follow Britain’s first global review of who needs a visa to come to the United Kingdom for a short-term visit".
A global assessment was also carried out by the government of all non-European countries to determine the level of risk their citizens potentially pose to the United Kingdom in terms of illegal immigration, crime and security.
The roll out of the new regimes began earlier this year. Initially from 3rd March, the first-time visitors to the United Kingdom from South Africa required visas. In May, it was applicable to all visitors from Bolivia and Venezuela. The process has now been completed with all visitors from South Africa Lesotho and Swaziland requiring visas to travel here.
With this, nationals from more than 100 countries now require a visa. The UK Border Agency has already collected more than four million fingerprints from people applying for visas worldwide.
Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said: "Already our shake-up of border security is delivering results, with fingerprint visas helping us catch thousands of people trying to hide their true identity or a criminal past.
"Today sees visa checks come into effect in the remaining countries that failed to pass our strict visa waiver test. I am determined that the UK Border Agency should continue to strengthen the border and 2009 is the year of delivery. As well as applying greater scrutiny to visitors, we are being more selective about who can work in the UK and coming down hard on rule breakers."
The Border Agency said widening of the visa net was just one of the measures it committed to deliver in 2009. In February, the Home Secretary pledged to make a number of changes – and already many of these have successfully taken place.
The Agency said a commitment to increase detention space saw the opening of the 426-bed immigration removal centre Brook House. This facility near Gatwick Airport was expected to allow the Government to continue removal of record numbers of foreign lawbreakers from the United Kingdom. The Government has vowed to send home a further 5,800 by the end of this year.
By tightening the points based system, the Government has also ensured migration matches the country’s needs during these hard economic times. Employers must now advertise all skilled ‘tier 2’ jobs to resident workers through JobCentre Plus before they can bring people in from outside Europe, it said.
The Government has also toughened the criteria against which highly skilled migrants seeking entry to the United Kingdom are judged – raising the qualifications and salary level required for highly skilled workers to a Masters degree and a minimum salary of £20,000.
The first six months of the year has also seen the creation of a multimillion pound fund to reduce the impacts of migration on local services, the rolling out of new technology to protect Britain’s border from smuggling and new rules to make it easier than ever to remove European criminals.