Certain countries now face tough visa rules

New visa checks are to be introduced for five countries after they failed to pass Britain’s strict new Visa Waiver Test, the Government announced today.

Following Britain's first global review of who needs a visa to come to the UK, regimes will now be introduced in Bolivia, Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland and Venezuela.  Already, three quarters of the world’s population need to apply for a visitor visa.

The widening of the visa net is just one of a raft of measures the Government has put in place to further tighten border security and only allow entry to those the UK wants and needs.  There is now a triple ring of security that protects Britain, including fingerprint visas that lock people to one identity, a high-tech electronic borders system which checks people against watch-lists and ID cards for foreign nationals.

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 UK 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.

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.

Britain's tough border means that 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 3 March 2009 with the full visa regime coming into effect by mid 2009, along with the rest of the new regimes.