UK visa bond scheme goes back to drawing board

The controversial visa bond scheme was on Thursday headed back to the drawing board as both Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg reportedly refused to “clear” it in its present form, fearing that the backlash in India threatened to damage bilateral relations at a time when Britain is desperately trying to woo Indian investors.

According to reliable media reports, independently confirmed to The Hindu by officials who did not want to go on record, the scheme would be extensively rewritten to make sure that it is not seen to be aimed at any particular country but focuses only on individual applicants who may be considered posing a risk of fraud.

“The Prime Minister has not cleared this policy. He doesn’t want to do anything that cuts across the message he took to India,” an ally of Mr. Cameron told The Financial Times referring to the Prime Minister’s refrain during his recent trip to India that Britain was “open for business.”

The paper said Mr. Cameron had made it clear that he would “not sanction any policy that undermines his growth agenda or the ‘open for business’ message” he delivered in India.

Under the original scheme, floated by Mr. Cameron’s fellow Tory Home Secretary Theresa May to cut down immigration levels, India was to be included in a list of “high-risk” countries requiring their nationals to deposit a £3,000 cash bond for a British visa. The other countries were Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Ghana — all non-white Commonwealth nations.

But the strong reaction in India plus the opposition from British businesses, London Mayor Boris Johnson and his coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, has forced Mr. Cameron to intervene.

Senior Lib Dem members were reported as saying that Mr. Clegg declined to “sign off” details of the policy.

“The policy has not yet been signed off. We are in favour of the principle but exact details of how it is to be piloted, including the size of the bond, is still being discussed in the government,” The Guardian quoted a Lib Dem source as saying.

While a “pilot” might go ahead in November as planned, the final scheme is expected to be narrower in size and scope. It would be “highly selective,” targeting only “suspicious” applicants. A Home Office official said even the names of “high-risk” countries to be covered by the scheme had not yet been finalised.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 5:04:51 PM |

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