HOME OFFICE News
Release (059/2007) issued by The Government News Network on 28 March 2007
More people will
face checks before entering the UK to further tighten the
UK's borders, Immigration Minister Liam Byrne announced today.
Through the introduction of a US-style visa waiver programme, the
Government will create a strengthened border control to screen
people it wants to enter the UK and to deny entry to those it does
not, even before they get here. This border builds on the success
of exporting cross channel border controls to France and Belgium,
which has resulted in an 88 per cent fall in the number of
clandestine entrants detected in Kent in 2006 compared to the same
period in 2002.
'Securing the UK Border', published today, also sets
out how the UK will overhaul visitor visas - including consulting
on tougher sanctions for sponsors of family visas, consulting on
requiring English for spouses as well as installing technology at
UK ports to record biometrics of non-EEA citizens without visas.
The Minister also confirmed today that the Home Office will be
setting up the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). Once up and
running it will advise Ministers on where migration might
sensibly fill gaps in the labour market.
Together our strategy creates a system of triple checks for
1. By the end of 2008 half the countries in the world, covering
three quarters of the world's population will all need
biometric visas with their fingerprints checked against the UK
Government database, before travelling to the UK;
2. From 2009 the majority of people will be counted in and out of
the UK; and
3. ID Cards for foreign nationals to help ensure only those
entitled gain access to work and benefits.
Today's strategy helps complete the reform programme
announced by the Home Secretary last July, which has meant:
* Tougher checks abroad, before people come here;
powers for UK border control;
* Up to £100 million extra for
in-country enforcement against illegal immigration; and
Independent advice on where immigration makes sense for Britain
The government is also establishing a new Migration Impacts Forum
(MIF), jointly chaired by Immigration Minister Liam Byrne and
Communities Minister Phil Woolas. It will provide information on
the wider impacts of migration on local communities and how best
to ensure public services can respond and community cohesion retained.
Liam Byrne said:
"It is essential that we have a fair and effective migration
system, trusted by the public as a whole and those who rely on it."
"The Migration Advisory Committee will help ensure this by
telling us where Britain needs migration and where we don't.
And tougher checks around the world mean we can stop people we
don't want to come to Britain before they set off by plane,
train or boat.
"The days when border control started at the white cliffs of
Dover are over. Our immigration control needs to start well before
people come anywhere near British shores.
"Secure borders help combat illegal immigration, false
asylum claims and clandestine entrants by stopping those people
from getting near the UK, yet make it easier for the almost 200
legitimate travellers per minute who cross our borders.
"Compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals will be a vital
buttress of our defences giving businesses and public services the
choice to check whether someone is who they say they are."
Foreign Office Minister Lord Triesman said:
"This strategy sets the standard for a modern border,
protecting security and economic interests to make travel and
migration work best for Britain. Whilst promoting Britain as the
destination of choice for legitimate travellers, we will focus
increasingly sophisticated controls on the minority who seek to
abuse our immigration system and subsequently cause us harm. "
'Securing the UK Border' also proposes:
* Biometric technology playing a greater role in securing our
borders. By the end of 2007 frontline staff at all major ports
will be able to check biometric data in travel documents against
the passenger presenting the documents. Currently, visa applicants
from 63 countries are required to provide fingerprint and facial
biometrics. By 2008 all visa applicants will have to supply biometrics.
* Tightening marriage visas by increasing the minimum age of
sponsors and the person sponsored to 21. This will ensure
individuals have an opportunity to establish a degree of
independent adult life, including taking advantage of higher
education, and to have had the advantage of more opportunities to
integrate. This will form part of a wider Government consultation
on measures designed to help combat forced marriage. The
introduction of an English language test before entry for spouses
will ensure that everyone who comes here for a permanent reason
has the skills to participate both socially and economically.
* A sponsored family visitor route that will mean people in the
UK will be required to vouch for their family member at the
beginning of the application process. This means they will become
their 'sponsors' agreeing to maintain, accommodate and
fund any of their non-emergency medical care. If the visitor
breaks their visa rules, for instance by overstaying or illegally
working, their sponsor in the UK could be held responsible, and
could be subject to sanctions.
* Creating visitor categories for visa applications that relate
the criteria directly to the purpose of the visit. Current
immigration rules do not distinguish between the four main reasons
for visiting the UK: tourism, business, study or visiting family.
This streamlining will create a simpler, clearer and more relevant
visa system with categories for tourist, business, student and
sponsored family visitors.
* Tightening up on student visas by making it compulsory for all
educational institutions to keep both enrolment and attendance
records of overseas students. This information will then be passed
onto the Immigration Services to take appropriate action.
* By June 2007 a Visitor Taskforce will be established so that we
can work with partners across and beyond government to improve our
customer service standards and the part we play in welcoming
visitors to Britain. People from overseas spent £14.2bn in the UK
in 2005, with the tourism industry alone directly employing 1.4m
people. It is essential that Britain is simple to visit legally.
The Government has already had significant success in exporting
and tightening Britain's border. Airline Liaison Officers are
in place across the world to provide advice and training on UK
travel documents. Their work has resulted in 150,000 people
without proper documents being prevented from boarding aircrafts
to the UK in the last five years alone. Juxtaposed controls in
France and Belgium have contributed to a 70 per cent reduction in
unfounded asylum applications for the whole of the UK. The
e-Borders pilot, Project Semaphore, has already captured data on
21 million passenger movements and issued over 9,000 alerts to the
By 2009 the Government will count the majority of passengers in
and out of the UK. Border control agencies will be able to access
information in advance of travel about the movements of passengers
so resources can be targeted towards those who present a threat,
while speeding up travel for those who do not.
Notes to Editors
1. The Borders and Visa strategy can be found on the Home Office
website at: http://www.homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
2. The strategy builds on the publication of the Borders Action
Plan published in December 2006 which can be found at: http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/6353/aboutus/bordersimmigrationactionplan.pdf
3. The consultation responses to the Migration Advisory Committee
consultation, together with the terms of reference for the new
body can be found at: http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/lawandpolicy/consultationdocuments/closedconsultations
4 The Migration Advisory Committee will have a membership of
independent experts, with expertise in the labour market and
economy to provide Government with independent advice on where
migration is needed, including the development and delivery of a
shortage occupation list.
5. The Migration Impact Forum (MIF) will be jointly chaired by
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne and Phil Woolas from the
Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Ministers
will announce separately details on composition and membership of
6. The MIF will provide stakeholder input to Government about the
wider impacts of migration. It will look for information from
forum members about the social benefits of migration and any
transitional impacts, for example on local education or health
services, which derive from migration.