By Sahim Salim
The British high commission has clarified that “only high risk applicants” will be required to deposit a 3,000 pounds bond (approx Rs 2.75 lakh) bond per adult while applying for a UK visa.
The commission issued the statement following outrage from both India and UK, with critics blasting the move as “discriminatory.”
"It will be highly selective and focused on the highest risk applicants - we will not require all visitors from the selected pilot countries to pay a bond. The number of bonds issued during the pilot will be limited," the commission said.
If the proposed move becomes a reality, it will severely affect tourism and students traffic from India. UK processes around four lakh visa applications from India every year and the commission said that it will affect “a few hundred Indian” visa applicants.
Industry body CII said, "CII strongly feels that such blanket rules for visas will negatively affect not only businesses, especially small businesses, it will also further bring down the number of students going to the United Kingdom (UK) for higher studies and affect the tourism inflow from India to UK.”
According to visa executives, UK visa application fees has increased three times this year without notification – Rs. 6,800 (April), Rs. 7,200 (May) and Rs. 7,600 in June.
According to a report in DNA, a senior visa executive, Ashish Choukate from Pune-based visa service provider, BTW Visa Services, said that if UK goes ahead with the £3000 cash bond from Indian visitors, it will affect the visitors flow to the UK.
“We receive over 900 applications per month for visitors' visa to UK during the peak season between March-May and Diwali vacations. There may be a 50% drop due to this cash bond. Majority of these 900 visitors are budget travellers, who will not be able to dole an extra 2.7 lakh rupees,” he said.
The UK Home Office announced a pilot scheme under which most visitors from six “high-risk” Afro-Asian countries, including India, Pakistan and Nigeria, will be required to furnish a 3,000 pounds bond for a six-month visit visa, which they will forfeit if they overstay in Britain. They will run a pilot for 12 months starting this November and will require financial bonds from selected visitors.
“It will test the effectiveness of bonds as a deterrent against visa abuse, such as overstaying. The pilot scheme will operate in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nigeria and Ghana. Children under 18 years will be exempt,” they said.
The bond payment will be returned if the visitor returns home after their visit visa has expired and within the time period specified by their visa. UK Home Secretary Theresa May said the new system will deter overstaying.