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Visitor proliferation


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The new Immigration Minister, Phil Woolas, yesterday announced the announcement of new rules for visitors. Spot the deliberate tautology? The Home Office seems to have improved the amount of warning it now gives us when making planned changes to the rules (although the debacle around the no return rule might lead one to speculate that this is not yet universal and they’ll slip something under the radar when it suits them), but the way the press release is written might lead Joe Public/Plumber to think that these rules were coming into force immediately. It will all no doubt be re-announced in due course.

A classic Gordon Brown and New Labour-ism this – announcing the same ‘new’ money for a worthy cause over and over again.

There is irony in the proliferation of types of visitor, which is specifically said by Woolas to be in sympathy with the Points Based System. The PBS allegedly roles up 80+ migration routes into a mere five ‘tiers’ and is therefore simpler. Meanwhile, we are continuing down the road from one visitor rule that encompasses everyone with some basic minimum requirements to… I can’t quite work out how many, to be honest.

There will be general visitors still, which seem to be being renamed ‘tourist’ visitors, but also business visitors (encompassing academic visitors, who benefit from a generous 12 month visa), sportsperson and entertainer visitors and ‘special’ visitors, which will somehow incorporate marriage, child, parent of child at school, private medical treatment and prospective students and will still have flexibility to include more types in future.

There are more changes ahead. Back in June the Home Office announced it will go ahead with another new visitor category, the ‘sponsored family visitor’. The press release yesterday was silent on this, but it involves background and financial checks on a specified UK sponsor and liability for a fine of up to £5,000 if the visitor bunks off. There is also dark muttering of a potential 14 year prison sentence, but that is where criminality is proven, and they aren’t proposing to change the law (yet again). Being as there are no prosecutions on this basis now, I rather doubt there will be any in future. It’s just some standard disingenuity to make the scheme sound even tougher than it really is. Proposed implementation date is before the end of 2009.

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The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.


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