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New countries face tough visa rules

09 February 2009

Visa checks are to be introduced for five countries after they failed to pass the United Kingdom's strict new Visa Waiver Test.

Following the Government's first global review of who needs a visa to come to the United Kingdom, visas will now be required for visitors from Bolivia, Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland and Venezuela.

Already, three-quarters of the world's population need to apply for a visa if they want to visit the United Kingdom.

Widening the visa net is part of the Government's action to tighten border security. There is now a triple ring of security protecting the United Kingdom: fingerprint visas that lock people to one identity, a high-tech electronic borders system which checks people against watchlists, and identity cards for foreign nationals.

The Visa Waiver Test reviewed all non-European countries and regions to determine the risk their citizens potentially posed to the United Kingdom - 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 found that 11 countries fell short of the required standard. Over the past six months, the Agency and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have worked closely with those countries to improve their passport and border control systems. It has now been decided that visa checks are required for five of them in order to stop fraudulent attempts to enter the United Kingdom.

Nationals of Bolivia, Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland and Venezuela already need a visa to work or settle in the United Kingdom, as do all nationals of countries outside the European Economic Area. Now they will need to apply for a visa even if they are visiting the United Kingdom for less than six months. In the case of Venezuela, visitors who have new secure fingerprint passports issued since 2007 will be allowed to enter the United Kingdom without applying for a visa.

Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said:

"The Government said it would get tough and we meant it. Already our shake-up of border security is delivering results, with three million fingerprints taken from visa applicants and 3,000 people caught trying to hide their identity.

"Today's announcement sees these tough checks extended to a further five countries.

"The message is clear - we will not shy away from widening the visa net further wherever we think there's a risk to the UK."

Additionally, anyone wishing to travel from Bolivia, Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland or Venezuela to another country via the United Kingdom will now need a transit visa. The same transit visa requirements have been extended to Jamaican nationals wanting to pass through the United Kingdom.

Everyone applying for a visa to enter the United Kingdom is now fingerprinted, locking them to one identity, and checked against Government watchlists. They are then screened and counted in and out of the United Kingdom using the UK Border Agency's e-Borders system.

First-time visitors to the United Kingdom from South Africa will need to apply for visas from 3 March 2009, with the full visa regime there and in the other countries coming into effect by mid-2009.

The visa regime for Taiwanese passport holders wil be lifted as a result of the Visa Waiver Test. This will take effect from 3 March 2009.

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