U.K. to demand tourists from India, other 'high risk' countries pay $4,600 cash bond for visa
It's about to get more difficult for India's heralded middle class to travel abroad.
Indian news channel NDTV reports that the U.K. is introducing a plan to demand visitors from India, Pakistan, Nigeria and other countries whose nationals are deemed to pose a "high risk" of immigration abuse provide a cash bond before they are allowed to enter the country.
Adults over 18 will be forced to pay $4,600 for a six-month visit visa. They will surrender the money if they overstay in Britain after their visa has expired. The pilot project will also target visitors from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Ghana.
The fee, which will not be charged to all tourists, will begin in November.
The U.K. plans to extend it to all visa types, including work and student visas, the Economic Times of India reports.
It will be interesting to watch India's reaction to the news, and to see whether it imposes some kind of tit-for-tat fee on British tourists.
Reaction to the news on Twitter was mixed. While some Indians said they understand Britain's right to ensure its immigration system isn't abused, others were angry.
"Can what you looted from us be the guarantee?" the Twitter user @Vanish_Forever posted, referring to India's 300 years as a British colony.
Commenting on an online story about the new fee, Needhirajan Thenmozhi wrote, "Visitors from India do not need to come to UK. They can visit other European countries. There is nothing special to see in Britain. There is only lot of hate in local people nowadays. The weather is miserable most of the time. Paying 3,000 pounds is not worth (it) for a visit. Visit Southeast Asian countries which have more history, beauty and humanity."
Last year, the U.K. granted six-month visas to 296,000 applicants from India, 101,000 from Nigeria, 53,000 from Pakistan and 14,000 each from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Officials at the U.K. High Commission to India are already in damage-control mode. They tell the Independent's Andrew Buncombe that in 2012, 88 per cent of 370,000 Indian visa applicants were approved for visas.
Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at The Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead