UK visa bond: Categorising India as high-risk nation would be an affront
London: India has said it would take as an "affront" if the UK categorises it among six high-risk nations under a proposed visa scheme that would require certain visitors to pay a hefty financial bond of 3000 pounds.
The UK, however, has said that the new visa scheme will be very "tightly targeted" at a small number of applicants.
The clarification came a day after Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma urged his UK ministerial colleagues to clarify Britain's position on the proposed scheme to introduce a 3,000 pounds bond for visitors from six high-risk countries, which includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Ghana.
"We are seriously concerned. How can a country that is a strategic partner be categorised as a high-risk country, in the bracket with some of the others. If that were to be true, that would be taken as an affront.
"But I have been assured that such a proposal may have been mooted but has not been discussed or approved by the UK Cabinet," Sharma told PTI here yesterday after his meetings with UK ministers Vince Cable and Oliver Letwin.
"I take that assurance and have requested my UK ministerial colleagues to clarify the situation to not allow any speculation to be magnified," he added.
Senior British and Indian officials are now scheduled to meet in London in late July for a comprehensive dialogue on visa-related issues, where financial bonds are also expected to be on the agenda.
"The UK government remains committed to tackling immigration abuse and is looking at a range of options. One of those options is a financial bond.
"The government intends to run a pilot scheme for such bonds, tightly targeted at a small number of visa applicants assessed to pose a high risk of overstaying," a spokesperson for the British High Commission in India said.
"But no decisions have been taken on the detail of how such a pilot scheme would work in practice.
"Any such scheme will be designed in a way that does not cut across the UK's wish to be open for business, students and tourists," he added.
The clarification follows a global outrage around plans of a pilot scheme announced by the UK Home Office for the six Afro-Asian countries to run for 12 months from November.
Under the plans, certain visitors from these countries planning a visit to Britain will be required to furnish a refundable 3,000 pounds bond in a bid to prevent them overstaying their visa.
The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) was the latest Indian industry group to add its voice to the growing concerns around such a scheme.
"If there is any truth to this, it would be a dampener to an otherwise flourishing relationship between India and the UK.
"We need to ensure that people-to-people interactions that form the basis of robust national relationships are not impacted," said FICCI president Naina Lal Kidwai, who raised the issue during talks with the UK minister for business engagement with India, Greg Barker, here yesterday.
Barker clarified that the new regulation was being considered only for a minuscule number of visa applicants who may be perceived to be of high-risk and was aimed at streamlining the visa system.