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Britain scraps controversial proposal for short-term visas

New Delhi, June 25, 2008

Britain on Wednesday scrapped controversial plans to impose financial bonds as guarantees to ensure that family visitors from India and elsewhere leave the country on the expiry of their visas.

The government said it had no plans to introduce financial bonds for family visitors, and added that there will be a new sponsored family visitor category with licensed sponsors who would vouch for the family visits.

A large number of visas are issued every year by the British high commission in India to family members of people of Indian origin here who either have British passports or permanent residency.

The new plans were intended to modernise the short term visa system to ensure that the UK remains attractive to business and tourism, whilst deterring those who seek to break the rules, the government said in a statement.

The new changes were announced following a three-month consultation with communities abroad, as well as communities in the UK.

"We know that many people have a stake in us getting this policy right. We therefore issued a consultation document last year," Minister of State for Borders and Immigration Liam Byrne said.

"In addition, I not only travelled around the UK listening to people, but was also accompanied by a delegation of community leaders and businessmen to India to review first hand some of the issues in one of our most important overseas markets," he said.

The statement said the system for sponsored family visitors will see significant changes.

British citizens and those with permanent residency in the UK will be required to become licensed sponsors before family members can visit from abroad.