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Commentary

Visiting the UK? Pay a 3000 Pound Bond. Will India Retaliate?

The UK has decided to charge a “bond” of 3000 pounds (about 2.8 lakh rupees) every visitor from India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Ghana who come on a 6 month visitor visa, starting November 2013. From FT:

Visitors from six Asian and African countries including India, Pakistan and Nigeria are to be charged a £3,000 “bond” on arrival in the UK under a trial scheme to prevent visa overstayers, the Home Office has confirmed.

The pilot, due to begin this November, will only apply to those foreigners coming to Britain on six-month visitor visas – but ministers are said to be interested in extending the programme to all visa types and all countries over time. The bond will be repaid entirely to those who leave the country before their visa has expired.

I’m not sure what the system is now, but I’ve gone to the UK on a short (1 week) visit and was given a 1 year visa at the time. I assume they provide 6 month visas as a standard nowadays, even for short term business visitors.

Will this slow down illegal immigration? No. The illegal immigrants HAVE the money, or can raise it – it just puts a number they have to raise. Then the authorities, knowing they have 3,000 pounds as security, may not attempt to chase them down, thinking they’ll want it back. And at some point they’ll figure out how to stay inside legally or something. This is a good barrier for them – pay this much and if you’re willing to lose it, you might be able to immigrate anyhow.

For the casual visitor it is a disaster. A family of four visiting London would have to shell out Rs. 12 lakhs as a deposit. Be there for two weeks, and you’ll probably get your money back in a month or two. The interest cost on that might end up being Rs. 20,000 – another cost for your journey, apart from the pain of actually arranging for that amount etc.

Like most silly barriers, this one is too low to prevent what it intends to (immigration) and too high for regular users (visitors).

How should the Indian government react?

If India believes we are being unfairly targeted (and it seems like we are) then we should have retrospective amount bonds of Rs. 300,000 for each UK visitor. The MEA has gotten more and more efficient in the last few years, and it could easily figure out how to charge credit cards and refund that amount back. The action will bring us fairly large amounts of foreign exchange.

Country Wise Visitors to India

Source: Ministry of Tourism

With the UK responsible for 800,000 visitors to India (65,000 per month), the amount that can be collected is 1,950 crores, which might increase in some times and come down at  others. At a 9% interest rate, we could earn Rs. 180 crores from this exercise! (for a comparison: the center has given Rs. 145 cr. for the rescue efforts in Uttarkhand)

But that is CAG kind of thinking. What will REALLY happen is that UK visitors will not come to India. So the 800,000 will come down to probably 100,000. But it might be a good reason for the UK to remove its anti-India clauses immediately, though it will hurt India in the short term (lower tourism inflows with the rupee already sliding).

Think of it as a duty. They are charging Indians an “anti-dumping” duty, which is how they would charge goods that were imported from a country at an extremely cheap price. The retaliation, if unfair, is for the other country to introduce a counter-duty. It hurts both parties, but if you don’t do it, you’ll be a sissy. India, sadly, has been a sissy too long.

I will, simply put, not “visit” the UK unless someone else is footing this stupid bill. I’m sure a number of others, who have a choice, will not. And the extremely desperate will raise the cash and assume it’s excuse enough to immigrate. But I think a lot of western countries will introduce these kinds of measures, largely to protect local jobs.

IT Impact: this could cost more for IT companies who send people for short term assignments but they are already bloated with so much cash that giving it to the UK might not impact them much.  TCS, HCL Tech, Infy and Satyam/TechM are impacted.

Tourist operator impact: Expect tourist operators (“Visit Europe in 15 days”) to either demand 10 day visas, or cut out London from their itinerary from November.

  • s anand says:

    My 2p:
    a. UK, London esp is a financial hub. There is a segment of Indians who will go ,regardless. They may crib, but they will go.
    b. As you’ve noted, its likely that shorter duration visas will be introduced. Takes the 14 day Europe tourist out of the equation.
    c. As you’ve also noted, the illegal alien will find a way . Albeit pricier.
    d. It is their country. Don’t want to follow their rules, don’t go
    e. When body scans and fingerprinting started at US airports, I remember a similar “we’re offended” reaction here. Everyone quietly fell in line.
    Perhaps our response could be :
    a. Quiet diplomacy not boorish blackmailing .
    Threatening trade ties is the worst thing we can do to our already fragile economy. They may need our business but equally, we need them.
    Far better for the govt. to persuade the FO to introduce ‘conditionalities’ for 6 month visas and grant shorter visas .
    b. Use social media
    Get those nationalistic NRI tweeters to work . Refreshing change to our TLs will be welcome. Levity apart, change has to come from within the UK – influential NRIs, friendly MPs , Indian companies with British employees , all the dhandhaless Indo-UK lobby groups should be well briefed to pitch in. This law is a consequence of domestic policy after all.
    We only need to see anti Northerner sentiment south /west of the Vindhyas to know large scale migration is inflammatory .
    c. Work overtime on the EU
    What will hit us really hard is if the Schengen visa gets linked to a bond too. Lets nip that one in the bud.
    d. Sissiness is a state of mind.
    We need to be smart. The long term effect of reciprocal action will harm us.
    SA

    • Agreed about fin hub – there, the companies will pay for the visit and the bond.
      Also it *is* their rules. When India had shitty rules they didn’t come. When they have shitty rules we don’t go. Body scans and fingerprinting aren’t a big deal for most Indians I think, the amount of body scanning that used to happen at airports was insane.
      Quiet diplomacy doesn’t work; it hasn’t worked. It works only when you have the threat of harsh measures. India has been a sissy and has never taken harsh measures in retaliation, so any diplomacy attempt from our side will be a weakness. It’s best to create the press release right now, saying we’ll charge UK residents 300K rupees. Then do the diplomacy to see how each country can take a step forward.
      Social media is a joke. They don’t ever really achieve anything through this measure at least not a country policy level.
      EU will have to introduce some limits. They are really the ones importing from the whole world while their unemployment soars. They will definitely put hurdles on imports and on foreigners coming in to work. However, visit visas might not be a problem.
      Sissiness is not a state of mind – it’s a state of (in)action. The protocol of engagement is that you must not be seen as weak, and you must have leverage. Otherwise the deal is one-sided. Trade cuts will hurt us, but Britain is in a far worse economic state. An assault will only wound the weak, but it can kill the wounded.

      • Murty says:

        How about being nanny?
        There are hundreds of students visiting UK, paying a hefty fee for that particular Interantional Degree. Also some of the degrees or NOT Worthy, and after paying a huge fee, they come back and try to settle locally.
        IT was going out and loot the world in the good olden days, and not it is invite them, and loot them.
        Probably, the other reason is that the people of these country origin get in either legally/illegally, claim unemployment benefits and stay back forever. these kind of pople are there, from what I heard.

  • s anand says:

    Wont debate this further but the assertion that fingerprinting mayn’t bother us but a visa bond would, is troubling. Opens up a new argument on privacy, security and the assumption of potential guilt . But will leave this for another day. Ciao.

  • chaitanya says:

    I think we need to look at this in context. I am a maharashtrian living in UK for last 2 years. Not a single street goes without a Asian. If marathi people are getting pushed out in Mumbai and they retaliate then how else Englishmen will react? After all human psychology is same everywhere. One needs to understand political fallout of immigration. India needs be financially strong to retaliate. Otherwise it is just emotional reaction.

  • Phoenix says:

    Better to forget about the issue. Their visas were always expensive compared to US. It is their loss. If a dog (with due respect) bites you, you can’t bite the dog.

  • Bhushan says:

    Retaliating on UK visitors will impact our tourism revenue. I suggest we help UK government further by imposing 300K bond on every person leaving for UK (yes, Indians leaving for UK). It will soon hurth their universities and tourism to some extent. Also, Indian givt will get some more revenue.
    If you think people will leave for some other county first and then go to UK, then impose this bond (or may be a non-returnable fee of 10K) on everyone who has a valid UK visa stamped. Let us see who suffers.

    • Strongly disagree. The UK is being stupid, and only iron cuts iron, so a retaliatory duty will help. Taxing Indians going abroad is totally ridiculous. The west can be an idiot sometimes, and this is one of those times.

  • Wannabe tourist says:

    The 3000 pound bond — ridiculous idea, ludicrous amount. The number of Indian tourists will drop drastically.
    There are ample number of foreigners overstaying in India because of our too liberal visa policy, which needs to be tightened.

  • UK should bow their heads in shame because this pure act of racism and extortion from Africans and other national mentioned in the list they are rating as high risk. I think Ghanaian government should recall the Ghanaian embassy in UK and ask UK embassy to leave Ghana since they have proven beyond reasonable doubt by this singular act of racism that they obviously don’t want us in their country.Ghanaians and all who are against racism should rise up and fight against this modern form rascism!!!

  • Sri Vastav says:

    I am an Indian settled in UK. I would like to point out few facts I would like to make them aware. The following facts are based on survey carried out for a research project by a student in London University.
    1. 79.5% of the students who come to study in the UK for higher education want to settle permanently in the UK.
    2. 70% of the students think that the Higher Education in the UK are not considered for jobs in India unless they are from Oxford or Cambridge university.
    3. 80% of the students work part time to pay for the fees and maintenance costs thus recouping fees and travel expenses.
    4. 30% students overstay in the UK until they are traced by the UK border Agency.
    5. Majority of the over stayer remain and work in the UK until they are found and deported.
    6. 15% of the students bring their spouse who can work full time.
    7. Most of the Postgraduate courses are setup only for the foreign students
    8. 25% of the colleges offer their own postgraduate certificates not affiliated to any university.

    • PrAvEen says:

      What I understood when seeing many of my cousins & friends who went to UK & came back to found that their UK degree is useless.
      1) First people try for US, unable to clear TOEFL or get seat there they look for other alternatives UK or Australia
      2) I feel even UK had some untold benefits due to our students like
      a) filling their Universities with students who pay more fees
      b) Getting cheap labour who can do work like delivery bods, departmental stores etc

  • Murty says:

    That is good info….Sri VastavJi,
    Please enlighten us:::::
    Why people are crazy about the UK Education?
    While majority of US Students try and get to settle in US, and get Green Cards etc., why the Degrees obtained from UK fail to support them in UK? I see some of our guys going to UK, but returning empty handed, after buring a HUGE Hole in the pockets. These UK degrees are found to be worth less in India…..
    Still they go there! why on earth?

  • Ashok Bharwani says:

    After reading all the comments by Indians, I read one by Ghanian who was aggressive by saying send back UK diplomat and bring back Ghanian diplomat. This is what you call self respect and someone who considers this as racism. Personally as Indian, this is an insult to a 5th Major power of the world and having close to 1.2 billion people, to be treated as a third class nation, UK dares to insult Indians because always in the past Indians have been taking insults lightly. This gives impression to Europe and America that you can insult Indians and the country itself and get away, because we prefer economic benefits instead of self respect and dignity. Indians always and when i mean always, its not only the people but the government also prefer to overlook insults by other nations in favour of economic benefits and what India stands to lose income wise if we take stern action or stand up for our dignity and self respect. So with this kind of attitude Indians could expect more insults from Europeans and Americans.
    I suggest that self respectful people should demand that the Indian government charge non Indian origin citizens equal amount of visa fee, such as a tit for tat action. But for Indians holding British citizenship/passport should not be charged additional bond fee. It is the European British who have applied racism on Indians. Why should British Indians suffer. This action would be an insult to the European British as we segregate them against British Indians. Infact i consider this British racism action as an insult worse then being at war with them. To me war is acceptable. But insult to our Nationals is the most degrading fact. To acceptuch insults only makes one a slave that they once use to treat us.

    • Murty says:

      Rightly said Ashok Ji,
      It is like the dog bites you and you let some more meat for the DOG.
      I found a facebook entry a few days back from incredible facts india. It is interesting!
      https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?v=115703045297347&set=vb.119803911513523&type=2&theater
      In my opinion, NO ONE , listen, NO ONE can INSULT YOU or MAKE YOU happy, unless YOU ALLOW TO DO SO.
      We are in a vicious circle called BLAME GAME. We blame every one else for our faults. No, doubt, it IS the BRITS who are insulting us, but why craving for them? Going frenzy after their Universities? It is the purchsing power of their Currency, which our fellow citizens are attracted to. SELF RESPECT? Who cares?