Page last updated at 17:56 GMT, Monday, 9 February 2009

Countries face new UK visa rules

Fingerprint being scanned
South Africans will now need to provide fingerprints to enter the UK

South Africans visiting the United Kingdom will need a visa, under new rules issued by the Home Office.

Bolivia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Venezuela also failed a test of the threat posed by their citizens in terms of security, immigration and crime.

Nationals from the five countries will now need to provide fingerprints and pay a fee to obtain a visa before travelling to the UK.

The South African government said it respected the Home Office's decision.

In 2007, 419,000 people legally visited the UK from South Africa, including 168,000 tourists and 46,200 business visitors, while nearly 3,000 were given work permits.

They are the fifth largest group of non-EU visitors to Britain behind citizens of the US, Australia, Canada and Japan.

But a government review of visas has resulted in the five countries being added to a list that already covers three quarters of the world's population, all of whom must apply for visas before travelling.

Fingerprint visas

"The government said it would get tough and we meant it," said immigration minister Phil Woolas.

"Fingerprint visas make up one part of Britain's triple ring of security, alongside high-tech watch-list checks at the border and ID cards for foreign nationals."

First-time visitors to the UK from South Africa will need to apply for visas from 3 March 2009, with the full visa regime coming into effect by mid-2009, the government said.

Visitor visas lasting up to six months will cost 65, and work visas 205.

Six months ago South Africa and 10 other countries were warned to improve their passport security systems or face tougher visa requirements.

Six of these - Botswana, Brazil, Malaysia, Mauritius, Namibia, and Trinidad and Tobago - were adjudged to have improved sufficiently to escape the new rules.

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