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Moves to tighten UK immigrant access; POLITICS.

British people who marry foreigners could be barred from bringing their wife or husband into the country unless they speak English, Home Office Minister Liam Byrne has announced.

Mr Byrne, MP for Hodge Hill in Birmingham, unveiled a series of meas-ures to toughen up immigration.

They include ending the loophole which means spouses are immune from laws banning other immigrants from settling permanently in Britain unless they pass an English test.

The proposals mean British people under the age of 21 will be barred from sponsoring a wife or husband for a marriage visa.

The change in the law effectively means nobody under 21 can marry a foreigner and bring them to Britain.

The measure is designed to combat forced marriage by making it difficult for parents to pressure teenage girls into marrying.

But it was described as "discriminatory" by pressure group the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

Habib Rahman, the organisation's chief executive, said: "We are concerned it would prevent large numbers of genuine marriages."

The Government will consider introducing a new bond system allowing British people to pay money guaranteeing the good behaviour of a relative from overseas, Mr Byrne said.

A British citizen could pay pounds 1,000 to help a relative gain a visa to stay for a period.

They may also have to promise to accommodate the applicant and pay for any non-emergency medical care they require.

If the relative obeyed immigration laws and left when their visa expired, the money would be returned.

Details of the scheme, including cost, are being worked on and the proposal will form part of a Government consultation.

Mr Byrne said: "The idea came from comments made to us by people in the West Midlands.

"It's about allowing people to guarantee a relative who visits will obey the rules, if it makes it easier for them to come here."

The proposals were part of a major Government announcement yesterday about Britain's borders.

The UK will set up bio-metric border controls, testing iris prints and fingerprints, so the identity of visitors can be confirmed before they have left their own country.

The Home Office said it planned to examine whether tourist visas should be reduced from six to three months.

It raised the possibility of a special visa for visitors to the 2012 London Olympics, which would be offered at a discount and shorter than normal.

The Home Office will assess every country outside the EU on criteria such as the threat of terrorism and organised crime, to see whether citizens should require a visa.

It will establish a committee to make recommendations on the number of immigrants allowed into Britain based on the needs of employers and the impact on services.

Mr Byrne said: "The days when border control started at the White Cliffs of Dover are over. Border control has to start as far from our shores as possible."
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 29, 2007
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