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Some countries lose non-visa national status

In our blog in November last year we gave you the good news for some that nationals of Columbia, Guyana and Peru had acquired non-visa national status (“Columbia, Guyana and Peru get non-visa national status”, 7 November). 

As many readers will know, the important difference between visa nationals and non-visa nationals is that the former always require a visa to come to the UK as visitors whereas the latter do not. 

Concerning this subject, an interesting question always hangs in the air: how does the Home Office/Home Secretary decide which countries should be which? An obvious starting point is that countries which produce a lot of asylum-seekers are necessarily going to be visa national countries. 

Another well-established principle is that this subject is not supposed to be affected by how good or bad the diplomatic relationships are between the UK and the country concerned. The UK has good diplomatic relationships with, for example, India – which is incidentally a member of the Commonwealth – but Indians are nonetheless visa nationals.

Sometimes there are other issues; we remember some years ago when South Africa was made a visa national country because of fears about terrorism. 

And very recently the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has downgraded five countries to visa national status: Dominica, Honduras, Namibia, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu. So nationals of those countries will now need to obtain visitor visas before they can visit the UK.

There seem to be various different issues here. The Home Secretary refers to “abuse” of the system, and in the case of Dominica and Vanuatu she says that these countries’ “citizenship by investment” programmes have enabled unsuitable people to come to the UK as non-visa nationals. In the case of Namibia and Honduras she says that a disproportionately high number of nationals of these countries come to the UK as visitors and then claim asylum. And in the case of Timor-Leste she says that some visitors who come to the UK are “non-genuine” (an ominous word popular at the Home Office) and they either make fraudulent immigration applications or work illegally.

Some of these countries are members of the Commonwealth but, as we have already established, this is not enough to save them from their fate. But Ms Braverman is at pains to assert that these changes in the rules are “not a sign of poor relations” with these countries. 

Well, whether these countries choose to take offence is presumably up to them but certainly this latest development, in conjunction with the forthcoming Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme (see “The new Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme”, 3 July), shows a general tightening up of visitor migrant policy. 

If you have any issues or problems concerning visiting the UK we at GSN Immigration will do our best to advise you. 

Oliver Westmoreland

Senior Immigration Lawyer