Priti Patel reveals new plans for digital visas
The Home Secretary has announced that she plans to introduce digital visas that mimic the US style of visas, which will help the government to gather a more accurate number of people entering and exiting the UK.
If the new system goes ahead people who are travelling to the UK without a visa or permanent residency status will be required to apply for an electronic travel authorisation (ETA) document, similar to the way that those using the US Visa Waiver Program to travel to the united states must make an ESTA application.
The purpose of the ETA will be to determine whether travellers are eligible to enter the UK without a physical visa.
The Home Office has estimated that they will receive around 30 million ETA applications every year.
Migration data was wrong
The new digital system is being introduced after recent evidence suggested that long-held estimates of migration data were significantly wrong.
Prior to Brexit, the Home Office believed that around 3 million Europeans lived in the UK and would apply to settle in the UK under the EU settlement scheme. However, more than 5.4 million people have now applied to the scheme and 4.9 million have been granted settled status.
Government figures estimated around 144.7 million passenger arrivals in the year to June 2019, including returning UK residents. Approximately 40 million were from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. Those from elsewhere numbered around 20 million.
However, these are just estimates, but the new system would give a more accurate number. Priti Patel said:
“Our new fully digital border will provide the ability to count people in and out of the country, giving us control over who comes to the UK.”
Plans for the new visas are vague
In a speech on Monday, Priti Patel outlined her plans for the new digital visa. During the online conference she said:
“We will have a far clearer picture of who is here, and whether they should be, and we will act if they are not.”
However, in a question and answer session that followed her speech, the Home Secretary failed to answer key questions about the new digital system. Patel declined to say how much the ETA applications would cost and whether a new one would be required for each visit that an individual makes.
The New Plan for Immigration
The plan for US-style digital visas comes as the consultation period for the Home Secretary’s New Plan for Immigration has come to a close.
Under the New Plan, asylum seekers will have their cases judged on the basis of the way that they arrived in the UK. The plan has come under much criticism from human rights organisations, who point our that many asylum seekers are forced to use irregular routes due to the lack of safe routes to asylum that are available, and that to deny them safety on this basis would be inhumane.
In her speech on Monday, Patel reiterated her promise to clampdown on the asylum system. She appeared to direct her comments towards a group of protesters in Glasgow who recently prevented two men from being detained by immigration enforcement when she said: “I have a message to those who seek to disrupt our enforcement officers: they should think about whether their actions may be preventing murderers, rapists or high-harm offenders from being removed from our community. And they should think long and hard about the victims of these crimes.”
There is no evidence that either of the men in Glasgow had committed any crimes.
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