UK Politics

Foreign executives to get 'personalised' visa service

UK Border Agency
Image caption The government wants to cut the level of net migration in the UK while still attracting highly-skilled individuals

Foreign business executives with "strong links" to the UK will get help to expedite their visa applications under a new Home Office scheme.

About 100 "high value" executives will be invited to join the new Great Club, to ensure their immigration checks are completed "swiftly and smoothly".

They will be offered personal support in navigating the immigration system, including their own "account manager".

But they will still have to undergo the same checks as ordinary travellers.

The 12-month pilot follows criticism that curbs on immigration are deterring wealth creators from coming to the UK.

The government has made it harder for migrants from outside the EU to come to the UK unless they have specific skills as well as attempting to crack down on students and family members overstaying their visas.

'Priority businesses'

Home Secretary Theresa May said it would enable the UK to maintain a "competitive visa system that can innovate in order to serve the ever-changing needs of business and ensure Britain succeeds in the global race".

"We will continue to listen and respond to the needs of high-value and high-priority businesses so that we can provide them with a service that supports economic growth while at the same time maintains the security of our borders."

Last month, Chancellor George Osborne said the UK would be simplifying its visa procedures to make it easier for Chinese visitors to enter the country.

A same-day business-oriented visa service, currently in force in India, will be introduced in China and other countries.

The number of countries benefiting from a priority visa service - which enables eligible applicants to have their applications fast-tracked on paying a fee - will rise from 67 to 90 by next April.

Business Secretary Vince Cable and Mayor of London Boris Johnson are among those to have warned against deterring the "brightest and the best" from coming to the UK, amid claims that tougher requirements for foreign students to stay in the UK after graduation are putting many off from coming in the first place.

And plans to impose visa restrictions on Brazilians were put on hold earlier this year amid concerns that it would damage commercial links with Brazil's fast-growing economy.

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