Critics attack 1,000 bond scheme for foreign relatives who visit UK

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Moves to make families pay bonds of up to 1,000 to sponsor visits by foreign relatives have been condemned as discriminatory.

Ministers, who also intend to halve the length of tourist visas to three months, believe the plan will deter visitors from remaining in the country after their permission to stay runs out.

But senior Labour MPs and immigration groups protested that the size of the bonds imposed on visitors from outside the European Union was excessive.

Keith Vaz, the Labour MP for Leicester East, warned that families staging big weddings could not be expected to afford to put up 20,000 to sponsor the 20 relatives who might be planning to attend.

Mr Vaz, who is chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: "I hope the Government will listen to local communities and MPs who have large immigration caseloads."

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said the charge would indirectly discriminate against ethnic minorities, who would see it as a deliberate obstacle to deter visitors.

Its chief executive, Habib Rahman, added: "It will create hardship for families. This means only people with fat wallets will be able to bring their families."

Liam Byrne, the Immigration Minister, said the financial guarantee would not apply to all visitors, just those considered at risk of failing to return home.

He also announced that more than one million fingerprints had been collected from foreign nationals planning to visit the UK as part of its biometrics visas programme.

The proposals were set out in a Home Office paper that also floated the idea of cutting the length of tourist visas and creating a new business visa and a one-off visa for such events as the 2012 Olympics.

The Labour-controlled Home Affairs Select Committee also wrote yesterday to the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to call on her to pay the proposed police wage rise in full.

She is refusing to backdate the 2.5 per cent rise to September and has paid it from this month, effectively trimming it to 1.9 per cent.

It said the Government should "honour the recommendations of the independent tribunal. This is a question of trust".