Nick Clegg has outlined some radical reforms to immigration this morning. Among them is a proposal that people travelling to the UK from outside the EU to work or study on a temporary basis will have to pay over a cash lump sum. They'll only get it back when they leave.
So why is the government doing this, and who will it affect?
Why?Clegg said that the system was 'in disarray' as a result of the previous government's policies. He pointed out that by not monitoring who was arriving and leaving, the system was overwhelmed by the number of people coming to the UK on a temporary basis and then just staying.
He said: "Visa overstayers are the major part of UK Border Agency's enforcement caseload."
As people travel more, for work, for holidays, you have more people coming into the country for temporary periods and so you need to find ways to make sure they leave."
SolutionHis proposed solution is one of security bonds for immigrants from outside the EU. The idea is that those who come to the UK will have to leave a lump sum on deposit, which will be held by the government. When they leave, the money will be repaid. The idea is to give them an incentive not to overstay their visa. According to the BBC, this bond is likely to vary according to circumstances, but will be in four figures.
The Independent said that immigrants from countries which are considered the most likely to want to stay could be charged several thousand pounds.
Clegg emphasised: "The bonds would need to be well targeted - so that they don't unfairly discriminate against particular groups."
HowAt the moment the idea is in its infancy. It is merely a proposal put to the Home Office, for a pilot scheme by the end of the year.
It's not the first time it has been on the table, as the previous Labour government had proposed security bonds of £3,000 - although it never carried the idea through to fruition.
The system is already in place in Australia, where the bonds range from £3,500 to £10,000, and depend partly on where immigrants are travelling from - and therefore how high they think the risk is that the individual will want to stay. The bond is usually forfeited if the individual stays longer than their original visa states.
Elsewhere they work slightly differently. In Singapore, for example, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority will decide whether you need to pay a security deposit when you apply for your visa. These are usually around £650.
Clegg also announced an increase in cash penalties for employers who knowingly employ illegal immigrants. At the moment the maximum fine is £10,000 for each worker - but Clegg said that this limit should be doubled - and called for the Home Secretary to revisit it.