The United Kingdom is about to experiment with an interesting reverse twist on our visa waiver program – a technique that should be considered by our Congress.
Visa waivers are offered by the United States to would-be visitors from a carefully constructed list of nations that do not produce many visa over-stays, such as Japan and Great Britain. It eases travel for these aliens, pleases the lobbyists from the American travel industry, and does not produce much of a headache for the United States.
What the U.K. is about to try is the flip side of such a policy. Aliens coming from six nations that have created a lot of illegal alien problems for Great Britain will need both a tourist visa and a £3,000 bond (about U.S. $5,000). If they leave the U.K. on time (within six months) they will get their money back.
This policy, over time, will produce two sets of benefits for the Brits: 1) money in the Treasury from those who have over-stayed their visas and, more importantly, 2) a handy, complete, self-financed list of all the visa-abusers.
That list presumably will be, or could be, augmented with photos and fingerprints of the potential future visa-abusers, information on their home addresses in the country of origin, their email addresses, where they say they will be visiting in the U.K., even notations about their relatives, if any, in the Great Britain. The data could be collected at the same time the bond is purchased.
The first benefit is mentioned in the June 23 Financial Times, but not the second.
Given the British political system, such an innovation can be, and was in this case, introduced by the executive branch, without need for a vote in parliament. The bonds are set to go into place in November and will be required initially for aliens coming to the U.K. from Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
There was an immediate criticism from the more-migration forces, noting that the six nations were all from non-white nations in the Commonwealth of Nations (i.e., the old British Empire), and that similar regulations were not being imposed on aliens from the white dominions, such as Canada and Australia.
The FT article, unfortunately, did not offer statistics showing, as I am sure that they do, that illegal over-stays are much more likely to come from the six nations on the list, as opposed to the rest of the world.
A Wonderful Precedent for the U.S. Congress
The Brit proposal shows that there are two ways to obtain a list of those who are in the country illegally as a result of visa abuse: the clumsy, expensive, high-tech proposed American way, and the simple, no-cost to the government, British way. (My assumption is that forfeited bonds could fund the whole system.)
One of the issues being debated on Capitol Hill about S.744 is an entry-exit recording system, something nominally mandated by law for a long time, but never implemented. It would provide us with a list of the visa-overstays, if ever completed; and if completed would cost billions of dollars.
There are arguments over whether the biometric bases for such a system would be a resume, a name, and a photo, or those elements plus a computerized facial recognition system, and how much each variation would cost. Trying to impose such a system on only the air- and seaports would be less costly than applying it to them plus the ports of entry (and exit) on land, but the system would be incomplete without the latter.
That's the proposed American system. Universal, high-tech, and massively expensive to either the taxpayers or to the tourists, generally; who would pay for it is up in the air.
The British system, on the other hand, can be either high-tech or low-tech, as desired, would be financed by those who abuse it, and can be focused only on alien travel from nations that are likely to produce illegal aliens.
The proposed American system involves exit control for all leaving the country, or for all without U.S. passports.
The British proposal relies on a strong financial inducement — the return of your £3,000 bond — to secure information on those leaving, and, thus, those not leaving the country. No one but the bonded nonimmigrants would be inconvenienced by the scheme.
The tourist industry and the more migration people would scream to high heaven if this were proposed on the Hill, but what rational person can object to a (perhaps more modest) bonded visa proposal?
After all, no alien would, in the end, pay a dime unless he or she broke our laws.
By the way, such a program would also produce a rotating, interest-free loan to the our deeply indebted government; during the bonded time period, the money – presumably in the billions – would be in our Treasury and would not need to be paid back until the alien in question left the country.
I am grateful to a reader, who does not want to be named, for calling this news article to my attention.