Deon P. Green, Gleaner Writer
A wave of United Kingdom visa restrictions now looms for several Caribbean nations.
The possibility of these restrictions comes at the same time as current immigration rules make it tougher for Caribbean and other Commonwealth nationals to work or seek residence status in Britain.
Visa considerations for seven Caribbean territories are now being dealt with, while the immigration amendments began taking effect yesterday.
The British government says it was considering introducing visa requirements for visitors from the territories after the United Kingdom (UK) Border Agency visa waiver test results showed a strong case for introducing visa regimes for Dominica and St Lucia. No details of the shortcomings of those countries were released.
Britain will now work with the two nations to ensure that they take action to address the UK's concerns during a six-month mitigation period, which started on Monday, March 29.
A final decision will not be taken until the review period expires.
Further analysis of results of the visa waiver test on Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines is being done.
The review will determine the risk citizens of those countries potentially pose to the UK in terms of illegal immigration and crime and security to help decide where visitors' visas may be required.
Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines will retain their visa-free status for now, the authorities say.
Last year, Trinidad and Tobago faced similar scrutiny before they were allowed to remain visa free.
At the same time, the UK immigration rules to the five-tier system that analyses potential workers seeking to enter the UK have become tougher.
Most highly skilled sought
The five-tier system seeks to attract only the most highly skilled, qualified and experienced persons to Britain. The amendment will cover asylum seekers, English language qualifications and marriage visas for members of the armed forces.
Under the changes, certificates of sponsorship must meet the new criteria, even if it had been assigned before the new rules became effective. The changes, the authorities say, will continue to reflect an immigration system that benefits the UK.
The changes are also aimed at British employers.
British employers are already faced with many tough sanctions, including a £5,000 fine for each illegal immigrant they employ.
The changes recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) include new points criteria for very highly skilled workers without master's degrees, greater flexibility for short-term transfers by multinational companies and more protection against the use of such transfers to fill long-term vacancies that should go to resident workers.
Only those needed
British authorities also contend that the points-based system will ensure that only those who are needed will be able to go to, work or remain in Britain.
The government accepted the changes recommended by the MAC, and has already set out details of how it would implement them.
In 2003, the British government imposed visa restrictions on Jamaicans.
British authorities had, at the time, assured the Jamaican Government that the restriction was an immigration measure but it remains widely believed to have been a response to growing fears over drug trade and gun-related crime allegedly associated with Jamaicans.
At Jamaica National Building Society forums across England last month, Jamaicans argued that, despite the decrease in drugs entering Britain from Jamaica through technical and other assistance from the UK and the United States, there had been no review of those restrictions.