Saturday, 21 February 2009

Britain has right to review future visa waiver

Star 11 Feb 2009 KUALA LUMPUR: Britain reserves the right to periodically review Malaysia’s visa-free status despite it having recently passed the visa waiver test period.

British High Commissioner Boyd McCleary said the country’s success in retaining its status was not the “end of story” and that efforts to reduce Malaysian overstayers by the Immigration authorities here should be an “ongoing process”.

“We reserve the right to review the situation not only for Malaysia but for many countries. However, I am confident that if Malaysian authorities continue to work together with us, the country will continue to enjoy the six-month free visa status.

“It really depends on how Malaysians react to the visa-free status,” he told reporters after announcing a nationwide publicity blitz on Wednesday on the country’s visa regime and the implications of abusing it.

McCleary said despite the recent reduction in the number of overstayers, Malaysia was still in the list of top ten countries whose nationals committed the offence. It was announced recently that Malaysians could continue to visit and remain in Britain without a visa for up to six months. Malaysia was in a group of 11 non-European countries whose visa-exempt status was reviewed by Britain from mid-2008. McCleary also warned those caught overstaying that besides being imposed with jail sentences and fines by the British authorities, their passports would also be marked with a chop to indicate they had committed an offence.

“They can then have their passports detained by the Malaysian Immigration Department or even withdrawn entirely,” he said, adding that Britain was also discussing the possibility of having a memorandum of understanding with Malaysia on the exchange of information and better cooperation between immigration officials.

UK Border Agency regional manager for South-East Asia Jon Drew said Malaysians intending to study in Britain could expect some “procedural changes” in their application for visas in March.

“This is because educational institutions will now have to be licensed by our agency. This should make their application for visas simpler,” he said.

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