By PAUL GABRIEL
KUALA LUMPUR: After an eight-month anxious wait, Malaysians will know tomorrow if they will need visas to visit Britain.
The British Home Secretary will make an announcement in London, following which the Malaysian Government will be officially informed.
There is no indication yet as to what that decision would be. The six-month visa-free status could be retained, revoked or the duration reduced.
Another option for Britain is to opt to extend the visa waiver test period to give Malaysia more time to comply with its security requirements.
It is learnt that British High Commissioner Boyd McCleary has informed Wisma Putra that the Home Office would make the announcement tomorrow.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, when contacted in Kota Kinabalu yesterday, confirmed that McCleary would relay the British Government's decision to him.
"Britain and Malaysia enjoy close historical links and we hope the decision would favour this. We have done our best to comply with Britain's requirements," a senior Wisma Putra official told The Star.
Malaysia is in a group of 11 non-European countries, which include Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Lesotho, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela, whose visa-exempt status was reviewed by Britain from mid-2008.
Nationals from these countries were said to pose a risk of illegal immigration, crime and security, and all 11 countries had a six-month period to significantly reduce these risks.
McCleary said that preliminary investigations by Britain identified Malaysia as one of the countries posing a risk in terms of illegal entry, visa abuse and crime.
Meanwhile, the student tier (Tier 4) under Britain's tough new points-based visa system will be enforced in March.
"Malaysian students wishing to study in Britain will have to apply for student visas online and will receive merit points based on their answers.
"This is to ensure that only genuine students get to go," said a British High Commission official. -The Star/Asia News Network