LONDON: Visiting Olympic athletes, coaches and officials will be banned from marrying while they are in Britain because of Home Office concerns they will exploit the Games to try to claim residency.
Nearly 20,000 people from outside the European Union will be issued with six-month visas that bar them from forming any civil partnerships or marriages. They will also be barred from applying for visas to study in Britain. The restrictions were imposed amid concerns the Olympics will be a target for illegal immigrants and terrorists trying to get into Britain.
Last year, two 16-year-old athletes from Cameroon absconded from Manchester airport after competing in the Commonwealth Youth Games; while at the 2002 Commonwealth Games - also in Manchester - almost all of the 30-strong Sierra Leone team disappeared.
The UK Border Agency is so concerned about people abusing their visas that it has told all 204 national Olympic committees to inform their athletes, coaches and officials of restrictions during their stay in Britain.
They will be required to provide evidence they will be in Britain for no longer than six months and will not take any other form of employment. They will also have to demonstrate they have enough money to support themselves and meet the cost of their return journey.
Athletes and officials will all have fingerprints and face-scans taken when they arrive, which UK Border Agency officials believe could lead to longer queues. A temporary terminal is being built at Heathrow to try to take the strain of accredited people as well as ticket holders and visitors.
The security operation applies to all foreigners regardless of whether they are entitled to a visa waiver, including those from the US. The government is likely to step up the national terrorism threat to ''severe'' during the 16-day Games, which begin on July 27, meaning an attempted attack is highly likely.
Some international athletes with criminal convictions are also likely to face difficulty entering Britain.
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