British citizens who invite family members to visit from overseas will be jailed or fined up to £5,000 if relatives break immigration rules, Birmingham Minister Liam Byrne has announced.
The measure could affect anyone who sponsors a visa for a relative coming to Britain, for example to attend a wedding or other family event.
They will now be held responsible for the behaviour of visitors, in an effort to prevent the immigration system being abused.
Sponsors will be prosecuted if the relative fails to leave the country once their visa runs out. They could also be banned from sponsoring any visas in the future.
The measures are part of a shake-up of the immigration system which has included the introduction of a Australian-style points based system, in which potential immigrants are granted entry or turned away based on their skills and education.
Mr Byrne said: “Now we are introducing an Australian-style points system for selective migration, it makes sense to tighten visit visas at the same time.
“The changes I am announcing today will help create a fairer Britain with fair treatment for those who play by the rules, but tough action against those who break the law.
“We want the UK to stay open and attractive for both business and visitors. But at the same time we are determined to deliver a system of border security which is among the most secure in the world.”
The latest announcement follows the publication last week of the results of a consultation into changes to marriage visas.
Mr Byrne is considering increasing the age at which a British citizen is able to sponsor a spouse from 18 to 21. This would effectively prevent Asian men and women from travelling overseas to marry and then bringing their new spouse into Britain, until they were 21 years old.
Immigration staff are also set to be ordered to look for signs that British women arriving home with new husbands may have been forced into marriage.
However, controversial plans to bar foreign husbands or wives from coming to Britain unless they speak English may be abandoned, after respondents opposed the idea.
Mr Byrne said that he had yet to make up his mind whether the language requirement would still be taken forward.
Consultation about reform to the immigration had included people across Britain - and overseas, Mr Byrne said.
“We know that many people have a stake in us getting this policy right. So we didn’t just run an old fashioned consultation.
“I travelled around the UK listening to people, and led my own delegation of community leaders and businessmen to India to review first hand some of the issues in one of our most important overseas markets.”
The new system will allocate points to potential economic migrants based on whether their skills are currently in demand from British employers.
A panel of industry experts has been set up to advise Ministers about shortages in the labour market. However, a separate body will also monitor the effects of immigration on public services.