Theresa May
Theresa May, the home secretary, said the pilot scheme is to be introduced from November

Visitors from India, Pakistan, Nigeria and other "high risk" Asian and African nations will have to pay a £3,000 "cash bond" to enter Britain under a pilot scheme to be introduced by Theresa May, the home secretary.

The scheme, beginning in November, will target visitors from seven countries as part of a drive to bring down immigration and curb abuses of the system.

Visitors will forfeit the bond if they fail to leave the country by the time their visa has expired.

The controversial move to introduce the Australian-style system comes as the Conservatives face a growing threat from Ukip, whose message about the impact of migrants on jobs and public spending appears to have struck a chord with the public.

The scheme will initially target hundreds of visitors before being rolled out to target many thousands.

The introduction of bonds is likely to be criticised by pro-immigration groups as it does not target applicants from the "white Commonwealth". A similar scheme was rejected in Canada amid claims it discriminated against immigrants unlawfully.

May said this weekend that immigration bonds were key to her plans to reduce annual net migration to below 100,000 by 2015 - in line with a target set by David Cameron.

"This is the next step in making sure our immigration system is more selective, bringing down net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands while still welcoming the brightest and the best to Britain," she said.

"In the long run we're interested in a system of bonds that deters overstaying and recovers costs if a foreign national has used our public services."

The first scheme will cover India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Ghana. Visitors from these countries who are aged over 18 and on six-month tourist visas will have to pay the £3,000 from November.

The countries were selected due to the high volume of visitor visa applications and relatively high levels of fraud and abuse. Last year 296,000 visitors granted six-month visas were from India, 101,000 from Nigeria, 53,000 from Pakistan and a further 14,000 each from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

The Home Office does not release data on levels of fraud and abuse. But an official said those were the countries with "the most significant risk of abuse", the Sunday Times reported.

A second category will cover lower risk countries such as Kenya, where British officials believe the applicant to be genuine but have "residual doubts" about their intentions to return home.

Several hundred visitors will be selected from each country for the trial scheme. But ministers plan to extend it to all visa types, including work and student visas, and to all countries, although it will not cover every one of the 2.2m people granted visas each year. Visitors from the EU will be exempt.

The move will require a change in immigration rules but not a vote by MPs. The home secretary will put a commencement order before parliament later this summer that will activate a power under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

Officials say the scheme will cut abuses that result in tens of thousands of visitors staying on in Britain after their visas expire. Many find work in the black economy but still use public services such as the NHS.

One official said the £3,000 bond was not an "entry fee", and that those willing to pay could still be refused entry.

Australia has operated an immigration bond system since the 1990s , whereby a relative or government official must provide a guarantee, in the form of a bond, that a visitor will leave the country before their visa expires.