UK-India form panel to discuss liberalising visa regime

A deal has been put forward by the UK offering more visas for Indians in exchange for increased co-operation in taking back migrants who have overstayed their permission to remain.

Mumbai. Theresa May visits India. UK-India Visa
Prime Minister Theresa May, who ended a three-day trade mission to India on Tuesday, has left the door open for a future easing of visa requirements for Indian businessmen and students.Prime Minister Narendra Modi has used Mrs May's visit to renew pressure for a more liberal UK visa regime for Indian students and for skilled workers – particularly in the IT sector – who face a higher salary threshold to qualify under the Tier 2 visa system for non-EU workers.

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In response, Mrs May announced a speedier, simplified system for high net worth individuals and visiting businessmen, but offered no concessions on eligibility criteria.However, on the last day of the visit, the UK offered a deal that could see more visas for Indians in return for increased co-operation in taking back migrants who overstay their permission to remain.

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Mrs May said in a statement that both nations agreed to establish a strategic dialogue on home affairs issues covering visas, returns and organised crime."As part of this, the UK will consider further improvements to our visa offer if at the same time we can step up the speed and volume of returns of Indians with no right to remain in the UK," she said. And in a joint statement, the two leaders said, "Both countries agreed to strengthen co-operation by implementing an expedited process for verifying the nationality and issuing travel documents." 

India will have one of the best UK visa services worldwide

It added that changes to speed up visa applications meant that "India will have one of the best UK visa services of any country in the world, with more application points than anywhere else and the only place where you can get a same day visa".The statement added, "The two prime ministers acknowledged the valuable contributions of the 1.5 million strong Indian diaspora to British society and their role in furthering bilateral relations. "To this end, both parties agreed that visa regimes need to be as simple and efficient as possible for students, businesses, professionals, diplomats and officials and other travellers, including facilitating short-term mobility of skilled personnel between the two countries."

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Announcing the launch of a bi-annual, UK-India dialogue on home affairs issue, the statement said, "The prime ministers expect this dialogue to make progress on key issues of mutual concern, including opportunities to make the visa system simpler and more efficient, and steps to improve the integrity of border and immigration systems." 

A "raw deal" compared to China

However, Lord Bilimoria, the founder of the Cobra beer company, told the BBC that Indians would still be getting a raw deal on visas compared to the one the UK extended to China last year and which now means Chinese visitors can get a two-year multiple entry visa for less than £100."This was an ideal opportunity for the Prime Minister to say, 'Here in India, you can have exactly the same as we're offering China.' Because we know that many Indian visitors we lose out from in the UK, and the UK economy loses out on, because they go as far as Paris and do not come to the UK," he said.And British entrepreneur Sir James Dyson also called for a liberalisation of visa rules for Indians when he addressed a meeting of business leaders in New Delhi. "We should let more people from India in on visas and people who study here should be allowed to stay here and they should be told they can stay before they come," he said."The government needs to change its mind on this one because we are going to be one million engineers short in the coming years. We only have a quarter of the engineers we actually need."

For related news and features, visit our Immigration and India sections.

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