British Prime Minister, Theresa May’s first official visit outside of the EU was to India; a clear indication of how important the world’s second most populous country is to the UK. However, her government’s simultaneous tough crackdown on students and professionals coming to Britain sent a very conflicting message to the world’s fastest growing economy in 2016.
The UK’s best immigration solicitors, businesses and investors have long appreciated the significant contribution Indian nationals have made to Britain’s culture and economy. The relationship between the countries goes back many decades, which is why questions are being raised as to the wisdom of some of the British government’s new policies which often hit Indian migrants to the UK the hardest.
Links between Britain and India
Britain and India have always enjoyed an especially close relationship. In 2015, the UK was the third largest source of foreign direct investment in India and in return, India was the UK’s third biggest source of foreign direct investment (FDI).
Each year, more than 21,000 Indian’s arrive to study and from an employment perspective, Tata Group alone provide 65,000 jobs in the UK.
Drop in student numbers
In the last five years, the number of students from India coming to study in the UK on a Tier 4 student visa has dropped by almost 50%. An Indian government spokesman, Mr Vikas Swarp, told the Observer just prior to Ms May’s visit that this is largely down to the restrictions placed on post-graduate study in the UK.
As Home Secretary, Theresa May ended the post-work study visa in 2010. This visa allowed graduates to work in the UK for two years after graduating from a British university. Now, Indian students find it difficult to find employment with an employer who holds a UK Sponsor Licence.
Indian workers facing tough restrictions on Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Visa Applications
Another area of concern for Indian nationals are the changes to the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Visa. Under the new visa rules, anyone applying for an Intra-company Transfer Visa is required to meet a higher salary threshold requirement of £30,000 - a £2,000 increase from the previous amount needed.
The Intra-company Transfer route is largely used by Indian IT companies in Britain and the UK's Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) had found earlier this year that Indian IT workers accounted for nearly 90 % of visas issued under this route.
The technology industry in the UK has issued repeated warnings to the government that if it cannot continue to recruit foreign talent, Britain will lose its place as the Fintech capital of the world.
Engineering lobby groups have also stated that Britain is likely to be short of one million engineers over the next few years and will need access to Indian talent to fill the gaps.
immigration lawyers have been working overtime with Indian-based companies and skilled workers trying to organise the best visa arrangements so they can take advantage of opportunities in the UK.
Late last year, business leaders put pressure on the government to open Britain’s doors to more skilled Indian workers and students to boost the economy and help secure a post-Brexit trade deal. In response, Ms May announced a new initiative to make it easier for wealthy business-people from India to enter Britain.
Under the scheme, named the Great Club, a restricted number of high-net-worth individuals and their families will benefit from faster visa applications. In addition, thousands of executives will be able to take advantage of the Registered Traveller Scheme to speed their passage through UK airports. As many as 10,000 business visitors on Tier 2 work visas are expected to benefit from the Scheme, which removes the requirement for landing cards on arrival in the UK and allows them to use e-passport gates to leave the airport quickly.
However, the Prime Minister rejected any calls for loosening restrictions on the requirements for Indian students and workers, stating a “good system” was already in place.
The best immigration solicitors and business advisors in the UK have repeatedly warned the Prime Minister and her government that any further restrictions on Indian migrants entering the UK, either on a Tier 4 (Student) Visa, Tier 2 (Intra-company transfer) or Tier 2 (General) Visa could have a damaging impact on the British economy long-term, especially as UK employers face losing access to EU labour when Britain leaves the EU.
Only time will tell if Westminster will listen.
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Posted on: Monday, 09 January, 2017