UK’s visa policies leave bilateral relationship unfinished

UK’s visa policies leave bilateral relationship unfinished

By ANTONIA FILMER | London | 13 November, 2016
British Prime Minister Theresa May, UK, Alumni Union UK, Narendra Modi
British PM Theresa May addresses a press conference in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: IANS
During her India visit, British Prime Minister Theresa May disappointed Indian students and Indians with jobs or businesses in the UK with inadequate visa reforms. Indians rely on people to people relationships and businesses require a free and easy movement of people. Students need an affordable and practical visa.

During her India visit, British Prime Minister Theresa May disappointed Indian students and Indians with jobs or businesses in the UK with inadequate visa reforms. Indians rely on people to people relationships and businesses require a free and easy movement of people. Students need an affordable and practical visa.

Sanam Arora, president of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK, explains that Indian students are consumers of British higher education, in fact they are the largest consumers after the Chinese. They feel the current policies are alienating and have failed their consumer rights. The policies attract only the wealthiest and the system is leaving out some of the brightest who would be so valuable in the field of research and development. Arora says, “Indian students want to go home in the long-term; their requirement is to gain work experience during the short and mid-term after study so they have a USP in the domestic market at home. Since 2011, visa policies have created a hostile feeling in the Indian student community towards Britain. Until now UK has been considered the most desirable study destination, but now other countries (US, Canada and Australia) offer more competitivevisa and work experience options.”

PM May’s punitive immigration regulations are against the tide of opinion. The Opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn supports improved options for Indian visas. He said, “When someone has qualified in medicine, engineering, architecture, law...it’s quite important to them to be able to work for a period of time in this country if that’s what they want to do, as if they return to India they will be better qualified. I would reduce the qualification on the amount they need to earn in order to stay.

“Family reunion is also a big issue in my community and most others where somebody want to bring the rest of their family to this country and they find the figures put for family income for children too high. I think those figures are too high and should be reduced.

“Theresa May needs to understand the issues of visa requirements and understand that if India is to be the major trading partner with Britain that it is then there has got to be much greater ease of travel for work and for study because clearly experts are needed in both directions.”

Paddy Ashdown, former Liberal Democrat leader, agreed: “Theresa May’s dogmatic approach on immigration is damaging Britain’s economy and letting down businesses, including by undermining trade talks during her shambolic trip to India this week… Leading Brexiteers like Priti Patel said a vote to Leave would save British curry houses struggling with a shortage of skilled chefs; now as senior ministers at the heart of this Government these Brexiteers are failing the very businesses they promised to help.”

Lord Bilimoria, Chancellor of the University of Birmingham and president of the UK Council for International Student Affairs said, “Removing international students from net migration figures would send the message to India that international students are welcome here, and this trade visit was the perfect opportunity for Prime Minister Theresa May to raise this. Our former Prime Minister, David Cameron, was willing to do it and even Chancellor Philip Hammond has suggested it, yet Theresa May did not take this opportunity—this was a lost opportunity and left me very disappointed, but in spite of this we are determined to do all we can to enhance our ties with India in every respect.”

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