This month, the UK will formally offer to alter visa regulations to make it easier and less expensive for Indian citizens to come to the UK to work and study.
According to a story in The Times, International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan will make the offer when she visits Delhi later this month in the hopes of securing a free trade agreement (FTA) with India.
The Indian government has long pushed for a simpler and less expensive visa regime for its people in the United Kingdom. An Indian businessman’s visa can cost up to £1,400, while a British businessman’s visa in India costs £165 each year.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is claimed to be willing to change the post-Brexit points-based immigration system for tens of thousands of Indians in order to secure a free trade agreement with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
According to The Times, one of the proposed relaxations is a system similar to the one agreed upon with Australia, which would allow young Indians to live and work in the UK for up to three years. Another plan would reduce student immigration payments and allow them to stay in the UK for two years or longer after graduation.
The news of visa relaxations was “nothing unexpected,” a senior Indian ambassador in London told the Times of India (ToI) this week. Another source told the newspaper that an FTA will be announced when Mr Johnson visits India later this year, and that it will be signed before Delhi and the European Union conclude a trade agreement.
The ToI commented: “India currently charges huge import tariffs of up to 150 per cent on some of the UK’s most important exports, such as cars and whisky. An FTA that removes or reduces these taxes would make UK goods more competitive in the Indian market. The trade deal would also provide an opportunity to deepen cooperation between the two countries’ respective services sectors.”
According to Kevin McCole, managing director of the UK-India Business Council, thorough surveys revealed that firms across all sectors in both nations had high hopes for an FTA.
“Business wants to see a reduction in tariffs, plus greater alignment of standards and of IP and data protection rules so as to realize the full potential of the India-UK partnership, particularly in the innovative, R&D-intensive sectors that will drive the partnership in the years to come. Businesses are also interested in an interim, or early harvest deal,” he said.