Chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond on Tuesday brushed aside suggestions that Britain’s visa restrictions are impacting the travel of Indian workers to the UK, saying Indians account for a majority of work visas.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, Hammond said: “The truth is that we issue more visas to Indians than all other nationalities put together. Sixty per cent of work visas issued by the UK go to Indians.”
Hammond is in New Delhi for the UK-India economic and financial dialogue aimed at promoting trade and investments between the two countries.
As India and the UK look at a free trade agreement (FTA), Hammond said that there would be detailed discussions on visa issues. “Our migration approach has to move towards high-skilled professionals and that is what Indian companies also want,” he added.
The FTA is likely to be formalised after Britain formally leaves the European Union (EU). Britain formally began its divorce from the bloc in March.
As a series of new visa restrictions come into effect from April 6, apprehensions about their impact on India are high. The new restrictions include an “immigration skills charge” of £1000 a year, higher salary thresholds and a health surcharge.
Requests from India to review the student visa regime in the UK have also been pending. Britain’s visa policy requires that students return home after their course ends, and this has led to a drastic fall in enrolments.
But Hammond had a different take: “Indian student visas to the UK did decline because we closed down bogus colleges. After a decline, student numbers are growing again.
“All students from a recognised university in the UK can take graduate level work and get a two-year visa,” he said, adding that the UK is seeing the number of enrolments pick up again.
A recent research report showed that Indian and other non-EU students contributed nearly £26 billion to Britain’s economy and supported more than 200,000 jobs.