UK cold to London mayor’s India-specific student visa proposal

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Nov 18, 2015 22:28 IST
Students walk past the Radcliffe Camera building in Oxford city centre at Oxford University, in Oxford. (Getty Images)

The David Cameron government is unlikely to consider a proposal by London mayor Boris Johnson for a new student visa to allow Indians to stay on to work for two years after their course ends - a provision popular with Indians till it was closed in 2012.

Johnson made the proposal at a conference with university leaders here on Tuesday but Home Office sources told Hindustan Times it is unlikely to be considered, given the government’s focus on reducing immigration and existing provisions for students to work.

Asked for a response on Johnson’s proposal, a Home Office spokesperson said: “This government will continue to pursue reforms that tackle abuse while attracting the brightest and the best to our world-class universities.”

Much concern has been expressed by university leaders and other stakeholders at the dwindling number of Indian students coming to Britain since 2012. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took up the issue during his recent visit.

University officials said they noted Johnson’s proposal but would not take it seriously until it came from the Home Office, which is responsible for immigration policy, not the London mayor, who, they said, was merely “thinking aloud”.

The closure of the post-study work visa in 2012 is considered a key reason for the drop in Indian students coming to Britain. Recent reports said there has been a significant rise in Indian students going to the US, Canada and Australia.

Johnson laid out two proposals with Indian students in mind, including a Commonwealth work visa for up to two years. This would be with India, in the first instance, but could be extended to other Commonwealth countries.

Second, he proposed a work visa for graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for up to two years. Though not restricted to nationality, this would be attractive to Indian students for whom STEM degrees are popular. It would help to meet a critical skills shortage in the UK in areas such as life sciences, engineering and technology.

The Home Office spokesperson said: “We welcome Indian students who want to come to the UK to study at our world-leading institutions. There is no limit to the number of students who can do this, just like there is no limit on the number of graduates who can continue to live and work in the UK in graduate jobs after completing their degree.

“We issue more visas to students from India than any other country except China and the US. And the steps we have taken since 2010 to crack down on bogus colleges mean that around 90% of Indian students now attend the UK’s world-leading universities rather than further education colleges or other higher education institutions, compared to 50% in 2010.”

The Home Office said it is working with the Indian High Commission to “dispel misapprehension” about the student visa system.

While there has been a decrease in international students from India, this follows a period of substantial increases in arrivals - British visas for Indian students doubled between 2008 and 2009.

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