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British ruling party promises more visa curbs on Indians

A manifesto released by the Conservative party ahead of the June 8 election reiterates PM Theresa May’s tough line on immigration. Among those affected will be students, ‘Skype families’ and immigrant workers.

world Updated: May 18, 2017 22:11 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
june 8 election

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May holds up the Conservative Party general election manifesto as she speaks at the launch event in Halifax in northern England on Thursday.(AFP)

Indian citizens – students, family members, professionals – are set to face tougher visa rules in the United Kingdom if the Conservative Party wins the June 8 election, disappointing many stakeholders who were promised easier visas for India and the Commonwealth after Brexit.

Releasing the party’s manifesto on Thursday, Prime Minister Theresa May reiterated her position on Brexit and said the next government under her leadership will deliver a “mainstream Brexit” while forging a new relationship with Europe.

The manifesto reiterated her tough line on immigration, promising to “continue to bear down on immigration from outside the European Union”. It saw annual net immigration as “too high”, and retained the party’s objective since 2010 to reduce it to the “tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands”.

On the many cases of “Skype families”, in which one parent lives abroad because the British spouse does not earn enough to sponsor the other, the manifesto said: “We will increase the earnings thresholds for people wishing to sponsor migrants for family visas.”

The manifesto also promises more curbs on Indian and non-EU students: “We will toughen the visa requirements for students, to make sure that we maintain high standards. We will expect students to leave the country at the end of their course, unless they meet new, higher requirements that allow them to work in Britain after their studies have concluded.”

It also rejected the demand of higher education stakeholders to remove students from overall migration statistics: “Overseas students will remain in the immigration statistics – in line with international definitions – and within scope of the government’s policy to reduce annual net migration”.

Another area likely to affect Indians is the proposed increase in the Immigration Skills Charge that every British employer has to pay to hire a non-EU professional. Introduced in April, it is currently set at £1000 per worker per year.

The manifesto said: “(Skilled) immigration should not be a way for government or business to avoid their obligations to improve the skills of the British workforce. So we will double the Immigration Skills Charge levied on companies employing migrant workers, to £2,000 a year by the end of the parliament.”

“And we will increase the Immigration Health Surcharge, to £600 for migrant workers and £450 for international students, to cover their use of the NHS. This remains competitive compared to the costs of health insurance paid by UK nationals working or studying overseas,” it added.