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Indian firms to protest new British visa rules

world Updated: Apr 05, 2010 00:21 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar
Dipankar De Sarkar
Hindustan Times
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A delegation of executives from Indian companies is expected to meet with authorities in London in the next few days to protest the new British visa rules, which will come into force this week.

The protest stem from fears that the new rules will obstruct the smooth flow of Indian workers being posted on intra-company transfers and impact vital Indian investments into Britain.

According to the rules being introduced on April 6 — exactly a month to the widely-anticipated date of general elections — companies posting their skilled workers to Britain must pay them salaries that are equal to those normally paid to a British worker.

While many Indian companies already do so, others cannot afford to pay large number of their workers salaries at high levels. Many pay their workers a part of the salary in rupees, showing the pounds component as allowance.

"The full impact of these rules will be felt in the weeks and months to come," an Indian industry source told the HT on condition of anonymity.

Another rule that is seen as a hindrance to UK-India trade that currently stands at nearly £12.6 billion is the withdrawal of the automatic right to permanent residence for workers coming to Britain on intra-company transfers.

“The British have rolled this through without meeting with the Indian multinationals," the source said. "This is going to be a huge problem."

With Indian companies having emerged as the second largest investors in Britain after the US — edging out the Japanese — many leading British politicians are aware of the potential impact of the changes on investments.

"As part of making ourselves a more attractive economic place, we have to make sure that the system of immigration controls does not stupidly cause delays in getting skilled people moving here. It's going to be an important part of the immigration policy," said Kenneth Clarke, a senior member of the opposition Conservative Party that leads Labour by 10 points in the runup to the elections.

“I myself have been monitoring the Indian multinational companies where sometimes the nationality of your colleagues didn’t actually make much of a difference to where they were in the world at a given time or where they were posted,” Clarke told HT.

Indians accounted for the vast majority of the nearly 30,000 non-European workers who came to Britain under intra-company transfers in 2009 — up from 15,400 when Labour came to power — according to the government's Border and Immigration Agency.