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UK set to ease visa rules for Indians

The simpler rules are aimed at weeding out frauds, says the country's envoy.

india Updated: Mar 08, 2006 23:36 IST

Terror attacks in London last year have not affected the flow of Indians travelling to Britain, and their number is set to grow further due to simpler visa procedures, High Commissioner Michael Arthur said in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Britain issues the largest number of visas to Indians and the simpler visa rules are aimed at weeding out frauds and speeding up the process for genuine visa seekers, Arthur said.

"For genuine visa seekers, it's going to be an easier and faster system, but for those who want to bend the system, it is going to be more difficult," Arthur said.

Arthur was speaking to select reporters who were taken on a guided tour of the visa section of the British High Commission -- the first time that journalists were permitted entry in this zone -- to show them the rigorous yet efficient methods involved in granting visas.

Britain issued nearly 300,000 visas to Indians last year out of 350,000 people who had applied.

There is likely to be an increase of 20 per cent this year, Arthur said.

He said multiple terror attacks in London last year had not affected Britain's attitude towards Indians travelling there.

"These things happen. But the strength of India-UK relations ensure that they do not have a negative impact," Arthur said.

Besides, more flights are going to be added to the existing 45 flights a week between India and Britain.

The officers of the visa department told reporters how a stringed verification regime was followed to weed out frauds and ensure that genuine applicants got their visas in 48 hours after applying with 11 Visa Facilitation Service (VFS) offices in the country.

A visa officer took out some fake wedding photographs to demonstrate desperate methods adopted by those wanting to migrate to Britain.

If an applicant is associated with the business express programme that has 200 companies on board, the visas can be granted in a day's time.

Arthur also clarified that the Australia-style points-based system unveiled by British Prime Minister Tony Blair was aimed at promoting managed migration and was applicable only to highly skilled workers who wanted to migrate to Britain.

A similar points-based system is in operation for entry into the US and Australia.

Under the system, potential immigrants need to total a certain number of points to qualify.

The points are based on criteria such as age, qualifications and experience.

"London is using India as a test-case for trying new methods of visa processing. If the model succeeds, we may apply some features to other countries as well," he added.

Blair told a group of students in India via videophone on Tuesday that the new points-based immigration system would ensure that "highly skilled" workers needed by Britain would still be able to migrate.

He further added that the new rules were necessary to prevent "abuses" of the system.

About 17,000 Indians had recently studied in Britain last year, a figure that had risen from 5,000 five years ago.

First Published: Mar 08, 2006 18:58 IST