Fall reversed? Big rise in Indian students going to UK
After years of dwindling numbers of Indian students coming to the UK, new figures released on Thursday show a 63 per cent rise in Tier 4 visas issued, reflecting the largest number of annual grants to Indian students since 2011.
New curbs and closure of the post-study work visa in 2012 had led to a steep fall in the number of Indians choosing the UK in the context of a competitive higher education market, with countries such as Canada, Australia and the United States offering easier norms.
The Home Office said Chinese and Indian nationals together accounted for over half of all Tier 4 visas granted to non-European Union citizens (43% and 11% respectively) in the year ending September 2019.
In the year ending September 2018, 18,730 Indians were given student visas. This figure jumped to 30,550 in the year ending September 2019, amounting to the 63 per cent rise, after years of ministers and stakeholders exerting to remove negative perceptions in India.
Former home secretary Theresa May scrapped the visa in 2012, which led to the perception that the UK is less welcoming to international students, prompting a steep fall of Indian students from the high of 39,090 in 2010-2011 to 16,550 in 2016-17.
In September, the Boris Johnson government announced the return of the two-year post-study work visa that was popular with self-financing Indian students, from the 2020-21 academic year, allowing them to take up work for two years after completing courses.
The cache of immigration statistics also reveals that Indian professionals continued to be in demand in the UK. In the year ending September 2019, they accounted for over half (51 per cent) of all Tier 2 visas granted: 56,241, a 2 per cent increase over the previous year.
Indian nationals were also granted the highest number of all work-related visa extensions during the year (42,350 or 41 per cent of the total), the Home Office said. Visitors visas issued to Indians were also up by 43,755 to 512,681 during the year.
Of those seeking asylum in the UK, Indians had “very low” grant rates, officials said, adding that the largest number of voluntary returns was of Indian nationals (1,948, or 16 per cent of the total). These include those in the UK illegally and volunteered to return to India.
The issue of returning illegal Indians in the UK is among key issues in bilateral relations. An agreement was to be signed during the April 2018 visit to London of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but it was put off, leading to continuing official-level talks to set up a formal mechanism.
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