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Theresa May’s visit to India


The British Prime Minister, Theresa May has planned her visit to India this weekend from the 6th to the 8th of November, and her visit has generated lots of heat on the immigration issues between India and UK.Prime Minister May is under pressure to easethe visa process  for Indians as she has done for the Chinese visitors to the UK. It’s a matter of concern for the Indian immigration officials that if the British PM is so eager to work closely with India, then why their government is not treating Indians in the same fashion.

As per the Hindustan Times, Prime Minister Modi and the journalism are concerned with asking May three major questions:

  1. Why is it being made harder for Indian students to study in Britain and look for jobs, while Chinese students get the opposite treatment?

  2. Why is it being made harder for Indian companies in the UK to hire skilled workers from outside?

  3. Why is it being made harder for Indians to unite with their families in the UK?

These are the prime issues which are going to be discussed with the British PM on her upcoming visit to India, the first after she assumed power and has raised a lot of expectations for Indian immigrants to the UK.

The issue of immigration became more heated because of China getting special treatment after the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Britain,which reduced the cost of short term visas for Chinese visitors This immigration reform has prompted questions as to why China, but not India, is getting special treatment. The Director-General of the Confederation of Indian Industry, Mr. Chandrajit Banerjee is optimistic about Mrs. May’s trip to India, and hopes that certain crucial policies will be announced ahead of this trip. He predicts that the cost of visa which is £330 for a 2-year visa at present will be reduced to £87 which is the same rate offered in China.

Last month a letter was signed by the senior executives of the companies including Virgin Atlantic, Manchester Airport, Heathrow Airport, the Institute of Directors, and the British Hospitality Association towards the government to reduce the cost of tourist visas from India. They have mentioned that the choice of European destination for Indians has changed from the UK to France, even though 400,000 Indians visited Britain last year spending £433m. When investing so much in a country, on tourism alone,one expects a little generosity.

If Britain takes a step in favour of India, then it would be welcoming more than 800,000 Indian tourists annually, which would add around £500m to their economy with 8,000 new jobs, a mutual benefit for both the countries. At present the cost of the visa is not reasonable and according to Narayan Iyer is “eye-wateringly expensive”.

The UK has always remained one of the favourite education destination for Indian students, but inthe last five years, the number of expats from India have almost halved from 40,000 to 20,000 due to various reasons. This trend could be happening partially due to the Home Office decision under the leadership of May, to abolish Tier-1 visas, that allowed international students to hunt jobs up to two years after the compleion of their studies. On this issue, the spokesperson of theExternal Affairs Ministry, VikasSwarup stated that, “We have raised our concerns on the difficulties being faced by Indian students with the UK side. We expect mobility issues to be raised during the visit”.

A suggestion was made by the Royal Commonwealth Society that slashing down the visa costs would be a good way to celebrate 2017, which is going to UK-India year of culture and also the 70thIndepence anniversary of India.

Apart from this, there are 800 Indian companies in the UK currently who  generate more than 110,000 jobs in the country and  Mr. Banerjee,  Director-General of the Confederation of Indian Industry, stated that, “it is very important for business that people have more access to work in Britain and this will be a key demand in any trade talks”.

The Chairman of Cobra Beer, Lord Bilimoria asserted that by cutting down the visa costs  it will be the “best thing” that May could announce on her visit to India, which could make her visit a success in a single stroke.

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