Earlier in May, the UK and India discussed a mutual partnership in hopes of encouraging professionals to live and work in both countries. The bilateral pact has been approved by both the governments, but some immigration campaigners are warning that there will be a price to pay in the coming times.
The said agreement was signed by Home Secretary Priti Patel and Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. While the agreement offers more mobility to students, researchers and skilled professionals, it also introduces a set of strict measures aimed at deporting Indian nationals deemed to be staying in the UK ‘illegally’.
The partnership is a significant initiative in the realm of UK immigration. It is news because the event marks the first ever bilateral relationship between the UK and another country since the government introduced the new UK points-based immigration system.
A detailed memorandum of understanding (MoU) was issued by both the governments. Below, we have broken it down to four major developments in order to make it simpler to understand:
Short Stay Visas
The MoU for the UK-India immigration agreement promises to facilitate citizens who wish to stay in either of the countries for a short period of time. The aim is to support nationals who “actively and sustainably contribute to the vitality of bilateral relations.”
Under the policy, both the UK and India will amend their immigration rules to accelerate the issuance of short stay visas to applicants who contribute to economic, cultural and scientific relations.
The Home Office elaborated that such applicants include (but are not limited to) entrepreneurs, businessmen, researchers, scientists and those engaged in the academia.
According to Priti Patel, the step was taken to offer “opportunities to thousands of young people in the UK and India seeking to live, work and experience each other’s cultures.”
Priti Patel also asserted that the new UK points-based immigration system would “attract the best and brightest talent to the UK”
Young Professionals Scheme
It is expected that both the governments would also introduce a ‘Young Professional Scheme’ as a result of the bilateral pact.
The scheme would allow nationals aged between 18-30 to work in the host participant’s country for up to 24 months. Over 3000 Indian and UK professionals will be able to benefit from this scheme annually.
This clause builds on the previously introduced ‘ graduate route ’ which is to come to effect from 1 July 2021. The route will allow eligible students who have just graduated to stay in the UK for two years after completing their studies. Eligible students can also apply for a post-study work visa under the graduate route.
The UK also vowed to create more opportunities to support Indian nationals studying and working in the UK. The pact is expected to allow those employed in the UK to stay longer than the specified two-year duration.
The governments announced that skilled nationals who contribute to the development of relations between the two countries will be allowed extended stays.
Under UK immigration rules, such individuals are entitled to a visa term of five years. Meanwhile, British nationals in India can apply for an employment visa for a term of three years.
It is worth mentioning that over a quarter of all international students in the UK belong to India. Last year alone, the UK welcomed over 53,000 Indian students.
While the agreement opens new avenues for professionals aspiring to visit, stay and work in the two countries, it is also focused on tightening the UK’s hold on immigration.
It is being feared that the pact might end up speeding up the deportation of Indian nationals who are living in the UK illegally.
In the Home Secretary, Priti Patel’s words, the new UK points-based immigration system is in line with the UK government’s aim to “clamp down on those abusing the system.”
From a governmental point of view the agreement itself is a steppingstone towards both the countries developing a joint strategy against organised immigration crime.
But immigration experts and campaigners disagree. According to them, not only would stricter control introduced under the agreement result in increased deportations, but it would also heighten discrimination against Indian nationals in the UK and lead to a new pool of undocumented migrants.
According to the Joint Council for the Welfare of immigrants (JCWI), the new scheme could cause greater inconvenience for the same people it claims to help.
JCWI warned that beneficiaries of this new agreement may be targeted if they choose to stay past their permitted period. This concern applies especially to students who come to the UK to study.