Industry Bodies Bat For Considered Review Of U.K. Visa Regulation

India raises visa issue with the U.K.

Passengers line up for information at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in London, U.K. (Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)
Passengers line up for information at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in London, U.K. (Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)

Highlighting the "significant business uncertainty" faced by $110 billion Indian IT services industry in the wake of Britain's exit from the EU, NASSCOM on Monday called for a "fresh" and "considered review" of the proposed changes in visa regulation in the U.K.

"Given the high levels of business uncertainty for our sector caused by the decision of the U.K. to leave the EU, we would ask that the further changes planned for April next year, including the increase in salary thresholds for Tier 2 ICT visas and the introduction of the Immigration Skills Levy, be subject to fresh, considered review," NASSCOM said in joint letter with its trade counterpart in Britain, TechUK.

They expressed willingness to work with both the countries to ensure that any changes remain justified in the new context, given the "significant business uncertainty".

Under new visa rules announced last week by U.K. Home Office, those applying after November 24 under Tier 2 intra-company transfer category would need to meet a higher salary threshold of 30,000 pounds from 20,800 pounds earlier. This route is largely used by Indian IT firms in the U.K.

"It is crucial our fast growing and high value tech sectors can rely upon an effective immigration policy that attracts high-skilled workers and minimises barriers to the flow of talented people between our two countries," it said.

The third largest source of FDI into the U.K., India is second only to the U.S. in ICT with $19 billion of tech exports in 2015.

"Indian IT companies play a key role in driving the U.K.'s growth and prosperity by significantly enhancing productivity and global competitiveness of British businesses, contributing to overall growth and job creation of U.K. economy," it said.

It added that both governments should share best practice in delivering digital skills training and partner with the industry to boost digital economy in both countries. The associations extended their support for a Free Trade Agreement that "simplifies" trade of goods and services.

"...the key ask to both governments is for a high skilled worker mobility agreement, along with an agreement on the free movement of data," it said.

Movement of skilled tech workers from India needs be seen as trade priority rather than an immigration issue, it added.

"Temporary placement of highly-skilled individuals into the U.K. provides a significant economic boost yet has a negligible impact on net migration," it said.

Stating that sectors like FinTech, cyber security, Internet of Things and smart cities provided fertile ground for new joint initiatives, the statement urged the U.K. to consider establishing a tech hub in India on the lines of British Embassy in Israel.

May Calls Out Illegal Indian Immigrants

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Theresa May announced two visa programmes, primarily for Indian corporates.

At the same time, May said her government will consider further improvements to its visa offer to India if speed and volume of returns of Indians "with no right to remain" in U.K. is stepped up to which the Indian side conveyed that it will follow international practice and a proper verification process.

May while announcing the U.K. offer of two new visa services to improve business travel for Indians to the U.K. said that under the Registered Traveller Scheme, business travellers will get expedited clearance at the U.K. border and that India will become the "first visa country" under the scheme. Under the second programme, she said the Indian government will become the first government in the world to be invited to nominate business executives to the Great Club, a bespoke visa and immigration service.

During the talks with May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged India's concerns over stringent student visa norms which require students to return home after their courses end. The norms has led to fall in Indian students enrollment in British universities by 50 percent. The number of study visas issued to Indian nationals fell from 68,238 in 2010 to 11,864 this year, official U.K. figures show.