Britain plans cheaper, easier visa for trade deal with India: Report

There may also be reductions in the fees for work and tourism visas. (File)


The UK plans to ease immigration rules by offering cheaper and easier visas to Indian tourists, students and professionals in an attempt to conclude a trade agreement with India, a media report said on Saturday.

Britain’s International Trade Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan is expected to travel to New Delhi this month, where formal negotiations on a proposed free trade agreement between India and the UK (FTA) are expected to begin.

Trevelyan is expected to use this visit to open up the possibility of easing immigration rules for Indian citizens, a key demand from New Delhi, the newspaper The Times reported.

While she has the backing of Foreign Minister Liz Truss, who has put securing closer ties with India at the top of the government’s agenda to counter China’s growing influence, Interior Minister Priti Patel is opposed to this move, the report said.

Last May, Ms Patel had signed a “tailor-made” and reciprocal Migration and Mobility Partnership (MMP) with Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar to have around 3,000 students and professionals a year access to work experience benefits in both countries.

Under the MMP, both sides have agreed to work towards a timeline from April 2022 to put the new system in place, with work underway in the High Commission in London and the State Department in New Delhi.

However, under further immigration plans that are reportedly under way, an option under consideration is a scheme similar to the one agreed as part of the UK Free Trade Agreement with Australia, which will allow young Indians to come and work in the UK in up to three more years.

Another option would be to cut student visa fees and thereby allow them to stay in the UK for a period of time after completing their education, possibly building on the Graduate Route visa under the point-based immigration rules currently in place. in place, the report states.

There may also be reductions in the fees for work and tourism visas.

At present, it can cost an Indian citizen up to £ 1,400 for a work visa, while students pay £ 348 and tourists £ 95 respectively.

These are in stark contrast to visa fees for countries like China, which have to pay significantly less.

Indian-born peer Lord Karan Bilimoria, president of the Confederation of British Industry, has been among the most vocal advocates for lowering visa fees for Indians.

“I hope the FTA will benefit from strengthening bilateral trade and being as comprehensive as possible. Movement of people; reduction of tariffs and duties – the duty on Scotch whiskey is 150 per cent, it must be drastically reduced; academic collaborations and cross-border research “will be huge between our countries and partnership for a green industrial revolution. There is a wide range to really increase business and trade between our two countries,” he had said.

A senior government source told ‘The Times’ that there was an acceptance by ministers that the price of a trade deal with India would be to provide a “generous” offer of visas.

“The technology and digital space in India is still hugely protectionist, and if we could open up just a little bit of access, it would put us ahead of the game,” a government official said.

The British government has repeatedly said it wants an agreement that cuts barriers to trade with India.

According to the Department of International Trade, preparations for the launch of negotiations on the UK-India Free Trade Agreement have ‘continued’ since the conclusion of bilateral working groups.

Trevelyan and her Indian counterpart, Trade and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, had also held talks during the G-20 Trade Ministers’ meeting in Sorrento, Italy, last October to discuss “final preparations” for the launch of the India-UK FTA negotiations in year.

“We look forward to opening negotiations early this year. India is expected to become the world’s third largest economy by 2050 and a trade agreement will open up huge opportunities for UK companies to trade India’s £ 2 trillion economy,” a British government spokesman said. . .

(With the exception of the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)


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