May rejects India's calls to relax visa rules

May said her govt will consider improvements to India's visa offer if speed and volume of returns of Indians "with no right to remain" in UK is stepped up.


India today flagged its serious concerns to Britain over its stringent visa norms and hike in threshold limit of annual pay of working professionals to get the travel document even as 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 UK is stepped up to which the Indian side conveyed that it will follow international practice and a proper verification process.

May while announcing the UK offer of two new visa services to improve business travel for Indians to the UK said that under the Registered Traveller Scheme, business travellers will get expedited clearance at the UK 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 per cent.

The number of study visas issued to Indian nationals fell from 68,238 in 2010 to 11,864 this year, official UK figures show.

Earlier, addressing India-UK Tech Summit with May in attendance, Modi asked Britain to relax student visa rules saying greater mobility of young people must be encouraged while the British Premier said her country has a "good system" for applications.

The contentious issue figured prominently during bilateral talks between Modi and May.

"We flagged our concerns regarding students visa issues, visa issues regarding business travellers and other issues relating to bonafide travellors to the UK," Joint Secretary (Europe) in the External Affairs Ministry Randhir Jaiswal told reporters.

The UK has also raised the threshold limit for salary from 20,800 pounds to 30,000 pounds to get work visa which is expected to impact the Indian companies, particularly those in IT sector.

Asked about May's reported comment that the onus was on India to call back those overstaying in Britain, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said the issue has been that the UK wanted the "so called returnees" to come back based on their verification.

He said India has been maintaining that it will go by verification at its own level.

Jaiswal said India will "play by the international rules" on the issue. "As and when UK approaches us giving the proper documents for issue and verification of nationality and issue of travel document, we will do what is required to take back our nationals." .

PTI - Nov 08, 2016 12:00 IST