India Excluded from Relaxed Visa Rules Due to ‘Overstayers:’ UK Politician

"There is always a demand for easier norms, but we cannot look at that without addressing the issue of overstayers," UK's International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said.


The United Kingdom excluded India from the list of countries that were recently offered relaxed visa norms for students because of the Indian government’s refusal to sign a deal on return of illegal immigrants, UK’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said.

“There is always a demand for easier norms, but we cannot look at that without addressing the issue of overstayers,” Fox said, the Times of India reported. Speaking on June 18 on the sidelines of the launch of the UK-India Week, organized in London and Buckinghamshire to explore post-Brexit bilateral ties, Fox added that all the issues between the two countries had to be considered “on balance,” and could not be separated, according to the Hindu.

Fox, who was present at the release of an edition of “The 100 Most Influential in UK-India Relations,” dismissed the notion that the British government’s decision could adversely affect prospects of post-Brexit trade deal between the two nations. “Our relationship with India is long-term and not just related to trade,” he said, PTI reported.

The United Kingdom had last week relaxed Tier 4 visa norms for overseas students of 25 countries, including China, Bahrain and Serbia, but chose to keep India out of the list. Students belonging to the countries added to the list, considered low risk places, would have to face less checks on educational, financial and English language skill requirements to pursue higher education in the United Kingdom.

Fox’s remarks are being as a sign of further straining of ties between the two countries. “Each country has its own requirements and is free to decide its own immigration policies, but we need to look at the larger picture,” YK Sinha, the Indian High Commissioner to the UK, said at the event, the Times of India reported. “Indian students contribute immensely, not just to the economy of this country but in terms of their expertise. International students are the best soft power tool that the UK has,” he added, according to the report.

“It’s up to the British government to decide what kind of visas they want to give and whether they want closer ties with India,” an Indian high commission official was quoted as saying by the Times of India. “I feel the signals they are sending our way are wrong but whether they bring lasting damage to our relations is a longterm perspective. It’s for them to decide if they want to link this to the MoU, but if they do, they will have to bear the consequences. I am not confident this is going to turn out well.”

India had refused to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Britain over the return of illegal immigrants when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited London for a Commonwealth meet in April this year. The bilateral agreement could not be signed as the two countries need to resolve issues like security concerns, fear of large-scale deportation, and consent clause, under which a person has to give an approval before the process to determine his or her nationality is initiated, the Hindustan Times had reported earlier.

The United Kingdom puts the number of illegal Indian immigrants in the country to be around 100,000 while India says the figure is 2,000, according to the Times of India.

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