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London Mayor Urges UK Govt to Offer Easier Visa Rules for Indian Students

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan has urged the UK government to reconsider its stand on granting visas to Indian students. India should be added to the list of low-risk countries that were recently offered easier norms for student visa application, Khan said, PTI reported.

Expressing his “deep concern” at the exclusion of India from the recent list, Khan wrote in a letter to UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid that it is important for the United Kingdom to keep its reputation as a country that excels in higher education. “It is vital that UK maintains its reputation for higher education excellence. The number of Indian students choosing to study in the UK has declined significantly over the last decade,” Khan said in a statement.

“I’m urging him [Sajid Javid] to both add India to the scheme and also to review the UK’s broader approach to attracting international student talent, including post-study opportunities,” he added.

The number of Indian students arriving in the United Kingdom has gone down over the years, from a peak of almost 24,000 a year in 2010-11 to around 9,000 a year in 2015-16, the report added, citing the London Mayor’s office. The fall is mainly due to the
perception issues prevalent in India about UK visas, Khan said.

“During my trade mission to India last year, I was told regularly by politicians and business leaders that the UK’s approach to immigration was the single biggest barrier to strengthening our economic ties, (sic),” the 47-year-old Pakistani-origin leader, who led a mayoral delegation to India in December 2017, was quoted as saying.

“This is not simply a concern in boardrooms: it is widely discussed in the media and the UK is characterised as hostile to Indian nationals in general, and students in particular,” Khan said, adding that statistics indicate that Indian businesses invest more in the United Kingdom than in the rest of Europe combined and employ around 110,000 people in the country.

In June this year, the UK government omitted India from the list of 25 countries that would benefit from the relaxation of the Tier 4 visa rules for overseas students. While nations such as the United States, Canada and New Zealand were already a part of the list, the UK Home Office added other countries like China, Bahrain and Serbia in the category that enables students to face less checks on educational, financial and English language skill requirements to pursue higher education in the United Kingdom. The new countries added to the list were considered low risk places.

UK’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox later said the decision to exclude India from the list was taken because of the Indian government’s refusal to sign a deal on return of illegal immigrants.

“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 had reported earlier.

Khan had then criticized the UK government’s decision, calling it a “wasted opportunity.” He also spoke against Fox’s remarks. “To link the two, illegal immigration and students is deeply offensive and also muddies the waters. This hostile environment (to immigration) is still here and we need real concrete evidence that it will change,” Khan said on the sidelines of the UK-India Awards in London on June 22. “There isn’t a problem about students overstaying… All the evidence shows that Indians who study here leave with a very positive attitude.”