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UK Prime Minister Theresa May urged to ease visa rules for Indians

India wants its young, highly qualified students who graduate from UK universities to have a better chance to participate in research and work opportunities there
BY Braingain Staff Writer |   08-11-2016

Hardly had British Prime Minister Theresa May set foot in India on Monday, on a mission to promote bilateral trade ties before her Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, raised the issue of higher education. He said at a UK-India tech summit on Monday: “Education is vital for our students and will define our engagement in a shared future. We must therefore encourage greater mobility and participation of young people in education and research opportunities.”

His comments seemed to allude to May’s recent remarks that current UK visa norms are good enough for Indians who want to work in the UK.

Stricter visa rules have already led to a plunge in the number of students going to the UK from India and other countries. Despite these falling numbers, May maintains that Britain gets the “brightest and best” from outside the European Union, and therefore does not need to do more.

While she favours stronger UK-India ties, she has resisted Modi’s suggestion of greater mobility for highly qualified Indians. She has instead suggested that more Indians could get UK visas if India promises to take back migrants who overstay in the UK.

Conservatives argue that a significant number of international students violate visa conditions or overstay illegally. The UK government devised a system of ‘exit checks’ last year, which would gather details of people leaving the UK. May has stated in the past that around 110,000 foreign students stay on in the UK, by means of marriage, further studies, or switching from a student visa to a skilled worker visa, and that a sizeable percentage of them “vanishes”.

Based on exit check data, The Times estimates that only around 1% of students stay on illegally. This works out to about 1,500 students – considerably lower than May’s claim. The UK government rejects this figure, and says exit check data is incomplete.

Britain’s decision to leave the EU means inevitable changes in immigration policy, but there are differences within the UK government over whether students should be taken out of the net migration figures.

(The above image is a file photo of Theresa May released by the UK Home Office in 2015)

Related stories:
Is the UK government right about international students?
UK Considering Further Clampdown on International Student Visas
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