London Mayor leads calls for flexible visa system for Indian students and entrepreneurs

by Ray Clancy on December 7, 2017

The Mayor of London wants more people from India to study and work in the city as part of a plan to create a new special relationship that is not based on just trade and investment.

Sadiq Khan has revealed his vision for deeper ties between the UK and India and called for the British Government to put in place a more flexible visa system for Indian nationals.

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In a keynote speech in Mumbai during a trip to India, Khan voiced his frustration that, while there has been a drive to increase UK trade with India, business is hampered by the UK visa system.

He pointed out that many Indians, particularly young students, are finding it harder than ever to gain visas to work and study in the UK. These Indians are choosing to go to the United States, Canada and Australia instead.

He wants to see the introduction of a new post-study work route for international students and said that the number of Indian students coming to London has fallen by over 40% since 2010. He also would like to see a work experience programme between the two countries to encourage young people to spend time in both countries and a change to the immigration rules to make it easier for Indian entrepreneurs and skilled workers to gain visas.

‘I fully appreciate the real disappointment that many Indians have felt about the British Government’s decision to make it more difficult for Indians to gain visas to work and study in the UK,’ Khan said.

‘In my view this is not only counterproductive, but simply wrong for the British Government to launch a charm offensive for Indian trade and investment on one hand, but then to work to enforce a visa system that makes it more difficult for Indians to come to our country with the other,’ he explained.

‘In London I’m making the case loud and clear for a fair, flexible immigration system that allows us to attract talented people – with fewer barriers and less red tape. As part of this, I’m putting forward detailed proposals for a new post-study work visa for international students,’ he pointed out.

‘The British Prime Minister Theresa May got it badly wrong with her decision to close this route a few years ago. Because it’s not only led to a substantial drop in Indian students coming to our universities and it’s in danger of starving my city of great talent. History shows us that people go on to do great things after studying and working overseas,’ he added.

Dame Minouche Shafik, director of the London School of Economics, supports the Mayor’s call for a more flexible visa system. ‘Increasing the availability of post-study work visas will help encourage the brightest minds from countries like India to study at London’s world leading universities, while reaffirming to the world that London is open,’ she said.

‘Everybody wins. The students who come to study here, our universities, and the firms who want to employ our talented graduates,’ she added.

Also supporting the change is Shalini Khemka, a member of the Mayor’s Business Advisory Board and Founder of E2Exchange (E2E) the UK’s largest entrepreneurs’ organisation. ‘Encouraging trade and increasing innovation through welcoming dynamic entrepreneurs, from India and across the world, is a must. London is a top destination to start a business with its innovative culture, access to finance, high skilled workforce and research excellence, all in one city. We need a flexible visa system that makes sure London remains open to global entrepreneurial talent,’ said Khemka.

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