A Kick in The Teeth for India — The UK Immigration Policy


For Indian students pursuing education abroad, the colleges and universities is the point where learning, exchange of ideas and influx of knowledge takes place. Though learning happens organically within the premises of the institutions, what requires more intensive efforts is their respective career options. In order to maintain the harmony of their career options, they require a conducive and inclusive environment, outside of their universities. There are numerous factors which help in maintenance of such required framework- namely job availablity, recruitment rates, political parties and their respective ideologies, immigration regulations, Visa rules and much more.

Indian students have been outrageous regarding the exclusion of India from the list of relaxed study visa rules. The outrage came in response to the latest changes in the immigration policy on Friday, 15 June 2018, wherein the UK home Office announced a relaxation of the Tier 4 visa category for oversea students from around 26 countries considered ‘low risk’. The 26 countries that will benefit from the streamlined tier-4 visa process are Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Barbados, Botswana, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada , Chile, China, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia , Maldives, Mexico, New Zealand, Qatar, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, the UAE and US. Countries like Thailand and Mexico were the new additions to the list, which are not even a part of the Commonwealth, which certainly has left Indian students appalled. The changes, which will come into effect 6th July 2018 onward, aim to make it easier for international students to study in the UK by making checks on educational, financial and English Language skill requirements less rigorous at British Universities.

India has been left out of this new expanded list which means Indian students applying for the similar courses will continue to face rigorous checks and documentary requirements. “I consider this another kick in the teeth for India.. This sends entirely the wrong message to India, to exclude it from these Tier 4 measures. The government has simply got it wrong.”, said Lord Bilimoria.

Lord Karan Bilimoria, Indian origin entrepreneur and President of the UK Council for International Students Affairs (UKCISA), described the move as an “insult” to India and another example of Britian’s ‘economically illiterate and hostile attitude to immigration’. He also added, “It is completely hypocritical that this is announced at the same time that Britain is talking about a post-Brexit free trade agreement (FTA) with India. If this is the way they treat India, they can dream on about an FTA with India. India has always been on of Britain’s closest allies and an emerging global economic superpower. Excluding India from this list is myopically short-sighted and is damaging the special relationship between our countries.’

The National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK also expressed disappointment at India’s exclusion from the list, which it said effectively categorises Indian students as “high risk“. The representative body for Indian students in the UK said it was unfair that Indian students should be treated differently from Chinese or other nationals on the list. Y.K. Sinha pointed out that even though the fact that high exchange rates are causing more students to divert towards countries like US, Australia – even France and Germany for educational endeavours, British universities should be troubled about a well expected steep drop in numbers, which did not result an any amendment in the rules.

The founder and chairperson of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK (NISAU), Sanam Arora, tries to explain this change by emphasising the aspect that the UK government has always favoured Chinese students because they are rich and go back after their studies because they have more employment opportunities in China. Meanwhile, Indians go to Britain because they want to get international work experience. Although the general public sometimes express concern about the level of immigration to the U.K., surveys show that they do not regard international students as immigrants and welcome the contribution they make, including helping to meet shortages in high level skills if they choose to remain in the U.K. after graduating.

Shrimoyee Chakraborty, 28, came to the UK from Mumbai in 2010 on a tier-4 student visa to do an MSC in global business analysis at Manchester University. “It was tough to apply for the tier-4 visa. There’s a ton of paperwork. It is ridiculous that India is not on the list because so many Indians pay four or five times the fee a UK citizen does,” she said, adding that India, being in the Commonwealth, should have been on the list.

Britain’s efforts to reform the visa application process for international students from a number of countries will not extend to India — a development that highlights strains the bilateral relations between the two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to London earlier this year. Now, it will be interesting to know what happens next and witness how our representatives in the parliament try and turn the situation the in favour of the aspiring youth.

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