Data does not back up visa apprehension in UK: CII

FPJ BureauUpdated: Wednesday, May 29, 2019, 08:23 AM IST
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London: Top Indian industry leaders on Thursday waded into the ongoing controversy over visas and immigration with the UK government, stressing that the data on Indian students did not back up the apprehension over the so-called visa overstayers. The leaders comments came in the backdrop of an ongoing row over India being excluded from an expanded list of countries offered easier access to Tier 4 visas for overseas students.

 “They are putting India into the same bracket of many other countries from where students are coming and going missing, and that is not acceptable,” said Rakesh Bharti Mittal, vice-chairman of Bharti Enterprises who is leading a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) CEOs’ delegation to the UK this week.

“I can understand their [UK government] apprehension but we also need to see the data point – more than 95 per cent of students [from India] complete their education and go back to India. The rest who are left here, a large number of them have gone into employment that is legal with work permits,” he said, before a CII symposium at Latimer House in Buckinghamshire.

Making an economic argument, he pointed out that with Indian student numbers at the UK universities dwindling from 40,000 to around 16,000 over the years, the UK was losing out on an estimated 1 billion pound a year in fees.

“If you put the economic multiplier on that, you are talking about GBP 5, 7, or 8 billion [being lost to the UK economy],” he said.

 The UK government has stressed the changes were part of a “routine review” and mark no change in the Indian student application experience.

 It has also stressed that India’s exclusion was not related to the issue of illegal migration from the country.

However, Indian student groups in Britain have expressed their concerns over the perception created by India’s exclusion, with political leaders based in the UK branding it an “insult”.

The CII also called on the British government to consider a special visa category for temporary Indian workers as a “win-win” proposition for both countries.

Mittal said that currently temporary workers from India were contributing to Britain’s social security system without getting any benefits from it.

 He also flagged industry concerns around employer contributions to the provident fund in India being seen as income and taxed in the UK.

“The mobility versus migration issue is clearly one which is engaging the Modi government and Indian businesses,” Mittal said.

“This is something we are constantly engaging with the UK on and until a permanent solution can be found, we would like a special visa category for temporary workers from India, where they get a five-year exemption from contributions to the social security system,” he said.

 Among some of the other areas of India-UK cooperation explored by the CII delegation – including Director-General Chandrajit Banerjee, Sunil Kant Munjal of Hero Enterprise, Rajive Kaul of Nicco Engineering Services, B V R Mohan Reddy of Cyient Ltd, among others – covered collaborations in the field of financial services, smart cities and research and innovation.

Banerjee highlighted that a fast-track mechanism put in place for Indian companies investing in the UK has been working well.

He also unveiled a new CII tie-up with the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC) to assist small and medium enterprise (SME) investments between India and other Commonwealth countries.

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