UK new student visa rules likely to affect Indian grads, workers

Prime Minister Theresa May is believed to be considering further toughening student visa rules for non-EU nationals, including Indians, to stop soaring immigration figures.

The UK already tightened it’s visa regulations in April this year. Under the new Visa rules Tier 2 Visa holders who earn less than 35,000 pounds a year will not be allowed to stay on in the country.

As per the new visa policy, non-EU workers will need to earn at least 35,000 pounds to remain in the UK for longer than six years. However, those working in a PhD-level occupation or a job which is on the UK’s Shortage Occupation List+ , including nurses will be exempt from this rule.

The threshold of 35,000 pounds was raised from the salary requirement of around 21,000 pounds per annum on advice from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). The new rule came into effect on April 6 and is expected to affect between 30,000 to 40,000 Indian skilled professionals who may have to leave the country or be deported.

Indian professionals have formed the largest category of individuals issued such visas over the years. According to the UK’s Office of National Statistics, of the 55,589 Tier 2 sponsored visa applications cleared in 2014-2015, nearly 78 per cent were for Indians (31,058). Now thousands of these Indian skilled workers may have to leave the country or be deported.

Any further tightening of student visas could also now affect thousand of Indian graduates who hope to study in the UK. India is the third largest category in terms of student visa applications after the US and China, with 10,664 granted between June 2015 and 2016. The number of student visas granted could now go down drastically.

“There was a statistically significant decline in the number of non-EU citizens migrating to the UK to study, from 134,000 in the previous year to 111,000. There was a statistically significant decline in citizens of South Asia, with the number coming to study having almost halved,” ONS said in its ‘Migration Statistics Quarterly Report: August 2016’ last week.

“The rumours that Theresa May is planning a fresh crackdown on student visas are, therefore, extremely worrying,” James Pitman, managing director for the UK’s Study Group said.

“If we are to maintain our position as a global education powerhouse, and protect one of our most valuable exports, the government must give both EU and non-EU students a fair deal and take overseas students out of net migration targets,” he said.

Meanwhile, Commerce Minister, Nirmala Sitharam, in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha earlier this month said, “The government has taken up the matter bilaterally with the UK government at various levels and expressed concerns over the changes in UK visa rules.”

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