Destinations Asia

UK Prime Minister pushes for limitless same-day visas for Indian entrepreneurs

Feb 18, 2013 1:18 pm

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The UK is toying with its immigration and visa policies strategically as it blocks entry for Eastern Europeans while simultaneously breaking down barriers for skilled residents of the emerging superpower.

— Samantha Shankman

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At the start of a trip aimed at boosting British-India commercial ties, the Prime Minister will promise “an even more attractive offer” to Indian executives exasperated by Britain’s immigration system.

The Coalition has pledged to tighten immigration rules, and some Indian companies have complained that getting into the UK to do business is now too costly and time-consuming.

In an interview with the Hindustan Times, the Prime Minister signalled that he will make changes in the application system that make it quicker and cheaper for Indians to come into Britain on business.

Britain already runs the largest visa operation in the world in India, processing over 400,000 visa applications a year and granting 9 out of 10 applicants a visa, Mr Cameron said.

But he said that the visa system for Indians could be overhauled and streamlined.

“I’m also determined to ensure that the service we offer to Indian businesses encourages them to come and invest in Britain,” he said. “I think there’s more we can do here and that’s an area where I hope we can put an even more attractive offer on the table during this trip.”

New immigration rules have also led to steep fall in the number of Indians paying to study in Britain, and university leaders have complained that the rules are undermining the higher education sector.

Mr Cameron used his interview to repeat his message that there are “no limits” on the number of Indians who can come to Britain to study and work after they graduate.

Mr Cameron will land in Mumbai this morning, the first British Prime Minister to visit India’s commercial capital for more than 20 years.

Accompanied by over 100 British executives and university leaders, he will seek to establish economic relations between Britain and India “one of the defining relationships of this century.”

Downing Street said that deals that will be confirmed during Mr Cameron’s visit will create 500 new British jobs and safeguard 2,000 more.

Mr Cameron’s business delegation includes executives from British defence, retail, financial and construction firms, all hoping to win business in the fast-growing Indian economy.

Among the construction companies represented is JCB, whose controlling Bamford family have been major donors to the Conservative Party.

Mr Cameron’s bid for Indian defence contracts risks being overshadowed by a row involving allegations that Finmeccanica – owner of Britain’s Augusta Westland helicopter maker – paid bribes to win an Indian deal.

In his interview, Mr Cameron also risked a bold claim about his tolerance for spicy curries. “I like a pretty hot curry,” he said, adding: “I’m also hoping to sample some of India’s finest during my trip.”

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