The United Kingdom government has announced a relaxation of the visa rules for applicants of the Tier 4 visa category for 25 countries, including China, Bahrain, Indonesia, the Maldives and Serbia, in order to make it easier for overseas students to come and study at British universities.
The new measures which make it easier for the students coming from these countries to enter UK under study purposes, have been announced by the British Home Office, expanding an already existing list of countries as New Zealand, United States and Canada that are considered as ‘low risk’ for the UK.
However, the changes, which come into effect starting July 6, will not apply to Indian students wishing to study in any of the UK universities, since India has been left out of this list. The decision has sparked outrage among Indian-origin UK residents and others, including the Indian-origin entrepreneur and the President of the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) Lord Karan Bilimoria.
Bilimoria called the decision “another kick in the teeth for India” considering that it sends entirely the wrong message to India.
“It is completely hypocritical that this has been announced at the same time that Britain is talking about doing 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,” he said claiming that India has always been one of Britain’s closest allies and an emerging global economic superpower and adding that such decision might damage the relationship between both countries.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London whose grandparents were of Indian origin, is among those who have criticized the UK government for leaving India out of the relaxing of student visa rules. Khan, who dismissed the claims of UK government that there are many visa overstayers from India, claimed that there is not enough evidence to support such statement.
“To link the two, illegal immigration and students is deeply offensive and also muddies the waters. This hostile environment (to immigration) is still here and we need real concrete evidence that it will change,” Khan said, adding that Indians students that graduate from UK leave with a very positive attitude, and wish to invest in the UK once they become chief executives or investors.
The National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) in the UK have also expressed their disappointment on the exclusion of India from the list, claiming that such thing effectively categorizes Indian students at “high risk”.
On the other hand, the UK Home Office has refused to give any reason for the move, instead saying that UK currently issued most visas to Indian Students, after China and the USA.