UK student visas: A challenge for Indo-Britain relations

June 21, 2018
The reality

The recent changes to visa rules have led to more tensions to visa-related issues, between London and New Delhi. The development, which has caused consternation, is the inclusion of China, and not India, to the list of countries, whose citizens will face less painful visa applications.

Britain’s Home Office is a top office of state which poses severe challenges to numerous political careers. When Sajid Javid, the son of an immigrant, took charge as the Home Secretary, there was  a hope of change. He has distanced himself from the policies established by his predecessor, Theresa May, who pursued a hostile environment regarding immigration.

UK student visas: A challenge for Indo-Britain relations

The recent changes 

Many times the British ministers explain the 50% drop within a decade, in the number of Indian students seeking studies. It appears as a perception issue. The exclusion of Indians from this list which does not require undergoing tough visa applications is an insult. This comes at a time when the government says that India is central to the economic future of the UK after it exits from the European Union in March 2019. India has already clarified that freedom of movement of professionals as well as students is a major issue in talks regarding the post- EU Exit Free Trade Pact.

Other factors

Mr Javid who, was the Culture Secretary in 2015, had urged London to throw away outdated perceptions about India. Indian students have moved further. Additionally, few Indian students consider Britain to be the initial destination to pursue higher studies. With these recent changes the perception will gain momentum that the UK is not a welcoming place. Australia, Canada, the USA and European countries appear more welcoming.

Indian students, officials and even British universities are vocal regarding complains concerning the difficult visa application process and the post-study rules. Students are presently at the top of the India-UK relationship, and this was reflected in the visit of PM Modi. He had refused to sign a MoU on the fate of illegal migrants unless London, also extends to Indians, the facility to have an easy, cheap and long visa that is similar to the one received by the citizens of China.

Effects of changes

Furthermore, these changes will lead to hardening of postures in New Delhi. The case involving UK student visas has the department of Home Office which does not know what other departments are doing.  Time has come that the Conservative government must realize that the dream of a global Britain after exiting from the EU requires a sense of togetherness of Whitehall and Westminster.

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