London: The UK government’s changes to its visa policy for non-EU nationals aimed at curbing its soaring immigration figures will come into force from Thursday, which will affect a large number of Indians especially IT professionals.
Under the new visa rules announced by the UK home office earlier this month, applications made on or after 24 November under the tier 2 intra-company transfer (ICT) category would be required to meet a higher salary threshold requirement of £30,000 ($37,131) from the earlier £20,800 ($25,723).
The ICT route is largely used by Indian IT companies in Britain and the UK’s migration advisory committee (MAC) had found earlier this year that Indian IT workers accounted for nearly 90% of visas issued under this route. “The first of two phases of changes to tier 2, announced by the government in March following a review by the independent migration advisory committee will affect applications made on or after 24 November unless stated otherwise,” a UK home office statement said.
The other changes include increasing the tier 2 (general) salary threshold for experienced workers to £25,000 ($30,930), with some exemptions; reducing the tier 2 (ICT) graduate trainee salary threshold to £23,000 ($28,467) and increasing the number of places to 20 per company per year; and closing the tier 2 (ICT) skills transfer sub- category.
Nationals outside the European Union including Indians will also be affected by new English language requirements when applying for settlement as a family member after two and a half years in the UK on a five-year route to residency settlement in the UK. The new requirement will apply to partners and parents whose current leave to remain in the UK under the family immigration rules is due to expire on or after 1 May 2017. The changes follow advice by the MAC to curb the tier 2 ICT route and reduce reliance on foreign workers.
“(Immigration) is not serving to increase the incentive to employers to train and upskill the UK workforce. Ready access to a pool of skilled IT professionals in India is an example of this,” the MAC report had said in its findings. “We did not see any substantive evidence of long-standing reciprocal arrangements whereby UK staff are given the opportunity to gain skills, training and experience from working in India,” it said.
The new rules follow further tightening of the tier 2 category which came into force in April this year. The issue of visas had overshadowed British prime minister Theresa May’s three-day visit to India earlier this month. “The UK will consider further improvements to our visa offer if, at the same time, we can step-up the speed and volume of returns of Indians with no right to remain,” May had said in her speech at the UK-India Tech Summit in New Delhi. PTI