Ever since our great nation gained independence from the British, the lure of the “foreign” land has tugged at the heartstrings of Indian youth. Each year, hundreds of thousands of young men moved on to find themselves and their dreams in the hallowed land – “London”. Then came the age of the intellectual Indian – the doctor, the engineer, the techie. All moving to the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, and Gulf countries (among others). With this came remittances, swanky accents, and swankier lifestyles for the families.
And then quickly came India’s population explosion and the great migration wave. Young men and women were ready to head out in great numbers; some professionally qualified, but the great majority ready to take on any work opportunity abroad. Working many jobs a day and living in the worst possible conditions, these men and women managed to save up and send home money to their families. This is an ongoing saga of hope and heartbreak. Every law pertaining to immigrants and work permits are read, every change followed closely.
According to news reports from early 2016, Indian diaspora is the largest in the world. Estimates from the United Nations suggest that some 16 million people from India live abroad.
Indians in the United Kingdom
According to data from NRI Online, there are about 1.5 million Indians living in the United Kingdom. According to the UK’s office statistics, about 793,000 Indians living in the UK were born in India, while the rest seem to be UK born. As of 2015, Indians represented the largest overseas born population in the UK. Indians have now become UK’s biggest overseas born population. Not only have Indians grown in numbers, their contributions to the GDP of UK has also increased significantly.
Earlier this year, India’s High Commissioner to the UK, Navtej Sarna said, “The India diaspora in the UK is one of the largest ethnic minority communities in the country equating to around 1.8 per cent of the population and contributing 6 per cent of the country’s GDP.”
Stepping up from its economic contributions, the Indian diaspora in the UK has started to exercise its political clout as well. In the 2015 general elections, the Indian diaspora is reported to have played a very important role. All the major parties including the Conservative Party went ahead to woo the Indian diaspora. Many have even gone ahead and suggested that it is this stance that may have turned the tide. Indians, traditionally Labour Party supporters, seemed to have pitched for the Conservatives in 2015.
Toughening Visa Guidelines
The UK is a favourite with Indians looking to migrate abroad – that much is clear. The colleges and universities of the United Kingdom look at India as a top destination to woo overseas students. The idea of finding work opportunities and staying on in the UK, is however, the unspoken foundation. Since about 2008, the UK has started to tighten its visa requirements making it increasingly difficult for Indians to stay on after gaining a degree.
In what seems to be the latest episode of the crackdown, UK has decided to change its visa policy at least for nationals of non-EU countries.
New visa rules were announced by the UK Home Office last week and these are likely to affect a great number of Indians working in the country. Techies and IT professionals will be greatly affected, news reports say. Those applying for a visa under the Tier 2 intra-company transfer (ICT) category were required to earn a salary of GBP 20,800. This has now been hiked up to GBP 30,000.
The Tier 2 intra-company transfer (ICT) is meant for employees who have been offered a role in the UK by their employer; both long term and short term employees can apply for such a visa. The general salary threshold for the applicants has been increased to GBP 25,000 for long term and experienced staff and to GBP 30,000 for short term staff. The number of visas available per company per year has been increased to 20, though.
Indian techies working in the IT sector account for about 90 percent of the Tier 2 ICT visa holders in the UK. This change in requirement is likely to greatly affect their ability to stay and work in the UK. Professionals from India working in other sectors are likely to be affected as well.
Apart from this, UK has also tightened its English language requirements for families intending to move to the UK. The IELTS exam conducted by the British Council in many countries is generally taken to be the standard and an increased band requirement will affect students and professionals aspiring to go to the UK.
Experts believe that this is UK’s bid to cut down on the burgeoning number of immigrants pouring into the country. In recent times, there has been a silent yet strong movement in the UK to reduce dependence on immigrant workforce and to make more opportunities for the locals.