Brexit could make UK immigration easier for Indian students, professionals: Here’s how

A White Paper about the UK government’s post-Brexit visas and immigration strategy was unveiled in the British Parliament on Wednesday. UK’s immigration strategy after Brexit is expected to benefit Indian students and professionals, and is said to have a focus on skills rather than country of origin.

The proposals, which are set to be implemented from December 2021, after the proposed transition period for Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU), claim to have a level-playing field for Britain’s immigration, with the end of free movement for people from within the 28-member economic bloc. 

“As we leave the European Union, free movement will end…This will be a system where it is workers’ skills that matter, not which country they come from,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said in her foreword to the strategy, as per a PTI report.  

“We are taking a skills-based approach to ensure we can attract the brightest and best migrants to the UK,” said Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who made a reference to his own Pakistani origins as the “son of immigrant parents”.

How will skilled workers benefit?

The UK’s proposed skills-based immigration system, tabled in the House of Commons by Home Secretary Javid, eliminates any cap on highly-skilled migrants from anywhere in the world. The new immigration system seeks to improve the post-study work that is offered to international students.

Under the new proposals, the annual cap of 20,700 on the number of skilled work visas issued will be removed—this could likely benefit doctors and IT professionals from India as well as other countries.

There will also be a new 12-month visa route for workers at any skill level to obtain a temporary period to allow businesses to hire the staff they need on a time-bound basis.

“People arriving on this route will not be able to bring family members with them, won’t accrue rights to settle in the UK and will have a 12-month cooling off period once their visa expires,” the UK Home Office said.

The cumbersome requirement for labour market tests by employers who wish to sponsor an overseas skilled worker are also to be done away with.

UK’s pitch for international students

Under proposed changes to attract more international students to the UK, the government said it would “improve the current offer” to those who have completed a degree in UK and want to stay on.

The government plans to offer six months’ post-study leave to all Master’s and Bachelor’s students studying at an institution with degree-awarding powers. This will be aimed at giving students more time to find permanent skilled work and to work temporarily during that period.

“We will also allow for students studying at Bachelor’s level or above to be able to apply to switch into the skilled workers route up to three months before the end of their course in the UK, and from outside of the UK for two years after their graduation,” the White Paper noted.

India welcomes change

The plans were broadly welcomed by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), which said that the White Paper recognises the value offered by skilled workers from countries like India.

“Indian industry has long called for a fair, transparent and skills-based immigration system, and today’s proposals go some way to achieving these goals,” said Jim Bligh, Chair of CII’s UK India Business Forum, as per a PTI report.  

Bligh added, “Tackling the UK’s skills gaps, particularly in digital and technology, must remain a key focus for government and it is welcome that this paper recognises the value that skilled workers from overseas can bring to helping improve the UK’s skills base.”

Where does the Brexit process currently stand?

After the UK decided to leave the European Union in 2016, a lengthy process followed. Britain is set to leave the EU on March 29, 2019. Since the 2016 referendum, several negotiations involving Britain and other countries have taken place.

The vote on the Brexit deal was meant to take place on December 11, but PM May postponed it, admitting that the deal didn’t have enough support to pass.

May said she would try and ask the EU for any modifications before bringing the deal back to Parliament. However, the delay sparked more criticism, and May faced a vote of confidence by Tory MPs over whether she should continue to lead her party. May ended up winning the vote, with 63 percent of Conservative MPs supporting her and 37 percent voting against her.

She has now said that the deal will be voted on in the week starting January 14, 2019.

Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius

BrexitCIIEuropean UnionImmigrationIndiaStudentsTheresa MayUnited Kingdom