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Not more visas, but want easier intra-company transfers for workers, India clarifies on UK FTA talks

Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Vikram Doraiswami, has clarified India’s stance on visas in the UK-India trade deal, stating that India is not seeking more visas. Instead, India is advocating for easier intra-company transfers and portable pensions. This comes at a time when UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is in New Delhi for discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

In an interview with Times Radio, Doraiswami emphasized, “We are not asking for migrants to be able to come to the UK. In fact, we are a net recipient of migration rather than a net sender of migrants.” He refuted the notion that India is pressing for additional visas, which has been a recurring theme in the UK media.

When asked about the desire to retain talent in India, Doraiswami explained, “What we have been asking for is simplification of the process by which intra-company transfers happen.” He highlighted the need for both Indian and British companies to find it easier to move their respective nationals between the two countries. Doraiswami also emphasized the importance of a good free trade agreement that covers services, visa simplification for specialists, and guarantees for Indian students to gain work experience in the UK after their studies.

Furthermore, India seeks assurance that contributions to pension funds by Indians working in the UK can be repatriated to India when they return, instead of being left behind. This move aims to ensure that individuals can access their pension benefits earned during their stay in the UK.

In response to these clarifications, a spokesperson for PM Rishi Sunak emphasized the UK’s commitment to reducing net migration. While negotiations for the free trade agreement are ongoing, there are no plans to alter immigration policies, including student visas.

On Thursday, Britain said it had no plans to change its approach to reducing net migration in order to help secure a free trade deal with India. There is growing optimism that a free trade deal between the countries could be concluded this year, as both sides agree on the broad contours of the pact, though the remaining topics to be discussed are some of the difficult.