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UK may relax work visa rules for Indians as part of FTA


The United Kingdom may consider easing working visa rules for professionals under its Free Trade Agreement with India.

The UK is willing to relax some visa rules for Indian professionals, Indian officials told Bloomberg, asking not be identified as the discussions are private.

However, a British official indicated any visa relaxations are likely to be limited, with immigration being a politically sensitive subject in the UK.

The UK has so far refused any consessions to its visa and immigration rules under the FTA with India.

India has long demanded increased access for its citizens, but the UK’s vote for Brexit in 2016 was fueled in part by calls for greater control over the numbers of people coming into the country, and immigration remains a hot-button topic ahead of the next general election.

Last year, talks between India and the UK hit a snag over easier access to thousands of skilled workers delaying the deal beyond the October deadline.India’s position hardened amid concerns raised by UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman on migration from India.In an interview, the UK home secretary expressed reservations over a relaxation through the trade pact and had claimed Indians were the “largest group of people who overstayed”.

The comments made last week prompted India to say both the nations should “honor” the “understanding” with regards to migration mobility.

Indian officials said that the British government should share data on the number of Indian business visitors who have overstayed in the UK.

Underscoring the difficulties Sunak’s government faces, net migration to the UK reached a record 606,000 people last year, while separate visa data has shown one in three residence visas were granted to Indian workers. A UK official said talks are centering on time-limited business visas for highly skilled workers.

The United Kingdom has taken multiple steps over the past few months to curb immigration into the country, and also limited options for existing immigrants to remain in the country.

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