India is, once again, not included in an expanded list of countries from where students applying for visas will be subject to less stringent documentation requirements, details provided on Thursday showed.
This follows last year’s controversy when China, Indonesia, the Maldives and other countries were included on the list. The failure to include India triggered much criticism, particularly after the U.K. sought to suggest that the exclusion related to New Delhi’s decision to pull out of a Memorandum of Understanding on the return of illegal migrants.
Among the new countries to which the “streamlined documentary requirements” apply are Peru, Kazakhstan, Mauritius and Oman. “This change will not only benefit students, who will be able to apply for visas through a more streamlined process, but also help to ensure that the U.K.’s world-leading education institutions remain competitive internationally,” the Home Office said.
“This adds insult to injury,” said Lord Karan Bilimoria, a cross-bench member of the House of Lords who has been critical of the government’s approach to immigration, particularly relating to students. “It is incredible to think that Britain still has the audacity to talk of a trade deal with India, while this is its approach.”
The changes are part of a wider update to Britain’s immigration system that will introduce two new visa routes for setting up businesses in the U.K. — including a “start-up” route and an equivalent one for more seasoned business people. In both cases, business experts will be involved in assessing the merits of the business ideas. “This will make sure that the routes are focussed on only the most innovative, viable and scalable businesses,” said the Home Office.
The government has also updated its rules governing a fast-track visa scheme for wealthy investors – which has been used by many Indians. The scheme, which is open to those who invest at least £2 million in U.K. government, shares or businesses, offers a faster route to settlement in the country. Eighty-two Indian nationals applied for an investor visa through this route between 2008 and March 2018, according to Transparency International.
However, amid concerns that the route has been abused for illicit money flows, the government has been under pressure to either scrap or reform the system. Now, applicants will be “required to prove that they have had control of the required £2 million for at least two years, rather than 90 days, or provide evidence of the source of those funds”, the Home Office said.