UK plans to ease immigration rules by offering cheaper and easier visas to Indian tourists, students and professionals, with the aim of securing a trade deal with India, a press report said on Saturday. .

UK Secretary for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan is expected to visit New Delhi this month as formal negotiations on a draft free trade agreement (FTA) between India and the UK should start.

Trevelyan is expected to use the visit to open the prospect of relaxing immigration rules for Indian citizens, a key demand from New Delhi, The Times reported.

While she has the backing of Liz Truss, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who has placed strengthening ties with India high on the government’s agenda to counter China’s growing influence, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Interior Priti Patel opposes the move, according to the report.

In May of last year, Patel signed a “tailor-made” and reciprocal partnership for migration and mobility (MMP) with Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar to enable approximately 3,000 students and professionals to access each year the advantages of professional experience in one or the other country.

As part of the MMP, the two sides agreed to work on an April 2022 timeline to put the new system in place, with work underway at the High Commission in London and the Foreign Ministry in New Delhi.

However, under other immigration plans that are said to be in the works, one option under consideration is a program similar to that agreed under the UK-Australia FTA, which would allow young Indians to come and work in the UK for up to three years.

Another option would be to reduce visa fees for students, allowing them to stay in the UK for a period after graduation, possibly relying on the Graduate Route visa under the rules of Points-based immigration currently in place, according to the report.

There could also be fee reductions for work and tourist visas.

Currently, a work visa can cost up to £ 1,400 for an Indian citizen, while students pay £ 348 and £ 95 respectively for tourists.

These stand in stark contrast to visa fees for countries like China, which have to pay much less.

Indian-born peer Lord Karan Bilimoria, chairman of the Confederation of British Industry, has been among the strongest advocates of reducing visa fees for Indians.

“This FTA, I hope, will benefit the improvement of bilateral trade and be as comprehensive as possible. Movement of people; reduction in duties and tariffs – the tariff on Scotch whiskey is 150 percent, to be significantly reduced; academic collaborations and cross-border research will be enormous between our countries and partnerships for a green industrial revolution. There is a wide range to really increase business and trade between our two countries, ”he said.

A senior government source told ‘The Times’ that ministers agreed that the price of a trade deal with India would be to make a “generous” offer on visas.

“The technology and digital space in India is still extremely protectionist and if we could open even a small amount of access it would give us a head start,” a government official said.

The UK government has repeatedly said it wants an agreement that removes barriers to doing business with India.

According to the Department for International Trade, preparations to launch negotiations for the UK-India FTA “remain underway” since the conclusion of the bilateral working groups.

Trevelyan and his Indian counterpart, Trade and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, also held talks at the G-20 trade ministers meeting in Sorrento, Italy last October to discuss “final preparations. Of the launch of the India-UK FTA negotiations this year.

“We look forward to starting negotiations early this year. India is set to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2050, and a trade deal will open huge opportunities for UK businesses to trade with India’s £ 2 trillion economy, “a government spokesperson said. British.

This story was posted from an agency feed with no text editing.

To subscribe to Mint newsletters

* Enter a valid email address

* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint. Download our app now !!