Brexit Britain: Good news for Indian talent in the UK?

Brexit Britain: Good news for Indian talent in the UK?

The UK finally left the European Union (EU) in January 2021, completing the controversial exit from the trade bloc.

As immigration was a big plank of the Leave campaign over four years ago, let us look at how this impacts Indian-origin migrants and whether the post-Brexit immigration system truly lives up to the promise of a fairer, skills-based as opposed to country-of-origin based set-up.

A new route for students

Ever since independence, Indians have sought work opportunities abroad, and even today, studying and working abroad remains quite alluring for young diaspora professionals. Every year, tens of thousands of Indian students make the UK their place of study, with some making it their home.

However, over the years the pre-Brexit immigration regime was such that many students found the UK an unfriendly country for higher education. Things have improved slightly since then, with the Boris Johnson administration attempting to make it easier for Indians to stay on under the new Graduate route. This allows skilled graduates from India two years of unsponsored stay in the UK, which means that they won’t need a prospective employer to sponsor them during this time, giving them greater flexibility to look for work or apply for other visas.

The Graduate immigration route comes into force in the summer of 2021 and permanent settlement at the end of the two-year period is also a possibility. This is in contrast to skilled workers generally, who will need a sponsor for a visa, and also meet an income threshold of £25,600 (or the equivalent going rate for their job) in order to move to the UK.

Far-reaching benefits

This significant change will benefit many students of Indian origin as the transition to a skills-based immigration policy continues to change how the UK immigration system works. This is particularly pertinent for Indians who work in the healthcare sector, as it means that they can potentially get a residential health and social care visa, which requires 70 points under the UK points system.

Three conditions need to be satisfied by applicants for this visa: a job offer by an employer, an appropriate level of qualifications (at least A-Level equivalent) and robust English skills. None of these should be a challenge for talented diaspora members.

There is currently a shortage of around 40,000 nurses in the NHS at present; a shortfall that has been significantly exacerbated by the systemic pressures imposed by Covid and its aftermath. Health care workers of Indian origin have already contributed greatly to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed during Covid-19, and it would be great if even more can help the NHS recover from one of the most traumatic periods in its history.

This would add greatly to the image of Indians abroad especially as India is already gaining in credibility standing for sending vaccines out to assist the most poor and vulnerable countries battle the pandemic.

Reuniting families

It is not all hunky dory on the immigration news front though. Considerable restrictions still exist, such as those on bringing over family members who need the support of the applicant, like elderly parents.

These restrictions in the Immigration rules have caused significant anxiety and distress among some NRIs, especially medical professionals.

There is currently a petition for the parents of British citizens who currently reside outside the EU to be given a super-visa, enabling them to obtain settlement in the United Kingdom. At the time of writing, it has a little over 18,700 signatures. Under the British system petitions need 100,000 signatures to trigger a parliamentary debate. Given the significant professional diaspora contribution to UK this should still be of interest to the Indian community in Britain.

Although there is now the possibility for skilled Indian workers to apply for unsponsored stay in the UK for up to two years as well as permanent settlement, the points-based immigration system has yet to evolve to accommodate their families.

That is the next step in moving towards a fair immigration system in the UK after Brexit.

Jeevan Vipinachandran is a UK-based writer and political analyst specialising in political conflict and counter-terrorism. With a Masters in Comparative Politics: Conflict Studies from the London School of Economics (LSE), his core interest is in international relations with a special focus on the rise of India and its impact on the world stage.

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