“International trade requires the removal of barriers and visa schemes like this are a great step in ensuring we allow top talent to move smoothly between markets,” said the Lord Mayor of London Nicholas Lyons, with reference to the new UK-India Young Professionals Scheme launched by Prime Ministers Rishi Sunak and Narendra Modi at the G20 Summit in Indonesia this week.
“India is home to the fastest growing economy in the world and one of the UK’s historic partners. With trade negotiations ongoing, firms will also want to see a greater focus on enabling smoother digital trade and free flow of data. Delivering on these priorities will in turn unlock opportunities and growth for businesses across the UK,” he said.
The announcement came after the first meeting between Britain’s first Prime Minister of Indian heritage and the Indian Prime Minister, who presented Sunak with a special handmade gift from his home state of Gujarat – a “Mata Ni Pachedi”.
According to Downing Street, the leaders agreed on the enduring importance of the UK-India relationship and of the living bridge between our countries.
The readout of the meeting notes: “The Prime Minister passed on his thanks to Prime Minister Modi for the overwhelming response of the Indian people to his appointment as Prime Minister.
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“The leaders discussed the range of areas where the UK and India are working increasingly closely and have the opportunity to further develop our links, including defence and security. They looked forward to the agreement of a UK-India free trade deal, which has the potential to unlock investment and increase jobs in both our countries, as well as expanding our deep cultural links.”
The reciprocal youth visa scheme, however, was the highlight of the much-anticipated meeting between the two leaders.
Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Director General Arun Chawla said: “FICCI welcomes the announcement of the UK-India Young Professions Scheme. This will give the brightest young minds from both the countries to live and work in the other country. This will be an opportunity of a lifetime for these young professionals.
“The announcement also highlights the strength of the UK-India Migration and Mobility Partnership agreed last year.”
Under the scheme, to be up and running from early next year, 3,000 visas will be on offer annually for Indian students and professionals aged between 18 and 30 to live and work in the UK for 24 months and vice-versa for British nationals in India.
The National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK said it hopes that British nationals, many of whom may be members of the diaspora living bridge, would take up the offer equally enthusiastically as Indians are expected to.
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NISAU UK Chair Sanam Arora said: “I have no doubts that the scheme will be oversubscribed from India's perspective, but I do hope that as many young Brits as possible are also encouraged to take up this scheme to go to India because this has the potential to be a truly wonderful way of educating Britain's youth about contemporary India.
“This scheme will further help strengthen the living bridge of young Indian and British talent enriching the other country, just as our Indian students who we are honouring through the India UK Achievers Honours, have done for centuries.”