Good relationships support good health

Mayor backs new special relationship with India

04 December 2017
  • Future relationship must be based on access to talent as well as trade and investment
  • Sadiq calls on British Government to make it easier for young Indians to work and study in London
  • Mayor criticises Ministers for closing down post-study work route

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will today tell senior Indian business leaders that he wants the UK and India to forge a new special relationship that is not only based on trade and investment – but also encourages talented Indian people to study and work in London.

Delivering a keynote speech in Mumbai, Sadiq is expected to say that the best way to achieve that would be for the UK Government to commit to a more flexible visa system. This would benefit not only the UK’s relationship with India, but with other growing economies around the world.

He will voice his frustration that, while there has been a drive to increase UK trade with India, business is hampered by our visa system. Many Indians, particularly young students, are finding it harder than ever to gain visas to work and study in the UK. These Indians are choosing to go to the USA, Canada and Australia instead, who are reaping the benefits*.

To address that, Sadiq will call on the UK Government to introduce a new post-study work route for international students.

In particular, he will criticise the Government for closing down the previous Tier 1 post-study work route. The number of Indian students coming to London has fallen by over 40 per cent since 2010, partly as a result of this, and now stands at 4,705 (2015/16).

Sadiq also wants Government to change the rules to make it easier for Indian entrepreneurs and skilled workers to gain visas, and to set up a new India-UK International Work Experience Programmeto encourage young people from both countries to spend time and learn about India and the UK.

The Mayor is currently visiting India to promote London as a business and tourism destination and to strengthen the bonds between India and the capital.

Speaking at WeWork in Mumbai, he is also expected to highlight his strong emotional bond to India and explain how it has helped to shape the person he has become.

On his strong emotional bond to India, Sadiq is expected to say:

“Of course - I’m here in my capacity as the Mayor of London. But I can’t deny that coming to this incredible, historic country also feels special to me on a personal level. This is where both my grandparents and my parents were born and raised.

“And it’s where many of the people who inspired me the most throughout my life came from, and put their talents and philosophies into action. From the father of your nation, Mahatma Gandhi – whose messages of peace and love will always endure. 

“To Srinivasa Ramanujan - the amazing mathematician, and Savitribai Phule – a true inspiration for many of us still fighting for gender equality.”

On the UK and London’s future relationship with India, Sadiq is expected to say:

“I fully recognise that we can’t rely on our old bonds with India to secure a valuable place in your bright future. And I fully recognise that we can’t take for granted that our historic connections will inevitably lead to a tighter, more prosperous bond.

“I fully appreciate the real disappointment that many Indians have felt about the British Government’s decision to make it more difficult for Indians to gain visas to work and study in the UK.

“In my view – this is not only counterproductive, but simply wrong for the British Government to launch a charm offensive for Indian trade and investment on one hand, but then to work to enforce a visa system that makes it more difficult for Indians to come to our country with the other.”

On a more flexible visa system, Sadiq is expected to say:

“In London I’m making the case loud and clear for a fair, flexible immigration system that allows us to attract talented people - with fewer barriers and less red tape. As part of this, I’m putting forward detailed proposals for a new post-study work visa for international students.

“The British Prime Minister – Theresa May– got it badly wrong with her decision to close this route a few years ago. Because it’s not only led to a substantial drop in Indian students coming to our universities– it’s in danger of starving my city of great talent.

“History shows us that people go on to do great things after studying and working overseas.

“It’s a way of building connections that last for life, which can later benefit us all.

“So my ambition is to see more Indians follow in the footsteps of the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharalar Nehru and Srinivasa Ramanujan, who studied at Britain’s world-renowned universities.”

Supporting the Mayor’s call for a more flexible visa system, Director of the London School of Economics, Dame Minouche Shafik, said: “Increasing the availability of post-study work visas will help encourage the brightest minds from countries like India to study at London’s world-leading universities, while reaffirming to the world that London is open.

“Everybody wins. The students who come to study here, our universities, and the firms who want to employ our talented graduates.”

Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of London First, said: “London’s success is built on global talent and we must keep our doors open to the people vital to our economic growth. To keep London globally competitive, we need the best possible deal from Brexit but must also build invaluable, long-term links with growing economies like India.”

Member of the Mayor’s Business Advisory Board and Founder of E2Exchange (E2E), the UK's largest entrepreneurs’ organisation, Shalini Khemka, said: “Encouraging trade and increasing innovation through welcoming dynamic entrepreneurs, from India and across the world, is a must. London is a top destination to start a business with its innovative culture, access to finance, high skilled workforce and research excellence, all in one city.

“We need a flexible visa system that makes sure London – the city of opportunity – remains open to global entrepreneurial talent. The results will be spectacular‎!”

Executive Chair of the Scaleup Institute, Sherry Coutu, said: “Entrepreneurs play a key role in taking on risks to create new market opportunities, to innovate and drive economic growth. The UK has to be open to global entrepreneurial talent.

“London is a major draw – people know this is a leading world city to start and grow businesses. Our visa system needs to be flexible so we can attract both those with a proven track record and those with potential.”

Notes to editors

* The UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration’s report in 2015 found clear evidence of other countries enhancing their post-study work offers and reaping the benefits. Reports from Australia suggest they have seen a tripling of Indian students since 2011 (http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/prime-minister-malcolm-turnbull-to-secure-australias-education-export-market-in-india-20170409-gvgzn0.html).

Further details on changes to the visa system that Sadiq Khan is calling Government to make:

Reintroduce a clear post-study work visa for international students.

Up until 2012 international students studying in the UK could apply for a post-study work visa so they could work for up to two years after they graduated, meaning that the UK directly benefited from the skills and knowledge the students gained during their degree.

Sadiq believes Government made a major mistake when it closed down this route without a clear replacement. Not only did it mean that many talented Indian students could no longer come to the UK, but it also starved London of talented and inspiring people early in their careers. The Mayor wants the Government to establish clear routes designed for international students to work after graduating from UK universities.

Make the Tier 1 (entrepreneur) visa more flexible.

This visa allows entrepreneurs to enter the UK in order to develop their ideas or establish a new business. The number of entrepreneurs coming to the UK via this method has fallen from 918 in 2015 to 812 in 2016. Sadiq believes this is in part due to the current requirements operated by the Home Office and too inflexible and do not match the reality of how a business is started and grown.

The Mayor wants Government to make it easier for entrepreneurs whose business plans demonstrate innovation, market potential, or productivity gains, as well as good market potential, but who do not yet have access to that capital. This would mean the system was more attuned to the start of an entrepreneur’s business journey.

Establish an India-UK International Work Experience Programme

This would start with a partnership with India, but could extend to other countries too. This would encourage talented young people to spend time in a work environment in both countries. The route would be limited to 18-35 year olds and be up to 2 years – providing opportunities for ‘gap year’, career starters and career development/transitioning. The Mayor wants the Government to look at new visa opportunities that can support strategic relationships – growing trade, knowledge and cultural exchange and innovation - between the UK and other countries.