20,000 UK visas could be available to Indians

22 Feb 2011 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Up to 20,000 UK visas could be made available to Indians every year as part of a free trade agreement.

The European Union is negotiating a deal with India for highly-skilled and qualified professionals from the Asian country to have access to the EU.

New Delhi is trying to gain somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 UK visas, with tens of thousands more visas sought for other EU member countries.

In exchange for the UK visas, Britain would be offered potentially rewarding export deals.

If the plans were to go through, it would be the first time that any country has been given access to a fixed number of UK visas each year.

A spokesman for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said: "The UK strongly supports the conclusion of an ambitious free trade agreement which is currently being negotiated by the Commission.

"The long-term benefits for both parties would be considerable and will deliver significant economic benefits to the UK, reducing both tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade."

Nearly 30,000 Indian workers came to the UK last year, according to the Sunday Telegraph. The paper noted that 19,000 of these employees acquired UK visas through the intra-company transfer (ICT) route. However, the latest trade negotiations would not require Indians to go through this method in order to acquire a UK visa.

The government recently confirmed that ICT UK visas would be excluded from the annual limit of 21,700 Tier 1 and Tier 2 work permits, which is due to be implemented from April this year.