UK visa regulations 'hampering competition'

30 Oct 2012 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Britain's competitive stance as a global business power is being pressured by UK visa and work permit regulations, it has been suggested.

Steve Ridgway, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, has noted that he is fighting a “constant battle” against the Home Office and other government departments to make Britain a more appealing destination. Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr Ridgway highlighted access to UK work permits for Indians as particularly problematic.

He noted that he is desperately trying to reduce the costs for Indian businessmen looking to come to the UK , but that the government's position remains “irrational”, prompting him to continue to lobby for a relaxation of the UK visa rules and a reduction in airline taxes.

The main issue in Mr Ridgway's opinion is that regulations within other EU countries are more conducive to developing international business connections. As a result, the UK could soon start to see vital trade links slip away. “We know that we have to keep our borders safe and secure, but equally we live in a very competitive world,” he remarked.

The chief executive was speaking to the paper on the first day of a trade mission to New Delhi and Mumbai, organised by Virgin Atlantic and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). He stated that the mission is “all about attracting business into the UK and vice versa, and that seems to be what the government's agenda is”, adding that they “need the economy to grow”.

"But sometimes these policies are in conflict with each other, which seems a bit irrational to me," Mr Ridgway told the paper. "Visas and taxation is a perpetual issue around generating and growing traffic between our two countries. You can go to Europe and get a Schengen visa for 25 countries but you still have to get one visa for the UK which is more expensive than the European one."

The government's restrictions on UK work permit and visa access have been criticised before for putting the country's economic growth at risk, with various business groups questioning the plans to put a such strict limits on the number of skilled workers coming to work in Britain.