Last year, the UK issued almost 55,000 visas to India. That was more than five times as many visas in that category than issued to USA nationals – the closest competitor
In the coming week, in the heart of New Delhi, the UK government will join hands with partners from across India and step into the future.
At the Future Tech Festival, which will be held on 11 and 12 December, some of the best Indian tech companies will come together with their UK counterparts to see how the emerging technology that they are harnessing can shape and improve our lives in the years to come.
One important area where this is true is on visas. That is why UK Visas and Immigration are supporting the Future Tech Festival and are keen to engage with the UK-India tech community.
We do this from a position of strength. For the last three years, we have issued more skilled work visas to Indian nationals than the rest of the world combined.
Last year, we issued almost 55,000 visas to India. That was more than five times as many visas in that category than we issued to USA nationals – the closest competitor.
We are issuing more visas to Indian nationals than ever before. In fact, last year 99 per cent of skilled workers from India who applied for a tier 2 visa were granted.
In addition, for all visa applications received during the same period, 98 per cent were processed within our 15 working days service standard.
We are now looking to the future to see how tech is improving the visa system – as well as how UK visa policy and recent changes to it stand to be particularly beneficial to the Indian business community.
As tech is changing and modernising how we do almost any transaction, it is doing the same for our visa service.
Recently, we have moved almost all applications to our new online form – AccessUK – which offers questions in Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Urdu and Tamil amongst its 19 languages. It is also more dynamic than older, more general forms, tailored to different visa categories and avoids the need to input the same data repeatedly.
Soon we will introduce the ability for customers to self-upload documents. We know that hundreds of millions of Indians use smartphones – and now they can use those devices to upload digital images of their supporting documents, instead of transporting physical copies to a Visa Application Centre.
Shortly after that, our commercial partner, VFS, will work on transforming the way biometrics are collected in India.
With their new kiosk design, additional locations – such as shopping malls, travel agents and universities – will offer applicants a quicker, simpler way to upload fingerprints and other biometric information. This gives more choice to the customer, saving time and effort in the application process through intelligent use of technology.
Alongside this, our UK visas policy is changing to give trade and business customers more choice and options too. Four recent changes show this:
Firstly, next spring we will launch the new 'start-up visa', which will make the immigration process faster and smoother for entrepreneurs coming to the UK. Replacing an older route just for graduates, this gives more people from India the opportunity to build their business in Britain.
Secondly, we have doubled the number of spaces available on the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Scheme, ensuring that more highly skilled people who enhance the UK’s economy can come to, and work in Britain for five years– with the opportunity of settlement after three years.
Thirdly, in June 2018 we removed doctors and nurses from the Tier 2 visa cap.
Not only has this change meant that all doctors and nurses needed in the UK can be recruited here without a restriction on numbers, but it has also importantly freed up hundreds of places per month within the cap for other skilled workers, including for IT workers and engineers.
And fourthly, we have launched a new 'UKRI Science, Research and Academia' scheme within our Tier 5 temporary work route, which allows overseas researchers, scientists and academics to come to the UK for up to two years, meaning highly skilled individuals such as specialist technicians, have an extra route to be sponsored to come to the UK.
All of this work – to transform and modernise the visa service and offer new and improved routes to work in the UK for the many talented Indian professionals – shows that the UK is open for business, and that UK Visas and Immigration is supporting that aim.
India is well-placed to take advantage of this underpinned by the ambitious partnership in the area of technology our two Prime Ministers’ set out when they met in April.(The author is Regional Director for UK Visas and Immigration, South and South East Asia)