David Cameron the UK's Prime Minister, has given interviews to Indian television stations in which he has claimed that there is 'no limit' on the number of Indian students who can study in the UK or on the number who can then stay in the UK to work having graduated.
In recent years, the UK government has introduced new rules and checks making it harder to get a Tier 4 student visa to study in the UK and also made it harder to work in the UK, closing several visa tiers to new applicants. The main visa for overseas workers wanting to work in the UK now is Tier 2, the skilled migrant visa tier, and it is necessary to find a sponsor. This too has become harder.
'Britain will be incredibly welcoming'However, the Prime Minister was at pains to say that the UK still welcomed Indian students and to stress that it was still possible for those students to work in the UK once they had graduated. He said that his Coalition government hadn't communicated that it was keen to see as many Indians coming to work in the UK as wanted to do so. He said that he was keen to rectify this. 'Now, we need to take that message out to the talented young people in India and say, if you want to make this choice, Britain will be incredibly welcoming'.
Mr Cameron also told Indian broadcaster Zee TV 'That Britain had cultural and historical links that could lead to a special relationship in the 21st century. 'I think it can be a special relationship', he said 'There's the history, there are the family ties, there's the culture, there's the language. There's the love of things like cricket but there's an amazing future if we team up our universities, our businesses…I think Britain should show enormous respect for what India's going to be able to do in the world and we want to be one of your partners as you grow and succeed.'
Cut immigration to 'tens of thousands'
When Mr Cameron was the leader of the Opposition in 2010, he told the BBC that he would, if he became Prime Minister, reduce net immigration from the then level of 260,000 a year to 'tens of thousands' a year, which has always been taken to mean below 100,000 a year. Under Mr Cameron's premiership, the Home Office, which has responsibility for policing immigration, has
• removed the right of more than 500 English schools to sponsor overseas students for Tier 4 student visas
• introduced an annual cap of 20,700 on the number of Tier 2 (General) visas for skilled workers
• Closed down the Tier 1 (General) and Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visas which allowed international graduates to work in the UK.
The Coalition government has always refused to put any cap on the number of students from outside the European Economic Area who can study at UK universities. Nonetheless, there has been a fall in the number of students from some countries who are choosing to study at UK universities.
30% fall in Indian students at UK universitiesOn Tuesday 12th February 2013, the director of Universities Scotland Alistair Sim said that the closure of the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa stream and unwelcoming speeches by UK ministers had been contributory factors in a fall of nearly 30% in the number of Indian students applying to Scottish universities in 2011-12 on the previous year. There was a similar fall in the number of Pakistani students and a fall of 14% in the number of Nigerian students over the same period. There were also similar falls across the UK.
The Home Office told The Daily Telegraph, a UK newspaper, that Mr Cameron's speech did not mean that there had been any change in the UK's immigration policy. It said that only those graduates earning at least £20,000 are entitled to stay and work in the UK.
On Wednesday 13th February at Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, Mr Cameron told MPs that his government was planning on restricting the right of immigrants to the UK to access healthcare, legal and health services and social security benefits.
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