The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is to urge the UK government to commit to a more flexible visa system in a bid to encourage more talented Indians to study and work in Britain.
Mr Khan is due to address a group of senior Indian business leaders in Mumbai later today as part of a six-day visit to India and Pakistan.
He’s expected to say that the future relationship between India and Britain must be based on access to talent as well as trade and investment.
The mayor, whose parents and grandparents were born and raised in India, believes changes to the current visa system would not only benefit the UK’s relationship with India, but also its dealings with other growing economies around the world. He also wants to see the introduction of a new post-study work route for international students.
Mr Khan said: “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.”
Over the coming days the mayor will tour the cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Amritsar, meeting senior politicians, business leaders and city chiefs. He’ll go on to visit Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi in Pakistan.
The call for changes to be made to Britain’s visa system has been backed by Dame Minouche Shafik, director of the London School of Economics.
She 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.”
According to the mayor’s office, between 2005 and 2016 the UK was the second-largest destination for Indian investment, and 44 per cent of the fastest growing Indian companies now have a base in London.