More than 50 leaders from business and politics have signed a letter, published today by The Daily Telegraph, supporting calls for the UK to extend its new £87 two-year visitor visa to Indian nationals.
The Royal Commonwealth Society’s letter was signed by Chandrajit Banerjee; Director General of the Confederation of Indian Industry, Lord Bilimoria; Chairman of Cobra Beer and Virendra Sharma MP; Chair of the Indo-British All Party Parliamentary Group, among others.
The letter comes after The Royal Commonwealth Society released a report in July in partnership with leading aviation, tourism and industry groups outlining the sound case for visa reform. A pilot visa scheme lasting two years for £87 was offered to China in January 2016, yet Indian visitors continue to pay £330 for a two-year visa, or £87 for six months.
The report’s author, Tim Hewish, Director of Policy and Research at The Royal Commonwealth Society said: “This letter demonstrates the broad support for reform of the UK-India visitor visa scheme across tourism, aviation, business and politics. We urge the UK government to listen to these individuals as leaders in their field and proactively discuss this proposal with the Indian government without delay.”
The reform would help reverse the UK’s falling market share of global Indian tourists, which has halved over the last decade. The estimated cost to the UK economy is almost £500m per year and over 8,000 jobs. France has now leapfrogged the UK as India’s most visited European nation, attracting 500,000 visitors from the subcontinent in 2015.
Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General of the Confederation of Indian Industry said: “The strength of the UK-India relationship today must also reflect in a stronger visa regime. This policy suggestion for a two year UK visa for Indian nationals could provide a big boost to tourism, and comes at a very opportune time as 2017 is declared the UK-India Year of Culture.”
With 2017 designated the UK-India Year of Culture, marking 70 years of Indian Independence, the time for change is now. Throughout 2017 both nations will see a strong collaboration in business, art, music, design and more. Having a cheaper and extended UK visitor visa will help enhance these endeavours.
Furthermore, in light of the UK’s recent decision to leave the EU, it is now more vital than ever that the UK strengthens its ties with India and sends a strong message that it welcomes Indian visitors and is open for business.
Download the letter with the names and titles of the 56 signatories: https://www.thercs.org/assets/Research-/VisaLetterFINAL.pdf
Download the full report ‘A Passage from India – Improving UK visitor visas for India nationals’ published in July 2016: https://www.thercs.org/assets/Research-/India-Visa-Report-online-copy.pdf
Download the two-page infographic: https://www.thercs.org/assets/Research-/RCS-IndianVisaInfographic-2pp-web.pdf
The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS), founded in 1868, is a network of individuals and organisations committed to improving the lives and prospects of Commonwealth citizens across the world. Through youth empowerment, education and advocacy, the RCS promotes the value and values of the Commonwealth. www.thercs.org
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), founded in 1895, is a non-government, not-for-profit, industry-led and industry-managed organization, working to create and sustain an environment conducive to the development of India, partnering industry, Government, and civil society. With 66 offices India and 7 overseas offices, CII serves as a reference point for Indian and international business community. The CII’s UK office is committed to enhancing India-UK business relations. www.cii.in/uk