Under Prime Minister Theresa May, the UK has been active in pursuing bilateral trade agreements in the run-up to its exit from the EU. Photo: Reuters, Kirsty Wigglesworth

Britain’s latest crackdown to curb soaring immigration — a move that could greatly affect Indian IT professionals — comes just before the arrival of UK Prime Minister Theresa May in New Delhi.

May’s three-day visit starting on Sunday evening is her first bilateral trip as premier outside the European Union (EU) and is being billed as building future ties between the two nations in a post-Brexit world.

She is being accompanied by a delegation of small and medium-sized business from across the UK to strengthen bilateral cooperation and enhance trade links. They include trade ministers Liam Fox and Greg Hands, who will address a technology summit and have a working lunch with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and meet businesses.

On Thursday, May and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi exchanged Diwali greetings and set the agenda for their meeting this week.

But less than 24 hours later, the UK administration announced changes to its visa policy for non-EU nationals, which will affect a large number of Indians especially IT professionals, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

The new visa rules mean anyone applying after November 24 under the Tier 2 intracompany transfer (ICT) category will be required to meet a higher salary threshold requirement of £30,000 (US$37,555) from the earlier £20,800.

Indian companies in the UK have used the ICT route in nearly 90% of cases to get visas for IT workers, according to the UK’s Migration Advisory Committee.

Language requirements

“The first of two phases of changes to Tier 2, announced by the government in March following a review by the Independent Migration Advisory Committee, will affect applications made on or after November 24 unless stated otherwise,” a UK Home Office statement said.

As well as the Tier 2 ICT salary threshold increase, other changes announced include increasing the Tier 2 general salary threshold for experienced workers to £25,000 pounds.

Nationals outside the European Union, including Indians, will also be affected by new English language requirements when applying for settlement as a family member after two-and-a-half years in the UK on a five-year route to residency settlement in the country, the PTI report added.

Since the Brexit vote, Britain has been scouting for potential trade partners and India is an ideal pitch as one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, with May’s visit raising hopes for talks on a free-trade agreement between the two countries.

India was the third-largest source of foreign direct investment in the UK last year, after the US and France.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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