Finance Minister for India unhappy with UK immigration laws

There are close cultural and economic ties between the The United Kingdom and India. However, the two Countries are at odds over immigration. The Indian Finance Minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, has warned that Britain would be the "loser" if immigration laws are not relaxed to make it easier for Indians to work in the UK.

Since 5 December 2006 it has become more difficult for many overseas workers to obtain the coveted HSMP visa in the UK. This is a sore point between the two nations at a time when both are looking at forging closer economic ties. However, it should be noted that there is no quota on the number of skilled professionals allowed into the UK under the HSMP or work permit scheme.

Recent comments during a trip to India from Gordon Brown, UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer, about raising caps on foreign investment, were considered a bit absurd by some business commentators because his government had just made sweeping changes to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP), affecting several thousand Indians. Indians are the largest national group affected by the changes.

"Many knowledge workers could go abroad for three months, six months or a year and add to our exports, but they are constrained by a very restrictive visa regime and local tax laws," said Mr. Chidambaram.

"If a qualified professional from India is denied entry and that place is taken by a less qualified person from, say, Eastern Europe, surely the UK is the loser?"

Mr. Chidambaram's comment seems directed at various European Union policies to favor professionals from within the EU. One of the main aims of the EU is to make it possible for an EU citizen to work freely in any EU Country. Most EU Citizens have been able to benefit from the free movement provisions for many years.

A very similar line of reasoning is regularly put forth regarding the H-1B visa in the United States. Both the U.S. and the UK, along with all the most advanced western nations such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, are aggressively competing for the most educated and skilled migrant workers from around the globe, regardless of country of origin. However, compared to employers in the other Countries, it is quite difficult for US employers to obtain a visa to employ skilled professionals in the US.

Mr. Chidambaram, 61, was educated at Harvard Business School and represents himself as a strong supporter of free trade.


Related:

Summary of UK HSMP Changes
New HSMP Extension information

UK summary of criticism of recent immigration changes
UK - protest by migrants against HSMP changes
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