UK think tank pushes for cheaper visas for Indians


London, March 10: A leading UK-based think tank has released a research to support its call for a new, more economical visa regime to attract Indian visitors to the country.
The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) revealed that the UK was losing out as neighbouring France attracted 1,85,000 more Indian business visitors and tourists in 2016.
Overall the number of visits to the UK by Indian nationals fell by 1.73% in 2016, while in France it grew by 5.3%.
The UK’s market share of Indian outbound tourists has more than halved from 4.4% in 2006 to 1.9% in 2016, 6,00,000 Indians visited France in 2016, 185,000 more than visited the UK, RCS says in its new Britain and India: Building a New Visa Partnership’ fact sheet presented to British MPs earlier this week as part of its campaign launched in 2016 for a new UK-India bilateral visa agreement which would considerably reduce the cost of tourist visas.
The new UK-India Visa Agreement being proposed would reduce the cost of a two-year visa from 388 Pounds (Rs 34,939) to just 89 (Rs 8,014) Pounds and allow travellers to make repeat visits within two years.
This would mirror the reduced cost two-year multiple entry visa that was launched in January 2016 for visitors travelling both ways between the UK and China, RCS said in a statement.
The RCS feels the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in April, to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, presents the ideal setting for an announcement of a new agreement.
A new UK-India bilateral visa agreement will enhance trade and tourism, as well as strengthen important business and cultural ties, enabling both the UK and India to capitalise on future global opportunities, said Labour MP Virendra Sharma, who is backing the campaign.
“Indian industry strongly supports this initiative. Indian businesses, students and tourists already make a big contribution to the economy across the UK,” said David Landsman, Chair, CII UK India Business Forum, and Executive Director, Tata Ltd.
“The UK has the potential to benefit more from India’s world-beating growth. A strong balanced and fair visa partnership is an indispensable part of unlocking the potential for both countries,” said Landsman.
London-based Royal Commonwealth Society was founded in 1868 as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) to promote the values of the Commonwealth.
It has been leading a campaign for a new UK-India visa agreement for a few years as it believes it would enhance trade and tourism, and strengthen important business and cultural ties between the two countries. (AFP)