In a recent article, we wrote about the planned arrival of India’s Foreign Minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, to the UK and the plans for a new partnership on “migration and mobility”. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic crisis in his home country, Mr. Jaishankar was able to make the journey to the UK for the G7 meeting in London and held a socially distanced meeting with the UK Home Secretary Priti Patel on 4th May 2021. During the session, both sides entered into a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on immigration. In this article, we will outline the shape of the new ‘Migration and Mobility Partnership’, which is being created in the UK and India.

What Is The ‘Migration And Mobility Partnership’ Between India And The UK?

The ‘Migration and Mobility Partnership’ Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which was agreed between India and the UK on 4th May 2021, aims to improve cooperation in the field of mobility and migration. One of the first elements of this is a new immigration route for young professionals to work in either country for a period of two years. This is referred to as the ‘Young Professionals scheme’. The partnership also aims to ensure that Indian nationals who are overstaying in the UK can be returned to their home nation more easily. On this latter issue, the Home Office’s announcement states, “The ‘Migration and Mobility Partnership’ will protect those who migrate lawfully to the UK - the vast majority of Indian nationals – by enhancing cooperation in combatting organised immigration crime and speeding up returns of visa overstayers”.

Explaining the new Indian-UK migration and mobility partnership, Priti Patel said, “The UK Government is committed to delivering an immigration system that offers clear opportunities to the brightest and best talent from India and around the world to come to the UK to study, work, and live. This ground-breaking new partnership with India is an important milestone in delivering on that commitment. It will give greater freedom and opportunity to thousands of young people in the UK and India wanting to experience each other’s cultures, whilst also ensuring that we can work together to protect the vast majority of Indian nationals who do play by the rules”.

In response, Alex Ellis, the British High Commissioner to India, explained, “This past year has shown what the UK and India can achieve to address shared challenges – from our best and brightest delivering a Covid-19 vaccine at record-breaking speed to the invaluable medical supplies we have provided each other. The landmark Migration and Mobility Partnership announced today will create new opportunities for young Indian professionals in the UK whilst also enhancing cooperation to ensure our system supports genuine workers and students”.

Ellis also pointed out the importance of international students from India to the UK; “Indian student numbers to the UK are growing fast, and nearly half of all UK skilled work visas go to Indian professionals – contributing significantly to shared prosperity and mutual understanding. I’m confident the new post-study Graduate Route and Young Professionals scheme will significantly increase those numbers”. The number of Indian students coming to the UK has risen considerably in the recent two years, with a 42% increase last year compared to 2019 (equating to 53,000 enrolled Indian students in the UK). Indian students who graduate in the UK will also be able to take advantage of the new post-study Graduate Route from July 2021, which will allow them to secure a two-year visa during which they can look for suitable work.

What Do We Know About The New Young Professionals Scheme?

Under the new scheme, up to 3,000 young professionals between 18 and 30 years will be able to come to the UK for an initial period of two years to live and work. As the press release published by the Home Office explains, this new route is similar to the existing Youth Mobility Scheme; the difference being that the Young Professionals route is for countries whose nationals need a visa to come to the UK. As such, India is the first visa country to sign up for the Young Professionals visa route.

The text from the Memorandum of Understanding on the migration and mobility partnership further explains that to qualify for a Young Professionals visa, applicants must have:

  • a diploma/degree which validates as far as possible at least three years’ higher education corresponding to the qualification required for the employment on offer, or;
  • professional experience of comparable level in the sphere of activity concerned and be able to express themselves in the language(s) of the host country.

It also confirms that the new visa will not be extendable and that the young UK or Indian professionals will need to have an employment contract and apply for a new visa in accordance with the immigration laws in each respective country. In other words, Indian nationals on the Young Professionals scheme can apply for a Skilled Worker visa or through another suitable route such as the family visa scheme.

The agreement also confirms, “The young professionals under this Scheme will benefit from the same treatment as host country nationals in all matters relating to the enforcement of laws, regulations, and customs governing working relations and conditions, social protection, health, hygiene, and workplace safety”.

Final Words

This is only the start of the discussion process, which will follow the signing of the MOU between India and the UK, the scope of which is much broader than the easing of migration for young professionals. The UK ultimately hopes that it will be able to enter into a comprehensive trade agreement with India and potentially regain lost ground over the EU, which is doing likewise. The latter has just agreed to relaunch trade talks with India, which were halted in 2013 following disagreements on key matters such as tariff rules for car parts and free-movement rights for professionals. Given the rich and often complex history between the UK and India, it is hoped that the MoU on migration and mobility will be quickly progressed for the mutual benefit of both countries and its’ citizens.