The governments of India and the U.K. marked Pravasi Bharatiya Divas on January 9, 2023, by kicking off the Young Professionals Scheme, which will permit up to 3,000 of their degree-holding citizens aged between 18 and 30 to live and work in each other’s countries for a period of two years. The launch of the scheme, which was conceived as part of an India-U.K. Migration and Mobility MoU signed in May 2021, was announced in November at the G20 summit in Bali, where U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Speaking at the High Commission of India in London, after a ceremony where letters were signed and exchanged between the two countries, High Commissioner Vikram Doraiswami, said the scheme, which will run for a period of three years initially, would hopefully be “up and running in March”.
However, he indicated there were still some processes that had to be completed before a March launch.
“But that is conditional on everything actually been put in place. So we don’t want to make a formal announcement of a date until we are a 100% certain.”
Young Indians and Britons would be able to travel to each other’s countries and either work, study, or visit, for two years. The scheme allows for exchange visas for up to 3,000 individuals per year.
“It isn’t even necessary for you to have a job in hand, when you do this [ apply for the visa], Mr. Doraiswami said. Successful candidates could look for a job, educational or cultural opportunity once they arrived in their host country. Or they could just visit.
“That will give you a chance to study, to work … to experience a country, essentially,” he said.
Permanent Under Secretary at the U.K. Home Office Matthew Rycroft represented the U.K at the signing ceremony.
The signing of the agreement belies more complex issues around the movement of persons across borders. Part of the Migration and Mobility agreement of 2021 seeks to address the return of illegal migrants to their home countries.
A ‘free trade’ agreement between the two countries, which the governments were hoping to conclude before Deepavali last year, was complicated in part due to the U.K. Home Secretary Suella Braverman saying that Indians were the largest group of visa-overstayers in Britain and the agreement with India had “not necessarily worked very well”.
The High Commission of India in London responded by saying it had acted on every case of visa overstaying referred to it by the U.K. authorities and that the government was awaiting “demonstrable progress” on some of the U.K.’s commitments under the agreement.
The government is also seeking greater ease in the movement of skilled professionals and students from India to the U.K. as part of the trade discussions, the sixth round of which took place in New Delhi in December.
A seventh round of negotiations is planned for some time “within the next month” according to the High Commissioner, who suggested that this timeline could change.
“Progress has been consistent,” Mr. Doraiswami said, about the talks, declining to provide an update on the current sticking points. “Nothing is agreed till it’s all agreed,” he said.