In July 2016, the RCS launched a report, A Passage from India, in partnership with tourism and business organisations, which highlighted the wealth of opportunities for Britain and India in making some simple changes to visa policy. In 2018 an updated factsheet was produced, demonstrating the increased desirability of the proposed policy updates.
There’s a marked appetite in the UK to strengthen ties with the Commonwealth. With vibrant cross-cultural connections going back decades, India and Britain have developed a strong friendship built on common values, shared history and familial ties. Both countries contribute significantly to one another’s economies, through tourism, trade and business. However, France has overtaken the UK as the European destination favoured by Indian visitors and Indian businesses in the UK are concerned about Brexit insecurity.
The Royal Commonwealth Society is seeking to facilitate the deepening of the UK-India relationship, as well as to expose the benefits this could bring. In July 2016, we launched the report, A Passage from India, which highlighted the wealth of opportunities for Britain and India in making some simple changes to visa policy. Currently, Indian nationals must pay £337 for a two-year UK visitor visa. Simultaneously, under a UK-China agreement implemented in January 2016, Chinese visitors are now eligible for a two-year multiple-entry visa at the price of a standard six-month entry one – £89.
In our campaign to enhance mobility, we are asking for the current China visa pilot scheme to be extended to Indian nationals, reducing the cost and trouble of obtaining multiple-entry visas for frequent travellers. This would help boost tourist numbers, encourage business visitors, who outspend their Chinese counterparts, and further strengthen familial ties between Britain and India. As a bilateral agreement between countries, India would experience all these benefits too.
In the run up to the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, The Royal Commonwealth Society will be organising a series of parliamentary and public activities to push for the UK and India to come together for an agreement on easier visa access.