Indians may get 20,000 visas

London: Indians may get upto 20,000 UK visas a year under a deal it is negotiating with the European Union and in return India has put forward an annual 4 billion pounds trade with the EU, media reported on Sunday.

Under the proposed deal, Britain will have to accept thousands of workers in exchange for potentially lucrative export deals, despite figures showing that the number of unemployed in the UK stood at 2.5 million, The Sunday Telegraph reported.

Negotiations for the EU-India free trade agreement have seen New Delhi lobbying for between 35,000 and 50,000 visas a year across the 27-member states, the report said.

Quoting sources, the report said Indians wanted Britain to give between 15,000 and 20,000 visas to its citizens every year, compared with 3,000 for France and 7,000 for Germany.

Only highly-skilled workers would be eligible for the visas. Under the deal, Britain is predicted to win about half of the proposed 4 billion pounds trade, providing a significant boost to exports.

If the European Union accepts the plan spearheaded by Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the EU Commission, it would be the first time power over migration from outside the EU had been handed to Brussels, the report said.

It would also be the first time any country has gained access to a fixed number of British visas every year.

Britain would be expected to take vastly more Indian workers than the newest EU countries.

Estonia is scheduled to accept just 19 Indians, while Lithuania is down for 33.

A spokesman for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said: "The UK strongly supports the conclusion of an ambitious free trade agreement which is currently being negotiated by the Commission.

"The long-term benefits for both parties would be considerable and will deliver significant economic benefits to the UK, reducing both tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade.

Negotiations on the free trade agreement are ongoing and we expect a conclusion this year."

He said "The Government`s approach will be consistent with our commitment to limit levels of economic migration to the UK.

Strict criteria are being negotiated to ensure there is a focus on highly-skilled and highly qualified professionals entering the UK temporarily."

Nearly 30,000 Indian workers came to Britain last year, 19,000 of whom arrived through the intra-company transfer (ICT) scheme, which is also exempt from the Coalition`s interim immigration cap.

Unlike the ICT route, the Indian deal will not require companies to have an office in this country, and individuals will also be able to apply.

Last week, the Government announced that non-EU workers who earn more than 150,000 pounds a year will be exempt from the immigration cap.