Call for relaxation of UK visa rules

Vince Cable has been a long-standing critic of the government's immigration policies in view of the economic benefits associated with foreigners from countries including Asia.

"Their growth is essential to job creation and national economic recovery, as is the emergence of a new generation of Asian entrepreneurs," the Liberal Democrat minister said during the launch here yesterday of the National Asian Business Association, a new coalition of regional British Asian business groups.

There are around 50,000 British Asian businesses in the UK, with the Tata Group leading the charge as one of the country's largest manufacturers and employers in the sector.

Referring to British Asians as "probably the most entrepreneurial section of the British public", Cable said: "We want inward investment and the technology that goes with it."

The Lib Dem leader, part of the country's Tory-led coalition government, has often turned the spotlight on "irrational" immigration policies that may be blocking talent from the country.

He has also previously attacked the government's decision to include overseas students in the UK's net annual migration target, which he feels puts bright students off applying to British universities.

Cable's comments come in the wake of recent Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures indicating a drop in the number of Indians coming to the UK to work and study.

The ONS data showed that the number of visas issued to Indians dipped by 18,365, a fall of 19 per cent, between 2011 and 2012. Asians accounted for 273,927 (54 per cent) of the 507,701 visas issued in 2012, with India and China each accounting for 15 per cent of the total.

The ONS also registered an overall drop in net migration to the UK by a third in 2011-12, including a 42,000 fall in the number of international students.

Home Secretary Theresa May, however, ruled out any changes to the net immigration cap to exclude overseas students, days after Prime Minister David Cameron pegged his message around the UK being open to unlimited number of Indian students during a high-profile visit to the country.

The Home Office points to latest figures by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), which indicates a rise in student applications from India.

"The latest UCAS figures show applications from Indian students are up 19 per cent year on year. Indian nationals still account for nearly 10 per cent of students coming to the UK from outside of Europe second only to China," a UKBA spokesperson said.

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