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What is the New Young Professionals Scheme for Indian nationals, and When Does it Start?

Back in May 2021, we wrote about the visit by India’s Foreign Minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, to the UK to meet with Home Secretary Priti Patel. The main outcome of the meeting was the agreement to enter into a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on immigration. And core to this was the intention to create a new ‘Young Professionals Scheme’. In this article, we will explain the latest on the ‘Young Professionals Scheme’ for Indian nationals, what we know of the scheme, and when we expect it to open.

What is the ‘Young Professionals Scheme’ for Indian nationals?

The ‘Migration and Mobility Partnership’ Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreed between India and the UK is fundamentally about improving mobility and migration cooperation. The ‘Young Professionals scheme’ is intended to allow eligible Indian nationals who are already in employment or about to start their working life to come to the UK for up to two years to work. The MOU states, “The Participants jointly decide to facilitate the exchange of young professionals already in employment or entering working life, who wish to improve their career prospects through the experience of salaried work in a company registered in accordance with the laws and regulations of the other Participant’s country, for up to a maximum period of 2 years…. In this context, both Participants jointly decide to create a new scheme (the Young Professionals Scheme) specifically designed to create opportunities for young professionals”.

How will the ‘Young Professionals Scheme’ for Indian nationals work?

While full details of the new scheme are yet to be published by the Home Office, the MOU does provide useful signposts to what we can expect it to look like. The new scheme will work as follows:

  • The scheme will be geared towards young professionals from India between the ages 18-30
  • Eligible candidates will be permitted to work “without consideration being given to the employment situation in the host Participant’s country”.
  • Where candidates are applying for a job in a regulated profession, they will need to meet the occupational qualification criteria defined in the UK.
  • Applicants for the new scheme must have a diploma/degree corresponding to a minimum of three years’ higher education.
  • The educational qualification held by applicants must be in line with the qualifications needed for the job being offered. Or the candidate must have sufficient professional experience in a role of a comparable level within the same general area.
  • Candidates must be able to speak English to a sufficient standard. There is no detail on this requirement as yet as the MOU just states that candidates must be able to “express themselves in the language(s) of the host country”. It is not clear whether proof of passing a formal language exam will be needed.
  • Eligible candidates for the Young Professionals Scheme will be able to stay in the UK for up to two years.

On the matter of how long candidates using the scheme can stay in the UK, the MOU confirms that it will not lead to residency in the UK once the visa expires. It says the expectation is that candidates will be expected to make arrangements to leave before their visa expires. This does not mean, however, that those using the scheme won’t be able to apply for a different visa to allow them to remain (e.g. a work or study visa) if they are eligible. On this, the MOU states, “where relevant, they may be authorised to continue their stay in the host country provided that they obtain an employment contract as per the Participants’ immigration laws and regulations”.

The MOU also explains that “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”. This may suggest that applicants will not need to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge to access the National Health Service in the UK, but this is still to be confirmed.

The young Indian and UK professionals visa scheme is expected to be capped at around 3,000 candidates per year, but the exact number may be increased or decreased by arrangement between the two countries.

It is also expected that those using this scheme will not be able to bring their dependant family members with them. It is also believed that candidates will only be able to apply for the scheme once.

When is the new ‘Young Professionals Scheme’ for Indian nationals likely to be opened?

There are no further details available from the Home Office as to when the new ‘Young Professionals Scheme’ for Indian nationals is likely to be opened. It is likely that it will be ready sometime in 2022.

Will the new scheme have any real impact or benefit for eligible Indian nationals?

Indian nationals can already benefit from the new graduate visa, which was launched in July 2021. The graduate visa will have a greater overall impact on Indian nationals given that there are over 50,000 international students from India studying in the UK. The relatively small number of young professional visas available (capped at 3,000) suggests it is unlikely to impact immigration from India to the UK in any substantial way. That said, it will offer a route for some who have not completed their further education studies in the UK.

Final words

Full details on the scheme, including the eligibility criteria, fees, application process, and processing times, are yet to be published by the Home Office. Given it is a fairly small scheme for just 3,000 per year, it may take some time until it is finally ready and open for applications. If you need any guidance with immigration to the UK from India and whether you should wait until this new scheme is ready, speak to specialist immigration lawyers in the UK who will be able to explain your available options.

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