The Office of National Statistics published the latest immigration statistics for the UK on 26 May 2016, the last before the EU referendum.
Over the course of the last few years, significant changes have been made across a number of work and study related routes. Whilst net migration rose to 333,000 in 2015, the second highest figure on record, closer analysis of the figures clearly demonstrates that the Government’s often controversial plans to restrict access by non-EU nationals to the work and study routes are starting to bite.
Here we take a look at the latest figures. The data cited below relate to the year ending March 2016 and unless otherwise indicated all comparisons are with the year ending March 2015.
Tier 1 (Investor)
In relation to those entering under Tier 1 (Investor), the figures show a reduction of 78%. As the ONS points out, this huge fall is due to the Home Office’s decision to double the investment required from £1 to £2 million in November 2014 (as recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee).
Predictably, the data shows that applications spiked immediately prior to the implementation of the change. In the last quarter of 2014, 471 visas were issued to those seeking entry under this route versus 128 in the same period of the previous year. Only 42 visas were issued in the first quarter of 2016.
Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
The number of entrepreneurs coming to the UK under Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) had dropped by 25%. This too is due to significant changes introduced by the Home Office to tackle what it perceives to be ‘abuse’ of this route. The Migration Advisory Committee has recently completed a review of this route and the Home Office is currently considering its recommendations potentially with a view to introducing further restrictions.
In relation to Tier 2 sponsored workers, there has been a 9% increase in the number of visas granted to main applicants in the Tier 2 (General) category. There has been no change in the number of grants for main applicants in the Tier 2 (ICT) category but there has been a reduction in the number of dependents being issued with visas across Tier 2.
According to the data issued, the vast majority of applications for Tier 2 visas during the year ending March 2016 were successful (97%) with the biggest proportion of all those granted relating to workers in the Information and Communications Sector. Of course, a number of significant changes that are due to be implemented in relation to Tier 2 may well reverse these trends.
206,162 study related visas (excluding short-term study) were issued in the year ending March 2016. The figures show a 5% overall decline in this category from the preceding year.
In terms of the specific data, a 7% increase in the number of students granted visas for Russell Group Universities was overshadowed by significant reductions for Further Education providers and English Language schools (15% and 20% respectively) and a 1% reduction for the rest of the UK’s universities. The number of visas issued in relation to those studying at Independent Schools was also down by 3%.
The ONS suggests that ‘Most of the fall in the fall in the Further Education sector’s sponsored visa applications since the peak in mid-2011 was accounted for by licenses which have since been revoked.’