UK sees Brexit surge in Non-EU visas

Last year saw a surge in non-EU migrants coming to the UK to take up skilled jobs, according to latest data from the Home Office.

uk immigration
The number of foreign students in the country also reached a high of 416,000 in 2021, up by more than a half compared to 2019 - the last year before the pandemic struck.

January last year marked the end of free movement from the EU and saw the introduction of the points-based immigration system. The figures for the year reflect the impact this has had on migration from the bloc with fewer than 10% of the 239,987 work-related visas going to Europeans and with only five per of students coming from the EU.

Non-EU nations, on the other hand, recorded large increases in the number arriving for both work and study. Nigeria, particularly, proved a fertile hunting ground with the number of work visas granted rising from 3,918 in 2019 to 10,245 last year: a 161% rise.

Similarly, sponsored visas for students from the African state increased from 8,384 to 43,200 over the same period - an unprecedented surge of 415%.

Pakistan, the Philippines and India also saw sizeable jumps in the number of work visas issued while Pakistan and India, along with the United States, also recorded rises in the number of students coming to the UK.

Rise in work visas and international students arrive to the UK


"The implementation of a points-based immigration system has opened up half of all jobs in the UK to foreign workers, by lowering salary and skills thresholds for migrants," reported The Times.

Jonathan Portes, professor of economics at King's College London, told the newspaper that while the figures reflected the Brexit effect on the immigration system, it was far from inevitable that it would lead to such a sharp increase in non-EU immigration.

"There was always this question about whether Brexit would result in a reduction in immigration or a switch to some combination of the two," said Prof Portes.

"The original plan was very much aimed at the former: at reducing immigration from the EU by ending free movement while having only very limited increases in non-EU migration.

"The system we have ended up implementing is very much more about the switch because the new system is considerably less liberal for Europeans."

Did the post-study visa play a part in the rise?


Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said that the sharp increase in Nigerians and Filipinos arriving was largely attributable to the introduction of social care visas in August 2020.

She added that one of the factors leading to an increase in students was the reintroduction of the post-study visa, which allowed students to stay in the country for up to two years after completing their studies.

Home Secretary Priti Patel told The Times: "Immigration has enriched our nation through the ages and continues to do so.

"Our exit from the EU has led to the biggest change in Immigration for decades. This delivers on a key commitment to take back control of our borders and put in place an immigration system that works in our national interest."

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Read more news and views from David Sapsted in the Spring 2022 issue of Think Global People.

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