Immigration in Numbers:
Latest statistics released

Last week, the Home Office published its official immigration statistics for the year ending June 2021. These figures on migration and border control provide the most up to date estimates on the number of people crossing the UK border under immigration controls, as well as those applying to extend their stay or settle in the UK.

As expected, immigration statistics for this period have been affected significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting travel restrictions imposed. Below, we set out the report’s key findings on the number of visas granted per category, plus the figures on those applying to extend or stay permanently in the UK.

Passenger arrivals

In the year ending June 2021, there were an estimated 19.6 million passenger arrivals, including UK residents returning from overseas. This represents an 81% (83.6 million) decrease compared with the previous year.

Pre-COVID, the number of passenger arrivals had generally been increasing each year. However, number of arrivals recorded in this period is around one eighth of the number in a normal year.

Visas granted

There were 830,969 visas granted in the year ending June 2021, 61% fewer than the previous year. Of the visas granted in this period, 35% were for study, 26% were for visitors, 21% were for work, 6% for family and 13% for other reasons.

Due to the pandemic, visa application centres were closed by 31 March 2021, and only began gradually reopening from June 2020. For this reason, visa processing times were severely delayed

Work visas

Overall, there were 172,045 work-related visas granted in the year ending June 2021, including those granted for dependants of workers. This represents a 19% increase on the year ending June 2020, but 7% fewer than the year ending June 2019.

60% of work-related visas granted were for Skilled work, which saw the largest increase in visa numbers (up 16,775 or 19%). ‘Skilled work’ includes Tier 2 routes from the old immigration system, as well as the new Skilled Worker, Health & Care and Intra-Company Transfer visas, which replaced the Tier 2 routes in December 2020. The new routes accounted for 32% of the total work-related visas granted.

The number of High value, Temporary worker and Other work visas granted also all increased compared to the previous year. These increases will in part reflect recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Study visas

The number of sponsored study visas granted (including dependants) increased 10% from the previous year, with 281,008 visas granted in the year ending June 2021.

Chinese nationals were the most common nationality granted sponsored study visas, accounting for 34% of the total. This proportion is the same as the previous year, but lower than the peak in the preceding year ending June 2019, when Chinese nationals accounted for 43% of the visas granted in this route. COVID-19 restrictions were implemented earlier in China, from January 2020, therefore this may have disproportionately affected Chinese students.

The number of sponsored study visas granted to Nigerian nationals continues to increase, with this reporting period showing a record high of 20,427 grants, the highest number of visas granted in a single year to Nigerian nationals under this route.

Visit visas

In the year ending June 2021, there were 330,900 applications for Visitor visas, just one fifth of the number in the previous year. Over the same period, there were 218,942 Visitor visas granted, 86% lower than the previous year, with the largest falls registered for Chinese and Indian nationals.

Family visas

There were 215,746 visas and permits granted for family reasons in the year ending June 2021, a 40% increase from the previous year.

97,198 visas were granted to dependants of people coming to the UK on other visa types (up 46%), with particularly large increases seen in dependants of Skilled workers (up 13,479 to 50,671) and dependants of Sponsored Study visa holders (up 13,423 to 29,967).

There were 51,814 EUSS family permits issued to non-EEA close family members of those granted settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (up 307%). This is likely to be due to increased publicity surrounding the EUSS deadline of 30 June 2021.

Settlement and citizenship

In the year ending June 2021, there were 108,773 decisions made on applications for settlement in the UK, up 26% compared with the previous year. Of these decisions, 98% resulted in a grant.

There were also 200,177 applications for British citizenship in this reporting period, 35% more than in the year ending June 2020, and 147,369 grants of British citizenship (up 4%).

Citizenship applications by EU nationals rose by 83%, with EU nationals now accounting for more than a third (37%) of all citizenship applications, compared with 12% in 2016. This is likely to be due to more EU nationals seeking to confirm their status in the UK following Brexit.

EEA nationals and their family members

Documents issued under European law are no longer valid to evidence a right of residence in the UK, unless an application to the EU Settlement Scheme was made on or before 30 June 2021.

In the year ending 2021, there were a total of 31,799 decisions made on applications for EEA residence documents, including 12,450 registration certificates and registration cards issued, and 6,305 documents certifying permanent residence and permanent residence cards issued.

The latest data shows that 6.02 million applications to the EU Settlement Scheme had been received up to 30 June 2021.

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