UK net migration hits
record high of 504,000

An estimated 504,000 more people came to the UK than left last year, according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for the year ending June 2022.

This is the highest net migration figure ever recorded, and an increase of 331,000 compared to the previous year. Net migration is the difference calculated between the numbers of people entering and leaving the UK.

The ONS said that the record figure was due to an unprecedented combination of events which have all contributed towards relatively high levels of total long-term immigration at an estimated 1.1 million in the year to June 2022.

Jay Lindop, Director of the Centre for International Migration at the ONS said: “A series of world events have impacted international migration patterns in the 12 months to June 2022. Taken together these were unprecedented. These include the end of lockdown restrictions in the UK, the first full period following transition from the EU, the war in Ukraine, the resettlement of Afghans and the new visa route for Hong Kong British nationals (Overseas), which have all contributed to the record levels of long-term immigration we have seen.”

Migration from non-EU countries, specifically students, is driving this rise. With the lifting of travel restrictions in 2021, more students arrived in the UK after studying remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. However, there has also been a large increase in the number of people migrating for a range of other reasons. This includes people arriving for humanitarian protections, such as those coming from Ukraine, as well as for family reasons.”

These many factors independent of each other contributing to migration at this time mean it is too early to say whether this picture will be sustained.”

The report looks at estimates of UK international migration for the year ending June 2020 to the year ending June 2022, covering the period since COVID-19 travel restrictions eased. It can be viewed in full here.

Last week, the Home Office also published its latest quarterly migration statistics covering the period up to the end of September 2022. Below, we set out some of the headline points from this latest set of statistics.

Arrivals in the UK

There were an estimated 95.9 million passenger arrivals from outside the Common Travel Area (CTA) in the year ending September 2022 (including returning UK residents). This was more than 4 times as many as in 2021 (21 million) when COVID-19 travel restrictions were still in place. However, this latest number is only around two thirds of the total number of new arrivals in 2019 (146.3 million), the period immediately before the coronavirus outbreak.

There were 2,610,024 visas granted in the year ending September 2022, 18% fewer than the calendar year 2019, primarily due to 1.2 million fewer grants of Visitor visas, although the total number of grants continues to increase in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Of the visas granted in the latest 12 months:

  • 48% were to visit
  • 23% were to study
  • 15% were to work
  • 3% were for family reasons
  • 11% were for other reasons (including grants of leave under the Ukraine Schemes and the BNO route).

Ukrainians in the UK

In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the UK government launched new visa routes this year for Ukrainian nationals forced to flee their homes. By 30 September 2022, the number of applications to each scheme were as follows:

  • The Ukraine Family Scheme had 63,074 applications and 53,117 grants.
  • The Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme has 157,151 applications and 136,014 grants.
  • 11,901 extensions were granted under the Ukraine Extension Scheme.

The BNO visa route

On 31 January 2021, the UK government introduced a new immigration route for British National (Overseas) (BNO) status holders, providing the opportunity for them and their family members to live, work and study in the UK. The route is open to BNO citizens and their dependants who are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong, the UK or the Crown Dependencies.

There were 10,100 applications for the BNO route in July to September 2022, with 9,420 out of country applications, and 600 in country applications. Of the total, 6,300 applications relate to main applicants and 3,800 relate to dependants. There have been a total of 150,600 applications for the BNO route since its introduction on 31 January 2021 up to the end of September 2022.

Work visas

There were 248,919 grants to main applicants in the year ending September 2022, which represented just under two thirds (65%) of all work visas. This is 82% higher than prior to the pandemic in 2019, and 80% more than in the year ending September 2021.

‘Worker’ visas (the main category for skilled work) granted to main applicants increased by 128% compared with 2019. These increases are largely due to the Skilled Worker and Health and Care Worker visas which were launched in December 2020.

There were 61,240 grants to main applicants of Skilled Worker visas and an additional 61,414 grants to main applicants of Health and Care Worker visas. Grants for both categories have grown in almost every quarter since the routes were introduced, and together represent just under half (49%) of all work visas granted to main applicants in the year ending September 2022.

Study visas

An increase in grants of sponsored study visas has also contributed to the overall rise in net migration. In the year ending September 2022, there were 476,389 Sponsored study visas issued to main applicants, 77% more than in 2019.

The most common nationalities granted sponsored study visas were as follows:

  • Indian (127,731 grants)
  • Chinese (116,476 grants)

Chinese and Indian nationals together comprise over half (51%) of all sponsored study grants. After Indian nationals, Nigerian nationals saw the largest increase in main applicant Sponsored study visas, of 44,162 (+650%) to 50,960.

One fifth (20%) of Sponsored study related visas issued were to family members of students (116,321), compared to 6% (16,047) in 2019.

Family visas

There were 76,412 visas and permits granted for family reasons in the year ending September 2022, 29% less than 2019. Of these, there were 38,597 visas granted, 31% fewer than in 2019.

Almost three quarters (73%) of family-related visas granted in the year ending September 2022 were to partners, with the remainder being for children or other dependants.

Settlement and citizenship

There were 129,397 decisions on applications for settlement in the UK in the year ending September 2022, 12% more than in the year ending September 2021, and 37% more than 2019. Of these, 127,820 (99%) were granted.

There were 183,414 applications for British citizenship in this period, 5% more than in 2019 prior to the pandemic. EU nationals accounted for a quarter of all citizenship applications in the year ending September 2022 compared to 12% in 2016. Increases in citizenship applications from EU nationals since 2016 are likely to reflect people seeking to confirm their status in the UK following the EU referendum and the UK’s exit from the EU.

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