Number of visas awarded by UK set to surge by hundreds and thousands
Number of visas given to foreign workers and students has surged by hundreds of thousands, official figures are set to show
- Data thought to show nearly a million allowed into Britain in the year to March
- Figures in February showed 267,670 work visas granted in the year to December
The number of visas awarded to foreign workers and students has surged by hundreds of thousands, figures are expected to show tomorrow, in a sign that immigration levels are yet to peak.
Home Office data is thought to show nearly a million migrants were granted permission to come to Britain for work or study in the year to March.
Figures published by the Home Office just three months ago showed 267,670 work visas were granted in the year to December, up 95 per cent on 2019 levels. In the same period, 485,758 student visas were granted, up 81 per cent on 2019.
Tomorrow’s Home Office data means that high levels of net migration – the difference between migrants arriving and those emigrating – have continued into 2023.
Separate figures from the Office for National Statistics, also coming out tomorrow, are expected to show net migration spiralled in the year to December, to between 700,000 and a million.
Immigration figures from November showing the number of people coming to the UK soared to a ‘breathtaking’ record high of 504,000 in the year to June 2022
Home Secretary Suella Braverman speaking during the National Conservatism Conference at The Emmanuel Centre on May 15 in London
The Home Office figures give a more up-to-date picture of immigration levels, however.
They are likely to present ministers with a further headache as they attempt to pacify concerned voters and MPs on the right of the Conservative party who are demanding sustainable levels of migration.
Tomorrow’s updated figures are likely to show huge rises across both visa categories, bringing the total to almost one million.
It came as the Government’s official immigration adviser warned that restrictions on student visas – announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak this week – will have only limited impact on overall numbers.
From January, most students will be barred from bringing their families to Britain and will no longer be able to switch to work visas unless they have completed their courses.
The PM sanctioned the restrictions after Home Secretary Suella Braverman highlighted a 750 per cent jump in the number of foreign students bringing dependants to Britain, up from just 16,000 in 2019 to 136,000 last year.
Professor Brian Bell, chairman of the Home Office’s Migration Advisory Committee, told Times Radio: ‘It’ll make some difference, but not enormous.
‘If you want to get net migration down to the tens of thousands, this won’t get you there.’
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (right) this week announced that most students will be barred from bringing their families to Britain and will no longer be able to switch to work visas unless they have completed their courses
Professor Bell noted that high levels of immigration were being caused by ‘deliberate government policy’ after ministers created generous humanitarian schemes for Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s war and Hong Kong citizens threatened by Beijing’s anti-democracy crackdown.
At Prime Minister’s Questions today Opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer announced that his party would stop businesses from easing staff shortages by hiring cheaper overseas workers.
Labour wants to scrap rules that allow firms to pay 20 per cent below the going rate to hire overseas workers for jobs on the Home Office’s ‘shortage occupation list’, Sir Keir said.
But Mr Sunak accused Labour of adopting an ‘open-door migration policy’.
‘Just this week we announced the biggest-ever single measure to tackle legal migration, removing the right for international students to bring dependants, toughening the rules on post-study work, and reviewing maintenance requirements,’ Mr Sunak said.
‘But what is (Sir Keir’s) contribution? There are absolutely no ideas… absolutely no semblance that there would be any control.
‘Why? Because he believes in an open-door migration policy.’
The Conservatives previously promised to bring net migration below 100,000 a year, but ditched the target ahead of the 2019 election after repeatedly failing to meet it.
Downing Street said this week that net migration was expected to fall to pre-pandemic levels in the ‘medium term’.
In the year to March 2020 – the beginning of the Covid emergency – the net migration figure was 313,000.
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