Net immigration to the UK has hit a new record level with 504,000, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics, alongside a correspondingly rapid rise in the number of work visas being issued.
The ONS said that 1.1 million people overall migrated into the country between June 2021 and June 2022, with 704,000 arrivals coming from outside the EU.
They included Ukrainian and Afghan refugees, as well as people arriving from Hong Kong, although the largest contingent was students with 476,000 graduate visas granted during the period.
Work visas accounted for 21% of non-EU immigration June 2021-June 2022, with an estimated 151,000 arriving for work compared with 92,000 in the year ending June 2021.
The new net migration figure is 400,000 more than the home secretary, Suella Braverman, is aiming for. She promised in September she would try to get overall migration down to “tens of thousands” despite the fact other areas of government were looking to expand immigration to meet the needs of the UK labour market.
The ONS stated that the figures were exceptional because of a variety of international events. 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.”
Right to work checks
Between June 2020 and June 2021, in the midst of the Covid pandemic, 173,000 people moved to the UK. But from June 2021 to 2022 about 504,000 more people were estimated to have moved to the UK than left – a significantly higher total than the 224,000 projected for next year by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).
Last week Rishi Sunak restated his promise to cut overall migration to the UK.
The ONS also found that the number of work visas issued between the first and second quarter of this year rose by 23%, despite political uncertainty in the UK and anti-immigration messaging from Braverman among others in the past six months.
Most of the new immigrants were from non-EU countries with Ukraine refugees, Afghan resettlers and Hong Kong British nationals making a significant proportion of overall newcomers, arriving in the UK on special visas.
The growth in work visas was driven by skilled workers: an increase of 91,000 or 20% of the total rise in visa grants since 2019. More than half of this growth (57%) came from the health sector although there was also a significant rise in the professional and scientific sector.
Visa expert Yash Dubal, director of A Y & J Solicitors said: “The latest figures show that the visa system remains a vital route for employers who are filling roles with overseas workers in increasing numbers. Indeed 55,412 more work visas were issued in the second quarter of 2022 than in the first, which is a 23% increase.
“Despite some of the anti-immigration messaging coming from sections of the government, there remains an urgent need for workers in Britain and in the short to medium term at least, the only option many businesses have is to seek personnel from overseas.”
Earlier this month research revealed that there had been a 115% increase in skilled worker visa applications from south Asia.
As for emigration from the UK, the provisional estimate for the year ending June 2022 was 560,000. Non-EU nationals accounted for 195,000 of this long-term total, EU nationals accounted for 275,000 and British nationals 90,000.