Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has drawn up a set of proposals to reduce immigration to the U.K. that is being discussed by the government
Net migration to the United Kingdom hit a new record in 2022 after the Office of National Statistics updated figures for last year, pushing the government to consider new curbs to restrict the inflow of foreigners.
Net migration to the U.K. was 745,000 last year, up from 606,000 announced in May, according to an ONS release 23 November. Immigration, or the number of people arriving to stay long-term in the U.K., was 1.23 million in 2022 while emigration, or the number of people leaving, was 489,000. That compares with the previously announced immigration figure of 1.16 million and emigration of 557,000 in 2022. The net migration figure is about three times the average before the pandemic.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that the "levels of immigration are too high" and need to come down "to sustainable levels", the BBC reported on its website on 23 November. Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has drawn up a set of proposals to reduce immigration to the U.K. that is being discussed by the government, which includes raising the required minimum annual salary to £35,000 in order to receive a work visa, according to the BBC report.
According to ONS, provisional estimates suggest that net migration was 672,000 in the year ending June 2023. “While it is too early to say if this is the start of a new downward trend, these more recent estimates indicate a slowing of immigration coupled with increasing emigration,” according to the release.
Overall net migration to the U.K. has increased since the government introduced a new immigration system in January 2021 and is being driven entirely by the change in net migration of non-European Union nationals, according to ONS. This climbed to 768,000 in the year ending June 2023 from 179,000 in the year ending June 2019. In the year ending June 2023, 33 percent of non-EU immigrants arrived for work, 39 percent came to study while 9 percent arrived for humanitarian reasons.
According to a U.K. Home Office statistics report, growth in long-term sponsored work visas following the introduction of the "Skilled Worker" and "Skilled Worker - Health and Care" visas in 2020 is the main reason for an increase in the number of workers coming to the U.K. Health and Care work visas were the most common type of work visa that dependants came to the U.K. on and is driving the increase in immigration of those on work dependant visas.
Among the new proposals to curb immigration is stopping those working in health and social care from bringing dependents with them to the U.K. Another idea is to put a cap on visas for people working in social care, although this would probably meet resistance from the Department of Health, according to the BBC report.
Mr Jenrick has also suggested scrapping what is known as the Shortage Occupation List, which includes jobs that employers are struggling to fill. Jobs on the Shortage Occupation List have less stringent visa requirements. The Migration Advisory Committee - an independent body that advises the government on migration issues - recommended the abolition of the list earlier this month.
Earlier this year, the government announced that international students in the U.K. will no longer be allowed to bring their dependents to the country if their course begins after 1 January 2024. This rule will not apply to those pursing PhDs or other doctoral qualifications, or a research-based higher degree.
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