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U.K. Migration Dropped in 2023, Still Well Above Average

  1. Immigration Blog
  2. U.K. Migration Dropped in 2023, Still Well Above Average

The number of immigrants coming to the U.K. for work-related reasons from non-European Union countries has now replaced study as the main reason for long-term migration

Net migration in the United Kingdom, the number of people immigrating minus those emigrating, fell 10 percent in 2023 to 685,000, the Office of National Statistics said, a figure still well above pre-pandemic levels.

Immigration in the year ended December 2023 was provisionally estimated at 1,218,000 versus 1,257,000 in the preceding year, with non-EU arrivals accounting for 85 percent of the arrivals, according to ONS. Emigration, or the number of people leaving the country, increased to 532,000 versus 493,000 in 2022. ONS also said it had revised its estimate of net migration in 2022 to 764,000 from 745,000.

"While it is too early to say if this is the start of a new downward trend, emigration increased in 2023, while new Home Office data show visa applications have fallen in recent months," ONS said in a statement May 23.

The number of immigrants coming to the U.K. for work-related reasons from non-European Union countries increased to 423,000 last year from 277,000 in the preceding year, replacing study as the main reason for long-term migration, ONS said. Almost half of those immigrating for work-related reasons came from India or Nigeria, most commonly in the health and social care sectors.

The government is under pressure to curb net migration, which climbed to a record 764,000 in 2022, about three times the annual average before the pandemic. Curbing the inflow of foreigners was a key election plank of the Conservative Party.

The Home Office has said that the immigration numbers will start falling once a series of measures announced in December start to take effect.

They have included scrapping dependant visas for care workers, increasing the threshold salary to qualify for a Skilled Worker visa to £38,700 from £26,200 and disallowing foreign students not involved in research to bring in dependants from January 1, 2024. All of this should help to cut net migration by about 300,000 a year.

There are signs that emigration is starting to increase, particularly among non-EU nationals who initially arrived in the U.K. on study-related visas, estimated at 133,000 last year versus 91,000 in the 2022. This likely results from the previous increase in the number of students who arrived following the coronavirus pandemic and includes those who arrived as students and transitioned to another visa type at the end of their studies, according to the ONS statement.

The top five non-EU countries for long-term immigration flows in 2023 were India with 250,000, Nigeria with141,000, China, 90,000, Pakistan with 83,000 and Zimbabwe with 36,000. Since 2019, the number of Indian, Nigerian and Pakistani nationals arriving in the U.K. has seen the biggest increase, according to ONS.

The U.K. will hold general elections July 4 and the Labour Party, which is leading the polls, has vowed to review new foreign worker visa rules if it wins.

If you are considering applying for a visa for the U.K. it might be sensible to act sooner rather than later. There is no knowing how these prospective changes might impact you. One thing is pretty certain: that getting into the U.K. and achieving permanent residency will not get any easier.

If you have a question or would like our team's assistance with any immigration matters please get in touch through our contact form or by phone. We will be happy to provide the latest information and expert advice relevant to your specific requirements.

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