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What Drove Immigration in the U.K. in 2022?

  1. Immigration Blog
  2. What Drove Immigration in the U.K. in 2022?

Foreign students were the biggest contributor to the surge in immigration in the U.K. in 2022, accounting for 39 percent of non-EU arrivals.

As immigration in the United Kingdom hit a record in 2022, what really drove the surge in arrivals? Data from the government’s Office of National Statistics released in May helps answer the question. ONS said that the surge in long-term immigration in the U.K. since 2021 was driven by nationals from non-European Union countries, which accounted for about 80 percent of the arrivals. Some 925,000 non-EU national landed in the U.K. in 2022, an increase of 287,000 compared with the previous year.

Work Visas

Work-related visas made up 25 percent of non-EU long-term immigration in 2022, with an estimated 235,000 arrivals compared with 137,000 in the preceding year. This was driven by both main applicants and dependants.

People arriving on work dependant visas made up 12 percent of non-EU immigration, with an estimated 108,000 in 2022. This was an increase from 61,000 in 2021. The remaining 13 percent were main applicants.

ONS said that Home Office figures show that the growth in long-term sponsored work visas followed the introduction of the "Skilled Worker" and "Skilled Worker - Health and Care" visas in 2020. The increase in visas granted to dependents was also attributed to an increase in visas granted to dependents of "Skilled Workers" and "Skilled Workers - Health and Care".

Study Visas

Study visas accounted for 39 percent of total immigration in 2022. About 361,000 people arrived on study-related visas compared to 301,000 in 2021. This increase is mainly attributed to dependants, from 41,000 in 2021 to 85,000 in 2022. The Home Office's Why do people come to the U.K. to study? article suggests this is driven by an increase in the number of visas granted to dependents from Nigeria and India.

But despite the increase in the number of people arriving for study-related reasons, their share of total non-EU immigration declined from 47 percent in the previous year. This occurred due to faster growth of other types of visa routes, including those arriving on humanitarian routes, including Ukrainian schemes.

With the lifting of travel restrictions in 2021, there was a substantial increase in students arriving in the UK long-term between September and December 2021, after studying remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. ONS said that students typically stay for shorter periods than other migrants and that the majority leave at the end of their study.

One of the factors leading to the rise in number of students arriving may be the new Graduate visa route, where students can apply to work in the U.K. for up to three years after completing their studies. This could be attracting international students to the U.K.

Humanitarian Routes

In 2022, people arriving on humanitarian routes, such as the Ukrainian schemes, British nationals (overseas) and resettlement schemes accounted for 19 percent of non-EU long-term immigration, with an estimated 172,000 arriving on these visas. This was an increase from 57,000 in 2021, when these visa types accounted for 9 percent of total non-EU immigration.

Ukrainians and British nationals (overseas) are included in this group and accounted for 18 percent of non-EU immigration in 2022. An estimated 166,000 people arrived on these visas, of which 52,000 were BN(O) and 114,000 were Ukrainians.

Resettlement schemes made up the remaining 1 percent of non-EU nationals arriving for humanitarian purposes. Approximately 6,000 people arrived through resettlement schemes in 2022, compared with 18,000 in 2021. These figures are largely made up of the Afghanistan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) and Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP).


People arriving for asylum made up 8 percent of non-EU immigration at an estimated 76,000 in 2022. This was an increase from 53,000 in 2021.

Family Visas

Family accounted for 6 percent of non-EU long-term immigration in 2022, with an estimated 51,000 arriving for family compared with 62,000 in 2021.

"Other" visas

People arriving on "other" visas accounted for 3 percent of non-EU immigration at an estimated 29,000 in 2022. This was similar to the 27,000 figure for 2021.

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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