The UK welcomed more migrants by the end of June 2023, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data released on 23 November 2023.
As of June 2023, 1,180,000 individuals arrived in the UK and anticipated staying for at least a year, while only 508,000 departed the country.
It means net migration, or the difference between the number of people arriving and leaving the country, is at 672,000.
While the number of migrants still increased from the previous year in June 2022, which stood at 607,000, it appears to be slowing down.
“The latest numbers are higher than 12 months ago but are down slightly on our updated figures for (the) year ending December 2022. It is too early to say if this is the start of a new downward trend,” according to a press release by ONS.
In December 2022, the UK hit a record high in net migration at 745,000.
More non-EU students, workers, and their dependents
The ONS statement explained that migration patterns and behaviors had shifted considerably since the pandemic.
The majority of individuals entering the UK now come from nations outside the European Union (EU).
Of the 968,000 migrants from non-EU countries, individuals from India, Nigeria, and China topped the list.
While many come to the UK to study, accounting for 39 percent, work in the health and social care sector comes in at a close second at 33 percent.
People arriving via humanitarian routes, such as special cases in Ukraine and Hong Kong, which drove the previous year’s numbers up, were down from 19 to 9 percent this year.
Students staying longer and securing work visas, particularly graduate visas, also contributed to the increase in net migration numbers.
A graduate visa allows students who have already completed their degree to stay and work in the UK for two or three years.
Students on postgraduate courses could also apply for visas for qualifying dependants: a husband, wife, civil or unmarried partner, and children under 18.
The 2022 numbers also saw more visas for dependants of health and social care workers coming to the country to work.
Curbing the steep rise of immigration
UK Home Office Secretary James Cleverly said the government remains “completely committed to reducing levels of legal migration.”
“We are working across government on further measures to prevent exploitation and manipulation of our visa system, including clamping down on those that take advantage of the flexibility of the immigration system,” he said in a statement.
In 2024, the UK government will only allow international students on postgraduate courses designated as research programs to bring dependents. The new policy was announced in May 2023.
Foreign health and social care workers may soon be only allowed to bring one dependent or none at all. There are also plans to raise the minimum salary requirement for foreign skilled worker visas.
UK Immigration going digital by default
The UK is working to transform its immigration system to digital by default by 2025, helping keep migration numbers down and deterring people from staying in the country illegally.
The one digital immigration platform will provide comprehensive solutions to individuals coming to the country and business and education institutions.
The UK Visas and Immigration, a division of the UK Home Office, is currently transitioning all physical immigration documents, such as biometric residence cards and passport stamps and stickers, to digital immigration statuses or electronic visas (eVisas).
From 1 January 2025, The UKVI will only issue eVisas to migrants.
The new immigration plan is one of the essential aspects of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, along with the introduction of the new electronic travel authorization (ETA) for visa-exempt foreign nationals traveling to the UK.
The ETA implementation is already underway and will be operational for all travelers who do not currently need a visa for short stays and transit through the UK in 2024.