Figures released by the Office of National Statistics last week, show that annual net migration to Britain (i.e. the number of individuals immigrating to Britain less those migrating from Britain) was at a figure of 323,000 for the year ending September 2015, 13,000 less than the figure reported three months prior. When compared with figures for 2014, net migration is on the increase, however this drop is the first time the net migration figures have fallen in 2 years. The small drop predominantly arose through a reduction in the amount of non-EU individuals immigrating to Britain.
Considering just the number of people arriving in Britain (rather than the net figure), the number of non-EU citizens moving to Britain in the year ending September 2015 was estimated to be 273,000, slightly higher than the figure for EU citizens, 257,000. This may seem surprising considering the strict approach which is being taken to visas and settlement by UK Visas and Immigration (a trend which is likely to continue as David Cameron aims to reduce net immigration figures).
The number of student visa applications fell by almost 13,000 (a 5% drop) from September 2014 to September 2015 but the number of citizens immigrating for work purposes increased by 25,000 (to 290,000), with 59% of these having a definite job to go to on their arrival. However, the largest number of visas (around 40%) are still issued for study.
As a result of the EU principle of the Free Movement of Workers, UK Visas and Immigration cannot control the numbers of EU migrants (although in his recent EU reform negotiations, David Cameron has negotiated a reduction in the amount of tax credits EU migrants can claim in their first four years in the UK, in a bid to reduce EU citizen migration). With the upcoming EU Referendum, the immigration of EU citizens will be a key issue if the UK opts to leave the EU. If Britain votes to remain in the EU, we will need to see if the Prime Minister’s reforms have a significant impact.
The number of work visas granted to non-EU citizens will be likely to decline if the proposals in the MAC report are implemented, with greater restrictions imposed on those eligible to apply. A summary of the recommendations of the MAC report on Tier 2 Visas can be seen here. (LINK TO http://www.employmentbuddy.com/HR-Blogs/Details/Big-changes-to-Tier-2-recommended-in-the-Migration-Advisory-Committees-review)