(Synopsis :Data from the Office for National Statistics reveals that Indian nationals have been issued more skilled worker and student visas than any other nationality in the UK in the last year. Indian nationals accounted for the largest portion of skilled worker visas, including for healthcare staff, and represented 41% of grants for the new Graduate post-study work route.)
Indians were on top of the skilled worker tally and student visas issued by the UK over the past year, official immigration statistics released in London showed. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data collated by the UK Home Office shows that Indian nationals were the top nationality for cross-sector skilled work, including specifically targeted healthcare visas aimed at filling staff shortages in the National Health Service (NHS).
They also made up the largest group of students granted visas under the new Graduate post-study work route, representing 41 per cent of grants.
“Indian nationals were the top nationality for visas in the ‘Worker’ category, representing one third (33 per cent) of grants, and were by far the top nationality for both the ‘Skilled Worker’ and ‘Skilled Worker – Health and Care’ visas,” the Home Office analysis notes .
“A total of 92,951 Graduate route extensions were granted to previous students in the year ending March 2023. Indian nationals represented the largest group of students granted leave to remain on the Graduate route, representing 41 per cent of grants,” it said.
This comes a day after United Kingdom barred most international students from bringing family including children and elderly parents, as their dependants, limiting it only to PhD level students.
According to the data, “Nigeria had the highest number of dependants (66,796) of sponsored study visa holders in the year ending March 2023, increasing from 27,137 in the year ending March 2022. Indian nationals had the second highest number of dependants, increasing from 22,598 to 42,381.”
According to the latest statistics, skilled worker visas granted to Indians rose 63 per cent, from 13,390 in 2021-22 to 21,837 in 2022-23. In the healthcare visa category, Indians registered an even higher 105 per cent hike from 14,485 to 29,726.
“There were 138,532 sponsored study visa grants to Indian nationals in year ending March 2023, an increase of 53,429 (+63 per cent) compared to year ending March 2022 and the largest number of study visas granted to any nationality. Grants to study for Indian nationals have risen markedly since year ending March 2019 and are now around seven times higher,” the analysis noted.
“This package includes: removing the right for international students to bring dependants unless they are on postgraduate courses currently designated as research programmes,” Braverman said in a statement to the House of Commons announcing a new package of measures to curb migration.
Annual net migration to the United Kingdom reached a record high of 606,000 last year, official estimates showed, heaping pressure on British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak who has pledged to bring numbers down. The increase was driven by non-European Union nationals, including refugees under the British government’s Ukraine visa schemes and people migrating for work and education, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
It will intensify calls for a tougher crackdown on immigration norms from within the governing Conservative Party, which has had an election target to bring down overall numbers especially in the wake of Brexit.
However, experts warn that including overseas students within overall net migration statistics is in itself a flawed approach.
“We have a situation where migration figures are scaring people and I feel very strongly about this,” said Lord Karan Bilimoria, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on International Students, who has raised the issue in Parliament.
“We must exclude international students from the net migration figures. America and Australia treat international students as temporary migrants. We are unnecessarily creating a fear of immigration by including them because international students, on the whole, go back to their countries where they come from,” he said.
After the release of the official migration data, UK PM Rishi Sunak told ITV News that “(The) numbers are too high, it’s as simple as that. And I want to bring them down.”
(With inputs from PTI)