Skilled professionals from India dominated the landscape of work visas issued by the UK government over the past few months, according to official statistics released on Thursday.
The UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) found in its analysis of UK Home Office data for the previous year that while the pressures of Brexit meant a decline in migrants coming to the UK from within the European Union (EU), non-EU migrants from countries like India registered an increase across different segments.
There were 2,266 more Tier 2 visas granted to Indian skilled professionals, which reflected the majority (55 per cent) in the visa category largely used by Indian IT companies to move around their workers to work on UK projects.
“Visa grants for Tier 2 (Skilled) account for more than half of all work visas and saw an increase of 15 per cent compared with the year ending September 2017, in particular, there were increases for Indian nationals,” the ONS report said.
Indian students coming to study at the UK institutions also registered an increase over the same period to hit 18,735, marking a 33 per cent increase in the number of student visas granted to Indian nationals.
Indians also dominated the tourism figures in the UK, with the largest visitor visa increase of all other countries at 41,224 to hit a total of 4,68,923, marking a 10 per cent hike in the number of visitor visas granted.
“Chinese and Indian nationals alone accounted for just under half of all visit visas granted,” the Home Office said.
Indians were also granted 881 more visas for family-related reasons over the previous year, with Pakistanis dominating this category with 1,895 more visas over the previous year.
Against the backdrop of ongoing controversial negotiations over Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) which will bring an end to free movement of people from within the 28-member economic bloc, the ONS found that 219,000 EU citizens arrived in the UK and 145,000 left, making net EU migration the lowest it had been since 2012.
Jay Lindop, director of the Centre for International Migration at ONS, said: “Net migration continues to add to the population and has remained fairly stable since its peak in 2016, with around 270,000 more people coming to the UK than leaving in the year ending June 2018.
“Due to increasing numbers arriving for work and study, non-EU net migration is now at the highest level since 2004. In contrast, EU net migration, while still adding to the population as a whole, is at the lowest since 2012.”
In another reflection of Brexit uncertainty, the number of EU nationals applying for British citizenship also registered an increase by almost a third over the past year, with 43,545 requests in the 12 months to the end of September this year which marks a rise of 32 per cent on last year.
Overall, the figures show that net migration – the difference between how many people came to the UK for at least 12 months and how many left – was 273,000 last year.
The issue of migration continues to be a highly contentious one in the country, with control over borders to end free movement of people from EU member-countries having played a crucial part in the campaign for leaving the EU in the June 2016 Brexit referendum.
Earlier this month, British Prime Minister Theresa May vowed that Brexit would level the playing field for migrant workers coming to work in the UK, with EU migrant workers no longer being able to “jump the queue” ahead of those from countries like India.