As the latest UK immigration statistics were released this week, a fact that once again jumped out was the level of highly skilled workers from India who are migrating to Britain to meet staff shortages within the National Health Service (NHS).
Indian nationals were the top nationality for visas in the ‘Worker’ category, representing one-third (33 per cent) of visa grants, and were by far the top nationality for both the ‘Skilled Worker’ and ‘Skilled Worker – Health and Care’ visas, reveals the Home Office analysis of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) statistics for 2022-23.
In figures, 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.
And, Indian nationals also represented the largest group of students granted leave to remain on this visa, representing 41 per cent of grants.
The upward trend of Indian students choosing the UK for higher education was again borne out by the Home Office data: “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.”
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As UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman announced a clampdown on student visa norms that allow dependant family members to join students, the data also reveals that 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 came in second, with dependant numbers increasing from 22,598 to 42,381.
While the net migration figure of 606,000 in 2022-23, up from 504,000 in the previous year, will dominate the political agenda in the UK, the ONS points out that the spike is also down to unprecedented world events.
Jay Lindop, ONS Deputy Director of the Centre for International Migration, said: "A series of unprecedented world events throughout 2022 and the lifting of restrictions following Covid led to record levels of international immigration to the UK.
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“The main driver of the increase was people coming to the UK from non-EU countries for work, study and for humanitarian purposes, including those arriving from Ukraine and Hong Kong. For the first time since using our new methods to measure migration, we have also included asylum seekers in our estimates, with around one in 12 non-EU migrants coming via this route.”