United Kingdom

In 2021, the United Kingdom received 386 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status), 65% more than in 2020. This figure comprises 21.2% labour migrants, 51.5% family members (including accompanying family) and 11.3% humanitarian migrants. Around 368 000 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 72 000 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants (excluding intra-EU migration). In addition, 38 000 intra-EU postings were recorded in 2021, a -39% decrease compared to 2020. These posted workers are generally on short-term contracts.

India, China and Italy were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2021. In 2022, the number of first asylum applicants increased by 58%, to reach around 89 000. The majority of applicants came from Albania (16 000), Afghanistan (11 000) and Iran (9 200). The largest increase since 2021 concerned nationals of Albania (+11 000) and the largest decrease nationals of Eritrea (-1 700). Of the 33 000 decisions taken in 2022, 60% were positive.

Emigration of citizens of the United Kingdom to OECD countries decreased by -29% in 2021, to 88 000. Approximately 29% of this group migrated to Spain, 12% to the United States and 11% to Australia.

In June 2022, the UK Government introduced significant policy changes to its border and legal migration system, with the aim of establishing a secure and efficient border system that prioritises national safety and prosperity. The government’s main legislative efforts of 2022-23 have focused on stopping undocumented migration, in particular those arriving across the Channel in small boats.

There has been an increase in visa applications and grants compared to pre-pandemic levels.

In December 2022, the UK Government confirmed that 45 000 visas will be available for seasonal horticultural workers for 2023 with a further 2000 visas available for poultry to meet the increase in demand in the run-up to Christmas. A further 10 000 places will be released if there is sufficient evidence of need, and contingent with improvements in worker welfare. The UK Government has also added a mandatory hour’s requirement to the Immigration Rules which ensures that all workers will receive a guaranteed 32 hours of paid employment per week and have raised the minimum hourly rate in line with the increases to the National Living Wage and compliance activity for the route was increased with the addition of a dedicated compliance visit team.

In 2023, the United Kingdom is starting the phased implementation of its Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme for individuals who do not require a visa to enter the country. An ETA is an electronic permission linked to the passport and is required for visits, including tourism, seeing family or friends, business trips, short-term study, and transit even without going through border control. Applications can be made through the UK ETA app or online, with a decision usually provided within three working days. The ETA is valid for two years and can be used for multiple visits, but it does not guarantee entry to the United Kingdom.

Under the Innovator Founder route, entrepreneurs and individuals can establish innovative, viable, and scalable businesses in the United Kingdom. Notably, the minimum fund requirement of GBP 50 000 has been removed, and restrictions on Innovator Founders engaging in employment outside their business have been relaxed. These policy changes aim to attract talented entrepreneurs with ground-breaking business ideas, facilitating economic growth and fostering a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in the United Kingdom.

As of April 2023, the UK Government has introduced changes to the annual salary requirements for skilled worker visa applications. Applicants must be paid whichever is the highest of GBP 26 200 per year (up from GBP 25 600), GBP 10.75 per hour (up from GBP 10.10) or the going rate for the particular occupation. These updates reflect the latest available UK-wide salary data. As before, the requirements can be reduced through tradeable points. A new flexibility has also been introduced – usually when an applicant is sponsored to work over 48 hours per week, only the salary for the initial 48 hours is taken into consideration. The new exception allows for irregular working patterns. More than 48 hours in some weeks can be considered, provided the average over a regular cycle remains at or below 48 hours per week.

For further information: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/home-office | www.gov.uk/government/collections/migration-statistics

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