United Kingdom

In 2019, the United Kingdom received 346 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status and free mobility), 0.8% more than in 2018. This figure comprises 41.6% immigrants benefitting from free mobility, 14.9% labour migrants, 31.7% family members (including accompanying family) and 5.1% humanitarian migrants. Around 375 000 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 89 000 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants (excluding intra-EU migration). In addition, 133 000 intra-EU postings were recorded in 2019, an increase of 120% compared to 2018. These posted workers are generally on short-term contracts.

India, China and Romania were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2019. Among the top 15 countries of origin, India registered the strongest increase (30 000) and Italy the largest decrease (-12 000) in flows to the United Kingdom compared to the previous year.

In 2020, the number of first asylum applicants decreased by -19%, to reach around 36 000. The majority of applicants came from Iran (4 200), Iraq (3 300) and Albania (3 100). The largest increase since 2019 concerned nationals of Eritrea (700) and the largest decrease nationals of Iran (-1 300).

Emigration of British nationals to OECD countries increased by 8% in 2019, to 139 000. Approximately 21% of this group migrated to Spain, 10% to Australia and 9% to the United States.

As of 1 January 2021, EU citizens who wish to move to the United Kingdom are subject to the same rules as citizens from the rest of the world, with the exception of Irish citizens who can continue to come without restrictions under separate arrangements.

From 2021 the new Points Based Immigration System caters to all foreign workers, including EU nationals. It is aimed at the most highly skilled workers, skilled workers, students and a range of other specialist work routes including those for global leaders in their field and innovators. Points are awarded for a job offer at the appropriate skill level, knowledge of English and being paid a minimum salary. People will normally need to be paid at least GBP 25 600 per year, have enough money to pay the application fee, the health care surcharge and be able to support themselves. The visa lasts for up to five years before it needs to be extended.

Alongside the skilled worker visa, several other routes have opened, including Global Talent, Innovator, Start-up and Intra-company Transfer. A Student route and Child Student route opened in October 2020 to eligible international students from across the globe.

A new Graduate route for international students will open in July 2021. In order to apply they must have completed an eligible course at a UK higher education provider, with a track record of compliance with the government’s immigration requirements. Students on this route will be able to work or look for work after their studies for a maximum period of two years, or three years for Doctoral students.

In March 2021 the Home Secretary announced a new plan for immigration, focusing on reform of the asylum system. It is designed to increase the fairness and efficacy of our system to better support those in genuine need of protection, deter illegal entry into the United Kingdom, and remove more easily those with no right to be in the United Kingdom.

Changes to the Immigration Rules in March 2021 made it easier for key foreign workers in health and care roles to enter the country. Additions to the shortage occupation list included pharmacists, laboratory technicians, senior care workers and nursing assistants, public health and domiciliary managers, as well as modern foreign language teachers.

After its closure in 2013, the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) has been partially reinstated, in 2020 as an initial pilot and in 2021 as an extended pilot. The scheme allows agricultural workers to come to the United Kingdom for up to six months. Eligible workers need to be sponsored by a government selected ‘operator’ and there is no route to settlement.

In response to China’s imposition of the National Security Law on Hong Kong, a new visa for Hong Kong British National (Overseas) status holders and their immediate family members was launched on 31 January 2021.

The deadline for the EU Settlement Scheme was 30 June 2021 for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and their family members resident in the United Kingdom by 31 December 2020; as of 30 June 2021 there had been over 6 million applications to the Scheme. The Scheme will remain open after 30 June for certain groups including late applicants, joining family members and pre-settled status holders applying for settled status.

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