Indians get most UK visas as migration from EU countries drops sharply

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The United Kingdom (UK) granted most visas to skilled professionals and students from India as the net migration from European Union (EU) countries  dropped sharply last year amid uncertainty over Brexit.

Indian professionals, including doctors and software engineers, dominated the UK’s Tier-2 skilled visa category, accounting for 54 per cent of all such visas granted in 2018, revealed the British Home Office.

Figures show that 261,000 more non-EU citizens from countries like India came to the UK, the highest since 2004. In contrast, net migration from EU countries continued to fall to a level last seen in 2009.  

“Different patterns for EU and non-EU migration have emerged since mid-2016, when the EU referendum vote took place. Due to increasing numbers arriving for work and study, non-EU net migration is now at the highest level since 2004,” said Jay Lindop, director of the Centre for International Migration at the UK’s Office of National Statistics.

 (ONS), which analyses Home Office data to develop a picture for the UK’s migration flows.

EU citizens arriving in the UK outnumbered those leaving by just 57,000 in the 12 months through September, the least since 2009 and half the number recorded a year earlier, the ONS said Thursday. Overall net migration, including from non-EU countries, was little changed at 283,000.

In the latest analysis, the Home Office said that Indian nationals marked the largest increase in the grant of Tier 2 visas, up by 6 per cent at 3,023 more visas compared to the previous year.

The analysis also noted a hike in the number of student visas granted to Indians last year, up 35 per cent to hit 19,505, with Chinese students dominating that segment at 99,723 visas but marking only a 13 per cent hike.

China held on to the tourist visa lead, with 56,095 or 11 per cent more visitor visas granted to Chinese nationals last year compared to an increase of 43,771, or 10 per cent, for Indian nationals.

"Chinese and Indian nationals together accounted for just under half, 48 per cent, of all visitor visas granted," the Home Office said.

“Decisions to migrate are complex and a person’s decision to move to or from the UK will always be influenced by a range of factors, including work, study and family reasons,’’ said Lindop.

The ONS found that more citizens from central and eastern European countries, known as the EU8 and including countries like Poland, Slovakia and Lithuania, are leaving the UK than arriving. This pattern differs from all other EU countries.

The issue of migration continues to be a highly contentious one in Britain, 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 referendum.

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