Indians topped UK’s list of skilled worker and student visas last year

Skilled worker visas granted by the UK to Indians rose 63% from the previous year, while Indians registered an even higher hike of 105% in the healthcare visa category

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Net migration to the UK hit a record 606,000 in 2022-23, up from 504,000 in the previous year, driven by a sharp rise in workers and students from outside the EU | Representational image: iStock.

The UK issued the largest number of skilled worker and student visas to Indian nationals last year, official immigration statistics released in London on Thursday (May 25) have revealed.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data collated by the UK Home Office shows that Indian was the top nationality for cross-sector skilled work, including specifically targeted healthcare visas aimed at filling staff shortages in the National Health Service (NHS).

Indians also made up the largest group of students granted visas under the new Graduate post-study work route, representing 41 per cent of grants.

Indian was also the top nationality for visas in the Worker category, representing one third (33 per cent) of grants, and were by far the top nationality for both the Skilled Worker and Skilled Worker — Health and Care visas, the Home Office analysis noted.

Also read: Number of Indian students in US rose in 2022, those from China declined: Report

Sharp rise in numbers

A total of 92,951 Graduate route extensions were granted to previous students in FY 2022-23. Indian nationals represented the largest group of students granted leave to remain on the Graduate route, representing 41 per cent of grants, it said.

According to the latest statistics, 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 hike of 105 per cent — from 14,485 to 29,726.

There were 138,532 sponsored study visa grants to Indian nationals in 2022-23, an increase of 53,429 (+63 per cent) compared to the previous fiscal. It was the largest number of study visas granted to any nationality. Study grants for Indian nationals have risen markedly since FY 2018-19 and are now around seven times higher, the analysis noted.

Nigeria had the highest number of dependants (66,796) of sponsored study visa holders in 2022-23, increasing from 27,137 in the previous year. Indian nationals had the second highest number of dependants, increasing from 22,598 to 42,381, it noted.

Also read: UK PM Rishi Sunak green lights new Indian youth visa scheme

Braverman’s clampdown notice

The latest data comes days after UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman announced a clampdown on the right of student visa holders to bring dependent family members, limiting it only to PhD-level students.

This package includes removing the right of international students to bring dependants unless they are on postgraduate courses currently designated as research programmes, Braverman said in a statement to the House of Commons, announcing a new package of measures to curb immigration.

It was widely seen as pre-emptive action ahead of the latest ONS figures’ revealing on Thursday that net migration to the UK hit a record 606,000 in 2022-23, up from 504,000 in the previous year and driven by a sharp rise in workers and students from outside the European Union (EU).

It will intensify calls for a tougher crackdown on immigration norms from within the governing Conservative Party, which has had an election target to bring down overall numbers, especially in the wake of Brexit.

Also read: Students, industry hail new UK-India visa scheme as ‘opportunity of a lifetime’

Flawed approach?

However, experts warn that including overseas students within overall net migration statistics is in itself a flawed approach.

“We have a situation where migration figures are scaring people, and I feel very strongly about this,” said Lord Karan Bilimoria, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on International Students, who has raised the issue in Parliament.

“We must exclude international students from the net migration figures. America and Australia treat international students as temporary migrants. We are unnecessarily creating a fear of immigration by including them because international students, on the whole, go back to their countries where they come from,” he said.

(With agency inputs)