Worksop Guardian 24.05.2023
The Government committed to bringing net migration down in the 2019 manifesto and remains committed to doing so. In December 2020, we ended decades of uncontrolled migration from the European Union and put in place a new points-based immigration system.
But immigration is dynamic, and we must constantly review our approach to take account of changing migrant flows and respond to evidence of abuse or unintended consequences. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published data in November 2022 which estimated that net migration in the year June 2021 to June 2022 was at 504,000 - up significantly on the previous year, and higher than pre-Brexit volumes. They partly attributed this rise to temporary factors – such as a post-Covid surge and safe and legal routes, like the UK’s Ukraine and Hong Kong schemes.
The immigration statistics also highlighted an unexpected rise in the number of dependants coming to the UK alongside international students. Around 136,000 visas were granted to dependants of sponsored students in the year ending December 2022, a more than eight-fold increase from 16,000 in 2019, when the Government’s commitment to lower net migration was made.
The International Education Strategy plays an important part in supporting the economy through the economic contribution students can bring to the UK, but this should not be at the expense of our commitment to the public to lower overall migration and ensure that migration to the UK is highly skilled and therefore provides the most benefit.
We have therefore announced a package of measures to help deliver our goal of falling net migration, while supporting the Government’s priority of growing the economy. This package includes:
Removing the right for international students to bring dependants unless they are on postgraduate courses currently designated as research programmes; Removing the ability for international students to switch out of the student route into work routes before their studies have been completed; Reviewing the maintenance requirements for students and dependants; Steps to clamp down on unscrupulous education agents who may be supporting inappropriate applications to sell immigration not education; Better communicating immigration rules to the higher education sector and to international students; Improved and more targeted enforcement activity.
We recognise that no one single measure will control immigration. The Government will seek to continue to strike the balance between reducing overall net migration with ensuring that businesses have the skills they need and we continue to support economic growth.