Net migration to the UK has fallen considerably with fewer foreign students arriving and more people leaving, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show.
Overall in the year to the end of March 2012 net migration has fallen by 59,000 to 183,000 from 242,000 the previous year and officials said it is a direct result of recent Home Office reform of the immigration system starting to take effect. The number of visas being issued is also down.
The main reason for the fall is a decline in foreign students with fewer arrivals from India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. But 15,000 more Chinese students arrived.
More British citizens left the country. There were 151,000 departures, some 10,000 more than the previous year.
London has bucked the national trend with a slight increase in its overall influx of migrants. This added 51,000 people to the capital’s population.
Overall India is the largest source of immigrants at 61,000 followed by China at 44,000 with Pakistan, Poland and Australia filling the other places in the top five. Arrivals from Poland and other east European countries are continuing to rise.
‘This is a significant fall in net migration and the total number of visas issued is at its lowest since 2005. This shows we are bringing immigration back under control,’ said Immigration Minister Mark Harper.
‘Our tough policies are taking effect and this marks a significant step towards bringing net migration down from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands by the end of this Parliament,’ he explained.
‘At the same time, we continue to attract the brightest and best. There has been a small increase in the number of sponsored student visa applications for the University sector and a further increase in student visit visas. It’s clear that international students continue to come to the UK’s world renowned universities,’ he added.
Net migration to Britain plunged by a quarter last year in the first sign that government immigration curbs are starting to work.
However, ministers are still short of meeting their target of cutting net migration to below 100,000 before the next election.