Most people moving to the UK arrive to work, latest immigration data shows

by Ray Clancy on February 29, 2016

Fewer young people from South East Asia are moving to the UK to study and most expats arrive for work, according to the latest official immigration figures to be published.

Last year was an interesting one as although net migration continued to rise, with more than double the number of people arriving than leaving the country, the increase was largely due to a decrease in emigration.

The data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) put net long term migration at 323,000, an increase of around 10% on the previous year. “The latest increase in net migration was not statistically significant compared with 2014,” said an ONS spokesman.

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“This net increase was the result of a decrease in emigration and immigration being at a similar level to the previous year,” he added.

But there have been changes in number from within the European Union. In real terms, EU immigration was up from 246,000 to 257,000, while non-EU immigration was down from 289,000 to 273,000.

However, the ONS said the changes were “not statistically significant” for either group, although a 15,000 jump in immigration from Romania and Bulgaria was notable.

The data also shows that non-EU citizens continue to account for a slightly larger share of immigration, compared to EU citizens. This gap is narrowing with recent larger increases seen for EU immigration and an overall decrease in immigration from non-EU citizens, following a peak in 2004.

There was a statistically significant decrease of South Asian citizens immigrating, from 67,000 to 53,000 and the ONS said that this was largely due to lower immigration of Asian citizens, in particular for study.

Visa statistics suggest this was related to the sharp decline in long term immigrants from South Asia coming to study in the further education sector in the UK.

The top nationalities granted visas, excluding visitor and transit visas, were from Asia, accounting for 299,009 or 56% of the 534,328 longer term visas granted in 2015, with China and India accounting for 17% and 16% of the total respectively.

The third largest number granted went to Americans, who comprised less than 7% of the total while visas to Chinese nationals were up 7,923 or 9%, while those granted to Russians were down 7,281 or 37% and Libyans down 7,035 or 82%.

The most commonly stated reason for long term immigration to the UK is work with 290,000 people arriving for work in the 12 months to September 2015 compared with 265,000 the previous year. Of these, 59% or 170,000 had a definite job to go to.

Around 60% of immigrants arriving for work were EU citizens, 24% were non-EU citizens and 15% were British citizens.

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