01 March 2013

Minister welcomes UK immigration fall

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After the latest round of UK immigration figures were released yesterday, Immigration Minister Mark Harper has welcomed the drop and confirmed the Government is on track to reduce net migration to the 'tens of thousands' by the next election.

UK visa

Immigration Minister Mark Harper welcomed the fall in UK immigration figures.

The Office for National Statistics released its latest report yesterday in which net migration was shown to have fallen from the 183,000 in November, 2012 to just 163,000.

The drop has been mainly fuelled by a fall in UK visa applications from overseas students; sponsored student visas dropped by 20%, overseas study visa places at English language schools fell by 69% and those at further education colleges 62%.

The Government has used abuse of the student visa system to justify its changes to student visa policy and will feel vindicated that despite the drastic falls in applications to some schools, study visas for university places rose by 3%.

The Government's critics on its immigration policies have bemoaned the decision to include overseas students in net migration figures on several occasions. The UK international education industry is a world leader alongside the US, Canada and Australia yet is the only country not to exclude students from migration figures.

A spokesperson for one of those critics - the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) - said the fall in net migration was misleading and would require further, more drastic cuts to both student and other immigration policy to maintain.

"Most students stay n the UK only for a short time, so reduced immigration now will mean reduced emigration in the future, which by 2015 could partially reverse the falls we are seeing today," said Sarah Mulley of the IPPR.

"This also means that more drastic cuts to student numbers would be needed to make further progress towards the Government's target.

For example, the latest research suggests that only 18% of student migrants are still in the UK after five years. That means that the 52,000 fall in student visas that we saw last year will only reduce net migration by just over 9,000 in the medium term.

"Given that the government still need to reduce net migration by 63,000 in order to meet their target, it is clear that this cannot be achieved in the medium term without radical changes that go far beyond the student visa regime."

Yet Mr Harper has said the reduction is proof that the coalition Government is bringing net migration to the UK back under control and the Government is on target to meet their goal of net migration in the 'tens of thousands' by 2015.

"Our tough reforms are having an impact in all the right places," said the minister. "We have tightened the routes where abuse was rife and overall numbers are down as a result.

"But sponsored student visa applications for our world-class universities are up and the numbers of skilled people being sponsored by UK employers in sectors such as IT and science have also increased.

"We will continue to work hard to bring net migration down from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands by the end of this parliament and to create a selective immigration system that works in our national interest."

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.

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