UK immigration concern at skilled migrant exodus

- Posted in United Kingdom by Visa Bureauon 07 August 2009

The report from ippr (titled 'Shall we stay or Shall we Go: Re-migration trends among Britain's immigrants') showed that outflow from the UK in the last couple of years is close to 400,000.

In the last thirty years, around half the total number of UK immigrants have subsequently left - a figure that amounts to more than 3 million. More worryingly, the number of immigrants spending less than four years in the UK has grown in recent years, with the figure doubling between 1996 and 2007.

While there a number of potential causes for the burgeoning trend of short-stay migration, most are pointing to the continuing economic crisis making the UK a less attractive prospect for migrants than it was in more prosperous years.

Additionally, many of the migrants most likely to leave are those with high skills, good education and low barriers to movement. These people are becoming increasingly 'super mobile', able to almost pick and choose their country of residence.

Tim Finch, Head of Migration at ippr commented on the situation, saying:

"The migration debate in the UK is fixated with the idea that immigrants come to settle and not enough attention has been paid to the fact that more and more immigrants are spending only short periods in the UK.

"Our research shows that many groups of migrants are now increasingly mobile. They are coming to the UK to study and work for short periods and then they are moving on. As global competition for highly skilled migrants increases in future years, schemes to retain migrants may become as important as attracting them in the first place."

The report's policy recommendations to the Government include:

  • Taking more active steps to encourage some migrants to stay longer in the UK through using the points based system, retention schemes, simplified visa extensions and tax incentives;
  • Piloting and promoting Migration Information Centres and 'Circular Migration' schemes so that short stay migration is better managed;
  • Making sure that migrant integration strategies take into account the increasing amount of short stay migration; AND
  • Improving links with former immigrants to the UK and treating them as a 'secondary diaspora' which could be regarded as an economic and diplomatic asset.

Phil Woolas, Borders and Immigration Minister, said:

"This report further demonstrates that migrants come to the UK for a short period of time, work, contribute to the economy and then return home. Our new flexible points based system gives us greater control on those coming to work or study from outside Europe, ensuring that only those that Britain need can come.

"This week I announced proposals which will break the link between temporary settlement and permanent residence. Only those that who earn the right to stay should be allowed a British passport."

 The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in UK immigration and UK work permit applications.