Number of migrant workers coming to the UK rises 110% since 2020

New data from the Home Office shows a massive rise in visas issued for overseas workers last year, with Indian and Nigerian workers benefiting most from the uncapped points-based immigration system.

Home Office figures released last week show a staggering 110% rise in the number of migrant workers coming to the UK since 2020.

There were 239,987 work-related visas granted in 2021, including visas for dependents. While much of the rise can be attributed to reduced travel in 2020 due to the pandemic, the figure is still 25% higher than 2019, the year preceding the onset of COVID-19.

Over 150,000 skilled worker visas were issued in 2021, the main visa category for migrants wishing to enter the UK. The figure represents a third more migrants entering the UK than pre-Covid and is a result of the more liberal points-based immigration system which was put in place after Brexit.

Visa specialist Yash Dubal, Director of immigration lawyers A Y & J Solicitors, said: “These latest figures give the first indication of the impact of the points-based system, which makes it easier for skilled workers from countries such as India and Nigeria to enter the UK.

“They show that there is a big demand for foreign labour from UK firms. We expect to see these figures continue to grow as restrictions on travel continue to ease. We continue to see an increase in inquiries for visas from workers in India and Africa who are keen to take advantage of the skilled worker route, which is uncapped.”

Indian nationals continue to be the top nationality in the Skilled work category, accounting for over two-fifths (43%) of visas granted, up 14% from 2019. In contrast, skilled workers from the US were down a quarter from 2019. The largest percentage increase, however, was in visa grants to Nigerian nationals, which rose 130% to 6,327 from 2019. There were also large percentage rises in the number of visas granted to workers from the Philippines (up 53% from 2019) and Pakistan, (up 62% from 2019).

The figures also show a considerable rise in the number of temporary worker visas, of which over 54,000 were issued last year. This contrasts with 43,000 issued pre-pandemic in 2019 and 23,000 issued last year. The data constitutes a 132% rise between 2020 and 2021, and an increase of almost a quarter on 2019 figures.

Mr Dubal said: “Labour shortages caused by Brexit have created personnel shortages in many industries, including logistics and meat processing. With new short-term visas also being introduced to help alleviate pressures in the care sector, we expect the number of temporary worker visas to continue to rise this year.”

Over 550 Ukrainian workers were granted temporary visas from October last year allowing them to stay and work in the UK as poultry workers and pork butchers. The visas expired at the end of the year but the Government has announced that any Ukranians in the UK on temporary visas can stay until the end of 2022 or switch to other visa routes.

There were also over 3,000 Global Talent visas issued last year but ‘high value’ routes fell flat. Combined figures for Innovator visas introduced in April 2019 and Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa show a 66% drop compared with 2019.