Visitor visas constituted the bulk of total visas granted by the UK to nationalities in non-European Economic Area (EEA) during financial year ended June 30, 2017. Nearly 50% of visitors were from China and India.
Of the total 26.3 lakh visas issued by the UK during this period, 20.38 lakh or 77% were for visitors alone. The aggregate number of visitor visas reflected a rise of 8% over the previous year ended June 30, 2016. Of the 20.38 lakh visitor visas, Chinese were allotted 26% and Indians 20%. The primary visa categories include visitor, work and study.
According to the UK’s home office, as many as 4.14 lakh Indians obtained visitor visas, a rise of 10% from the previous corresponding period. By comparison, those granted to the Chinese, excluding from Hong Kong, rose 24% to 5.36 lakh.
Aside from visitor visas, the most common ones granted to non-EEA nationals include study visas (excluding for short-term courses). During the year ended June 2017, 2.13 lakh such visas were granted, a 4% increase over the previous year.
Visas granted to the three largest non-EEA student nationalities saw an increase too. Chinese students were issued 82,200 visas, a rise of 17% from the previous financial year; Americans 14,400 visas, up just 1% and Indians 11,700, an almost 10% rise, states the UK’s home office.
The EEA brings together the Europena Union countries and a few others such as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland into a single market—allowing for free movement of people.
Thus, the UK home office statistics on visas include only non-EEA countries. The official statement, though, explains that some non-EEA nationalities such as Americans do not normally require a visa to visit the UK. Consequently, the number of visitor visas granted is much lower than the total number of arrivals.
While Brexit may change the scenario, the number of visas issued to skilled workers remained fairly constant during the 12-month period ended June 30, 2017, compared with the corresponding period in the earlier year. There was an insignificant decline of 1.25% to 92,805 from 93,935.
The earlier trend continued, with Indian nationals accounting for nearly 58% (or 53,366) of the total skilled work visas granted. US nationals were the next largest group with 9,144 Tier-II visas granted to them or 10% of the total in this category.
In the previous corresponding year, Indians had obtained 53,548 Tier-II visas or 57% of the total visas in this category, whereas Americans with 10,019 were issued 11% of these visas.
The impact of Brexit has shown some signs with EU nationals gradually migrating out of the UK. Latest available figures for a 12-month period up to March 2017 show that the net migration or the difference between the number of people entering and leaving the UK, was 2.46 lakh, a decrease of 81,000 from the previous year.
According to a Uniten Kingdon-based immigration counsel, the government’s initial aim was to bring the net migration to below one lakh people a year. However, there has been internal discontent on this issue and the industry fears a brain drain should this happen.
“Indian workers are largely in the skilled category. Further, several of them are on company secondments. It is too early to tell what will be the impact of Brexit on them,” says this expert.