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UK health and care visas for Indian medical workers up 76%

Indian skilled workers, medical professionals and students held on to their domination in the UK’s visa tally over the past year, according to official immigration statistics released here on Thursday.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data collated by the UK Home Office for the year ending September 2023 shows that Indian nationals topped not only the Skilled Worker visa route but also the Health and Care Visa route.

In the students’ visa category, Indian nationals continued to represent the largest group of students granted leave to remain on the relatively new post-study Graduate visa route, representing 43 per cent of grants.

“While ‘Skilled Worker’ visas have only seen a modest rise in the past year (+9 per cent), ‘Skilled Worker – Health and Care’ visa grants have more than doubled (+135 per cent) to 143,990. Indian (38,866), Nigerian (26,715), and Zimbabwean (21,130) nationals saw the largest increases on this visa compared with the previous year,” the Home Office analysis notes.

While the Health and Care visa figures mark a 76 per cent rise in Indian applicants, the Skilled Worker route saw a small decline of 11 per cent to drop from 20,360 visas in the year ending September 2022 to 18,107 in the year ending this September.

“There were 133,237 sponsored study visa grants to Indian nationals in (the) year ending September 2023, a small increase of 5,804 (+5 per cent) compared to the year ending September 2022, but their number is now nearly five times higher than in the year ending September 2019. Indian nationals accounted for over one-quarter (27 per cent) of all sponsored study grants to main applicants in the latest year,” the analysis notes.

Indian nationals also continued to account for the highest proportion (27 per cent) of tourist ‘Visitor’ visas granted, followed by Chinese (19 per cent) and Turkish nationals (6 per cent).

Since a crackdown announced earlier this year on overseas students bringing in dependant family members to the country, the latest figures show that Indian nationals are not the topmost country in the category.

“There were 60,506 dependants of Nigerian nationals in the year ending September 2023, an increase of 59,079 compared to 2019 and 9,435 more visas issued than to main applicants in the same period. Indian nationals had the second highest number of dependants, increasing from 2,127 to 43,445 in the same time period,” the analysis finds.

Former home secretary Suella Braverman had told the House of Commons in May that only international students on postgraduate courses currently designated as research programmes will be allowed to bring in family members, including children and elderly parents, as their dependants.

Meanwhile, against the backdrop of the India-UK Migration and Mobility Partnership, two-thirds (64 per cent) of voluntary returns of illegal migrants to the UK were recorded as primarily Albanian, Indian and Chinese nationals.

The Conservative Party-led UK government has a commitment to bring down overall migration statistics, and the latest ONS data does indicate a small drop in figures.

The latest ONS migration figures for the 12 months until June 2023 show net migration to the UK of 672,000, lower than 745,000 for the same period last year – which was revised upwards by the ONS under updated methodology.

The top five nationalities outside the European Union (EU) for immigration flows into the UK were Indian (253,000), Nigerian (141,000), Chinese (89,000), Pakistani (55,000) and Ukrainian (35,000).

“The latest numbers are higher than 12 months ago but are down slightly on our updated figures for (the) year ending December 2022. It is too early to say if this is the start of a new downward trend,” said Jay Lindop of the ONS Centre for International Migration.

“Before the pandemic, migration was relatively stable, but patterns and behaviours have been shifting considerably since then. More recently, we’re not only seeing more students arrive, but we can also see they’re staying for longer. More dependants of people with work and study visas have arrived too, and immigration is now being driven by non-EU arrivals,” she said. PTI

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