Indians have emerged as the fastest growing nationality for student visa applications to the UK, new official statistics released here on Thursday revealed.
The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that over 37,500 Indian students received a Tier 4 (Study) visa in 2019, which marks a 93% increase from the previous year and the largest number of visas issued in the Tier 4 category to Indians over the last eight years.
Indian professionals also held on to their global lead in the Tier 2 skilled visa category for the UK, with over 57,000 visas granted to Indian workers last year – accounting for over 50 per cent of all such visas.
“This phenomenal increase in student visa numbers is testament both to the UK’s world leading education system and to the exceptional talents of Indian students," said Jan Thompson, Acting High Commissioner to India.
“We couldn’t be prouder that the best and brightest continue to pick the UK, making the living bridge between our countries stronger each day," she said.
The introduction of a new Graduate Visa route, launched recently for the 2020-21 intake of international students, is likely to have a further impact on this upward trend from India, with its two-year post-study work option.
Barbara Wickham, Director India, British Council, added: “It is exciting to see so many Indian students trusting the UK as the destination for their education and furthering their careers.
“This bodes very well for both countries’ continued focus on realising their knowledge ambitions in a fast changing world."
The UK also continued to be a popular destination for Indian holidaymakers, with more than 515,000 Indian nationals being granted visit or tourist visas last year – an 8 per cent increase compared to the previous year. The overall statistics show that in 2019, 95 per cent of Indian nationals who applied for a UK visa were successful, an increase of 5 per cent over 2018.
The latest ONS figures reveal a broader post-Brexit trend of rising migration from outside the European Union (EU), set for a further hike once the UK government’s new points-based system kicks in from January 1, 2021.
“EU net migration has fallen, while non-EU net migration has gradually increased since 2013 and is now at the highest level since 2004," said Jay Lindop, Director of the Centre for International Migration at the ONS.
“Since 2016, immigration for work has decreased because of fewer EU citizens arriving for a job. Meanwhile, immigration for study has gone up and is now the main reason for migration. This is driven by more non-EU students arriving, specifically Chinese and Indian," said Lindop.
Britain’s exit from the EU will end the current free movement of people from within the economic bloc at the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 this year, bringing EU and non-EU migrants under one system.
“We are ending free movement and will introduce an Immigration Bill to bring in a firm and fair points-based system that will attract the high-skilled workers we need to contribute to our economy, our communities and our public services," the Home Office has said.
"We intend to create a high wage, high-skill, high productivity economy," it said in its policy document for the new points-based system, which the Prime Minister Boris Johnson led government hopes will ultimately bring down overall migration into the UK.