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Fall in international student numbers “already visible” in immigration statistics


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This morning the government released immigration statistics covering January to March 2020. Although the UK did not officially begin its lockdown until the fourth week in March, the coronavirus effect is “already visible” in the data.

Take student visa applications. They had been rising for some time: Tier 4 applications in the year to March 2020 were at their highest level since 2011, reflecting a loosening of the ill-advised crackdown under Theresa May. Even over the full first quarter of 2020, applications were up 65% on the same period in 2019. However:

in March 2020, Tier 4 visa applications fell significantly when compared to March 2019, in particular for Chinese nationals, and likely related to COVID-19.

The release does not give any specific figures on the decline in March, but more details should emerge next week. The statisticians promise a special bulletin on 28 May “providing a statistical overview of COVID-19 impacts on the immigration system through to the end of April 2020”.

Elsewhere in the Points Based System, there have now been 159 Innovator visas granted in the 12 months since it was introduced. Its predecessor, Tier 1 (Entrepreneur), saw over 3,000 grants in its last year of operation.

Investor visa grants have fallen by 24% in the 12 months covered by the latest statistics, but Exceptional/Global Talent grants are up 33%.

Unfortunately technical gremlins prevent us from bringing you any pretty charts this quarter, so we’ll leave you with this interesting nugget: almost 90% of the farm labourers recruited under the Seasonal Workers Pilot were Ukrainian.

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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.