Indian students top UK visa numbers

26 May 2023

A day after the UK stopped the majority of international students from bringing their families to the country as their dependents, aside from PhD level students, Indians topped the number of student visas issued by the UK over the past year, according to official immigration statistics. They were also at the helm of the skilled worker tally. Indeed, Indian nationals were the majority nationality for cross-sector skilled work, according to the research by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), collated by the UK Home Office. They were also the largest group of students granted visas within the new graduate post-study work route, amounting to 41% of grants. The Home Office findings state: "Indian nationals were the top nationality for visas in the 'Worker' category, representing one-third (33%) of grants, and were by far the top nationality for both the 'Skilled Worker' and 'Skilled Worker - Health and Care' visas." The research also said: "A total of 92,951 graduate route extensions were granted to previous students in the year ending March 2023. Indian nationals represented the largest group of students granted leave to remain on the graduate route, representing 41% of grants.

ONS data

The ONS findings revealed that Nigeria had a total of 66,796 dependents, the highest of the sponsored study visa holders in the year ending March 2023, a rise from 27,137 during the previous year. Indian nationals had the second highest, rising from 22,598 to 42,381. In addition, skilled worker visas granted to Indians increased 63% from 13,390 in 2021-22 to 21,837 in 2022-23. Whereas in regard to healthcare visas, Indians registered a 105% rise from 14,485 to 29,726. "There were 138,532 sponsored study visa grants to Indian nationals in the year ending March 2023, an increase of 53,429 (+63%) compared to the year ending March 2022 and the largest number of study visas granted to any nationality. Grants to study for Indian nationals have risen markedly since year ending March 2019 and are now around seven times higher," according to the analysis. 

Net migration to the UK

In 2022, annual net migration to Britain hit a record high of 606,000, as per official estimates. Yet, experts have cautioned that the inclusion of international students within overall net migration statistics is a weak approach. "We have a situation where migration figures are scaring people, and I feel very strongly about this," said Lord Karan Bilimoria, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on International Students, who raised the issue in Parliament. "We must exclude international students from the net migration figures. America and Australia treat international students as temporary migrants. We are unnecessarily creating a fear of immigration by including them because international students, on the whole, go back to their countries where they come from," he stated. Following the release of the data, prime minister Rishi Sunak said: "The numbers are too high; it's as simple as that. And I want to bring them down."