UK net migration hits record high of half a million driven by ‘unprecedented’ world events - ONS

ONS figures show more people arrived to the UK than left in the past year stemming from a surge in visas for foreign nationals

Net migration in the UK has hit a record high with an estimated 504,000 more people arriving than departing in the past year.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that migration rose from 173,000 in the year to June 2021 to 504,000 in the year to June 2022, an increase of 331,000. The last time net migration to the UK was this high was in March 2015.

Total immigration to the UK is also at its highest level since the ONS started recording the statistics in 1964 - with 1.1 million people arriving in the past year.

The increase stems from a number of factors including the arrival of Ukrainian, Afghan and Hong Kongers refugees. The rise has also been caused by a surge in visas for foreign nationals to live, study and work in the UK - which exceeded one million for the first time in the year to June.

However, ONS figures also show that for the first time since 1991 more EU nationals have left the UK than arrived. Net migration of EU nationals is minus 51,000 for the year up to June 2022.

In its election manifesto the government promised to bring down net migration - a pledge repeated by Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister and Home Secretary SuellaBraverman, who told the Tory Conference her ambition was to reduce it to below 100,000.

In the year up to June 2022, the ONS estimated that net migration of non-EU nationals to the UK was 509,000.

Those arriving on study visas accounted for the largest proportion of long-term immigration of non-EU nationals at 277,000, an increase from 143,000 in the year up to June 2021.

Those arriving on "other" visas accounted for the second-largest proportion of non-EU immigration at an estimated 276,000, an increase from 91,000 in the year up to June 2021. This includes people who immigrated into the UK under visas classified as family, protection, settlement and those arriving for humanitarian protection, such as those coming from Ukraine. Home Office estimates suggest that around 89,000 Ukraine Scheme visa-holders arrived in the UK in the year up to June 2022.

Work visas made up the remaining proportion contributing to non-EU immigration, with an estimated 151,000 arriving for work compared with 92,000 in the year up to June 2021.

‘Record levels of long-term immigration’

Commenting on the statistics, Jay Lindop, ONS’ deputy director of the Centre for International Migration, said that a “series of world events have impacted international migration patterns in the 12 months to June 2022” and these were “unprecedented.”

She added: “These include the end of lockdown restrictions in the UK, the first full period following transition from the EU, the war in Ukraine, the resettlement of Afghans and the new visa route for Hong Kong British nationals (Overseas), which have all contributed to the record levels of long-term immigration we have seen.

"Migration from non-EU countries, specifically students, is driving this rise. With the lifting of travel restrictions in 2021, more students arrived in the UK after studying remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. However, there has also been a large increase in the number of people migrating for a range of other reasons. This includes people arriving for humanitarian protections, such as those coming from Ukraine, as well as for family reasons."

"These many factors independent of each other contributing to migration at this time mean it is too early to say whether this picture will be sustained."

The ONS said the estimates are experimental and provisional, and there is a degree of uncertainty around them which they are unable to quantify at this time.