Record migration was even higher than previously thought

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border controls

Net migration was higher than previously thought, hitting a record of 764,000 in 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics.

However, net migration, the difference between those entering the UK and leaving, fell by 10 per cent last year to 685,000.

The 685,000 total for the year to December 2023 is still the third highest on record and nearly three times the level in 2019, when the Tories pledged to reduce migration in their election manifesto.

The ONS said some 1.22 million people are estimated to have arrived in the UK in the year ending December 2023 to work, live or study, while 532,000 left.

This compares with 1.26 million who arrived in the UK in the year to December 2022 and 493,000 who left, giving a rounded net total of 764,000, a revision of the ONS’s previous estimate for the year of 745,000.

Last year’s fall will be seen as a boost for Rishi Sunak in his attempt to rein in record levels of net migration through measures including bans on foreign workers and students bringing in dependants.

The figures do not reflect the full impact of the new visa restrictions, which only started to take effect from January. Home Office figures on Wednesday showed a fall in work and study visas of 25 per cent in the first four months of this year.

The revision of the record net migration of 764,000 in 2022 was because of more people staying for longer than the ONS had originally estimated. It is based on real numbers rather than estimates from historical trends.

ONS officials attributed the fall to the increasing numbers of people emigrating from the UK, the bulk of whom were foreign students returning to their home countries after completing their studies.

The estimates show that non-EU immigration for work-related reasons increased from 277,000 in the year to December 2022 to 423,000 in the year to December 2023, replacing study as the main reason for long-term migration.

More than four out of 10 people moving to the UK for work-related reasons last year came from India or Nigeria, most commonly in the health and social care sector.

The number of non-EU nationals arriving as dependants of those on long-term work visas was higher last year than the number of main applicants, at 219,000 and 204,000 respectively.