Record 600000 Work Visas Issued in the UK Last Year

UK Skilled Worker Visa 2024-UK Immigration Solicitors

The latest figures from the Home Office reveal a dramatic increase in visas issued to foreign workers and their families, reaching over 600,000 last year, 2023. This surge is placing considerable pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, particularly as immigration remains one of the top concerns for voters with a general election on the horizon. 

The UK has seen a significant increase in visas handed to foreign workers and their family members, leading to a heated political debate on immigration ahead of the next general election. This blog post discusses the latest statistics, the impact on the healthcare sector, and the government’s response to growing immigration concerns.

A Sharp Rise in Work Visas

In 2023, Britain granted 337,240 work visas, a 26% increase from the previous year. This rise was primarily driven by the health and care sector, where visas under the ‘Skilled Worker – Health and Care’ route nearly doubled to 146,477. This sector alone accounted for 73% of the 279,131 visas given to family members of workers, an 80% increase from 2022.

The significant influx of workers in the care sector follows the UK’s decision to open visas to international care workers in February 2022, aiming to fill critical vacancies. However, this influx has been subject to controversy. Former home secretary Suella Braverman labelled the figures “appalling,” stressing the strain on housing, healthcare, and education resources. She advocated for stricter immigration policies, including an overall cap on numbers, reflecting sentiments of many concerned citizens.

Key Statistics from 2023

  • Total Work Visas Granted: 337,240 (26% increase from 2022)
  • Health and Care Work Visas: 146,477 (91% increase)
  • Visas for Family Members: 279,131 (80% increase)
  • Overall Visas (Workers + Dependents): 616,000
Category20222023% Change
Total Work Visas267,651337,240+26%
Health and Care Work Visas76,657146,477+91%
Visas for Family Members155,072279,131+80%
Overall Visas (Workers + Dependents)422,723616,000+46%

Stricter Visa Rules and Policy Adjustments

In response to rising immigration numbers, Sunak’s government implemented stricter visa regulations late last year. These include higher salary thresholds and tighter restrictions on bringing in family members. From March 11, care workers will no longer be permitted to bring dependents, a move criticized by businesses and trade unions. They argue that such restrictions could exacerbate labour shortages in a struggling care sector.

Pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

With immigration being a top concern for voters, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing pressure to address the issue. Sunak has promised to reduce immigration numbers, but recent data indicates a significant rise:

  • Net Migration in 2022: 745,000 (record high)
  • Efforts to Reduce Numbers: Stricter visa rules, higher salary thresholds, and restrictions on bringing family members

Asylum Backlog and Policy Criticism

The Home Office data also revealed a reduction in the asylum claim backlog, which fell by a quarter in the latter half of last year. Despite this progress, Sunak must clear ‘legacy’ cases by the end of 2023. As of December 31, 3,902 ‘legacy’ cases were still awaiting an initial decision.

Moreover, the number of UK asylum applications refused by the Home Office surged sharply in the last three months of 2023. The period saw 15,380 applications refused, the highest number since 2001. Critics, including Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael, argue that the government’s approach has been ineffective. Carmichael called for a dedicated unit to improve the speed and quality of asylum decision-making, highlighting the plight of over 128,000 individuals still waiting for an initial decision on their claims.

Asylum Claims and Backlogs

The UK’s asylum claim backlog has seen some reduction, but challenges remain:

  • Asylum Backlog Reduction: Down by a quarter in the second half of last year
  • Initial Decision Waiting: 128,000 people waiting at the end of 2023 (down from 175,000 in June)
  • Legacy Cases: 3,902 waiting for initial decision as of December 31
PeriodTotal ApplicationsWaiting for Initial DecisionLegacy Cases (pre-June 2022)
End of June 2023175,457128,0003,902
End of December 2022160,919128,786
End of December 2023128,0003,902

Controversy Over Official Statistics

In January, the Home Office was criticized by the UK Statistics Authority over misleading claims about clearing the asylum backlog. Chairman Sir Robert Chote warned that such discrepancies could undermine public trust. This incident fueled the ongoing debate about the government’s handling of immigration and asylum issues.

Conclusion

As Britain prepares for the next general election, immigration remains a critical issue. Prime Minister Sunak’s commitment to reducing numbers is under intense scrutiny, especially given the latest data. The challenge lies in balancing the need for skilled workers, particularly in vital sectors like health and care, with voters’ concerns and the capacity of public services.

The coming months will be crucial for Sunak’s government as it navigates these complex issues, seeking to implement policies that address economic needs and public sentiment. The outcome of these efforts will significantly impact the political landscape and the lives of countless individuals seeking a future in the UK.

Stay tuned for more updates on this evolving issue.

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