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Net migration figures and international student numbers

by Dominic 15/06/2012 16:04:00
As the Government continues to tinker with the UK immigration system in order to bring net migration figures down to the ‘tens of thousands’ as stated in their election manifesto, the debate has centred on whether or not to include international student numbers in migration figures.

The topic hinges on whether international students should be classified as ‘long-term migrants’, i.e. those who enter the UK and remain for a sustained period.

The Government maintain that immigration is hindering the British economy’s road to recovery and, by reducing net migration, unemployment levels will lessen and fewer people will depend on the state.

In line with this aim, the Government has made significant changes to UK visa and immigration policy which have affected international students including introducing salary thresholds for graduates to earn to be allowed to remain in the country, employment restrictions during their studies and abolishing the Post Study Work Visa.

The changes have prompted strong reaction from opposing politicians, independent research bodies and educational establishments. A coalition of vice-chancellors from British universities wrote to David Cameron in protest last month, warning him of the harmful effects the changes could have.

The Government have remained defiant in the face of criticism, claiming the UK immigration changes are beginning to take effect.

"Our tough new rules are now making a real difference with a record 62% drop in student visas in the first quarter of 2012” said Immigration Minister Damian Green.

"As these policies start to bite we are seeing an end to the years when net migration was consistently on the rise. But the hangover from the old system of weak controls means it is still too high and we will continue our programme of reforms to bring net migration down from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands."

The latest immigration figures revealed just a 3,000 decrease in net migration compared to the same period the year before, prompting more scepticism as to whether the changes really are making an effect and whether changing student visa policy can have a tangible effect on UK immigration as a whole.

Why Should Student Numbers Remain in Migration Figures?

Abuse of the system

The Government argue that student numbers should be included in migration figures because a significant proportion of holders overstay their visa requirements and, as people who remain in the country illegally are very difficult to maintain records of, the only way to keep track is to maintain records of them all.

Immigration watchdog MigrationWatch UK agrees with the Government and has urged politicians in recent weeks to continue their vigilance. MigrationWatch’s chairman, Sir Andrew Green, has said student visa was a ‘back door’ to Britain which is being abused.

“Foreign students are valuable but the present system is far too easily abused. Sadly, the student route has become the back door to Britain and it is wide open. Unlike our main competitors, we do not interview students before they come to confirm that they are genuine and there are no checks on their departure,” said Sir Andrew.

Why Should Student Numbers Be Removed in Migration Figures?

Monetary Value

Universities UK, the coalition of vice-chancellors which wrote to David Cameron recently, argue that international students contribute significantly to the British economy, paying fees on average four times higher than domestic students and the Government’s visa restrictions will cost the British economy between £5 and £8 billion a year.


Percentage of Market Shares in International Education by Country of Destination
Source: Institute for Public Policy Research, 2012.

The UK is currently a world leader in the international education market, with only the United States enjoying a greater market share. Universites UK claim dissuading international students from studying in the UK has the potential to harm the country’s international reputation.

The US, Canada and Australia remain the UK’s main competitors in the market yet Britain remains the only one to include student figures in net migration statistics.

Low Abuse Rates

A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) shows that over 75% of international students return home after completing their studies.


Percentage of International Students not Renewing Their Student Visa
and Remaining in the UK
Source: Institute for Public Policy Research, 2012.

Of the 25% who stay, the IPPR claim more will return home after time; the IPPR cites a Home Office report in 2010 which claimed of those foreign students who entered the UK in 2004, just 20% had switched to a different visa route by 2009.

Visa Bureau Comments

The UK Visa Bureau feels the Government’s restrictions do little to combat genuine abuse from those who look to exploit the system by any means.

By adding restrictions to the student visa route and including foreign students in net migration figures, the Government achieves a reduction in immigration figures.

We feel this allows the Government to portray a policy success while actually harming the UK education industry and doing little to tackle genuine abuse of the immigration system.

“With the addition of so many new visa restrictions which affect foreign students, the Government has already limited what they can and can’t do after graduation anyway,” says the UK Visa Bureau’s Casework Department Manager Marissa Murdock.

“By the far the vast majority have no choice but to return home anyway.”

- Dominic Ladden-Powell is Online Editor for the UK Visa Bureau

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Visa Bureau Testimonial - The Read Family

by Dominic 11/06/2012 13:29:00

Whether it’s because of the struggling economy, the dissatisfaction with schools or work or simply the rain, plenty of people dream of upping sticks and moving to Australia. Months of sunshine, a booming economy and ample opportunity are just some of the reasons thousands of Brits are dreaming of greener pastures Down Under.

While moving to Australia can be a long and often tiring process, we’ve recently heard from another happy family who have just had their Australia visa granted which proves the effort makes the reward all that much better.

Paul and Zoe Read, along with children William, and Alex, aged 5 and 2, from Surrey have just returned from a holiday to Australia to look for a new home. Their State Sponsored (subclass 176) visa was granted in August.

Leonie Cotton was their caseworker and this is what the Read family had to say about their Visa Bureau experience:

The Read family have just returned from checking
out the beautiful beaches of Victoria.

The idea of getting a visa to Oz has been a dream for over 15 years and when my skills as a fully qualified gas plumber came in demand, we started the application process and we had our State Sponsored Residents visa granted in August 2011.

I would like to give a massive thank you to Leonie Cotton who guided us though the many hoops that we've had to jump through. In my opinion, (and with the benefit of hindsight) her advice has been accurate, timely and constructive and I would thoroughly recommend Leonie and Visa Bureau to anyone considering using an Agent.

She has always been a phone call away and has promptly returned calls when not immediately available, even to answer my stupid questions. As with any professional service, there are fees to pay but I consider these small in the knowledge that we couldn't have done it on our own after a hard day at work, considering the level of service provided.

We have just returned from a trip to activate our visas, staying on the Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria, checking out the area where the beaches are fantastic. The weather made us feel right at home! We hope to make the move in about 2 years’ time.

Thank you

Paul, Zoe, William and Alex.

If you’ve used the Australian Visa Bureau to move to Australia and would like to let us know about your experience, please get in touch by either emailing your caseworker or by using the contact form and we’ll get back to you to sort out your testimonial! 

- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.