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11 June 2024

Have the UK Government’s plans to cut immigration worked so far?

Since late last year and early this year, the Government has been implementing plans to cut net migration. We shall explore the statistics released so far this year, and see what has been happening.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Have the UK Government’s plans to cut UK immigration worked?

One of the core goals of the British Government lately has been to cut net migration after record numbers of arrivals in the UK over the last few years.

In 2022, net migration was 764,000, whilst in 2023 UK migration statistics showed it had gone down to 685,000. In previous years, net migration was lower than both 2022 and 2023. 

As a result, the Government announced various measures to try and cut the number. For example, people on the Health and Care Worker Visa route can no longer bring their dependants with them; the same applies to those studying on a Student Visa. 

The question is: have these measures worked? The Government has released several different statistics so far this year, with some from March and some less detailed statistics from April. We shall look at statistics from both months, and see how things are going for the Government’s plans.

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Worker Visas

Most of the Government’s efforts have been aimed at Health and Care Worker Visas, as people can no longer bring dependants with them as of 11 March 2024. 

They also introduced a change where health and care Sponsor Licence holders have to be registered with the Care and Quality Commission, which adds extra protection for the workers who come to the UK, as jobs they do are more likely to be real healthcare jobs that treat employees well. This will have had the effect of fewer jobs being available, which may have also impacted the number of people entering the UK. 

Efforts to reduce the number of people applying for the Health and Care Worker Visa appears to have worked. In April 2023, there were 15,100 applications for the visa; however, in April 2024, it had dropped to 6,400. In the final three months of 2023, 45,464 people were granted a Health and Care Worker Visa, but in the first three months of 2024, the number of people granted the visa was just 9,088. This shows that so far, the Government’s efforts have had an impact on the number of people applying to work in the UK on this visa.

However, it is possible that the announcement of these changes made people panic. Between March 2023 and March 2024 before the introduction of the new rules, 209,638 people were granted visas as dependants of a health worker. This is 100,597 more than the previous year. This great increase could be because people were trying to apply for their visas before the rules changed.

Other worker visas

Other Worker Visas, such as the Skilled Worker Visa, also saw changes to their rules. 

For example, the income threshold for the Skilled Worker Visa was increased from £26,200 to £38,700 on 4 April 2024. However, the impact of these changes has not yet been reported. 

Prior to the changes, the statistics for Skilled Worker Visas had not fluctuated much since the end of COVID-19 restrictions. However, it is possible that since sponsors now have to offer much higher paying roles, that fewer people will be qualified enough to get them. Therefore, fewer people will be coming to the UK on Skilled Worker Visas. 

We will provide an update on any future statistics that are released by the Government to see what impact the rule changes have had.

Other worker visas have not seen many changes in the last year to their rules, and as a result, have not seen many changes in the number of applicants or grants.

Student Visas and Graduate Visas

On 1 January 2024, the immigration rules were changed, so that most people studying in the UK on Student Visas can no longer bring their dependants with them. However, those doing postgraduate research or on a government-funded scholarship can still bring their dependants.

Additionally, people on a Student Visa can no longer switch to a work visa route before they have completed their studies. The Government did this as they believed people were using the route as a way to get into the UK and work without a work visa.

So far, in the first four months of 2024, Student Visa dependant applications have dropped by 79%, which is a drop of around 30,000 applications. Overall, from March 2023 to March 2024, 111,481 people were granted a Student Visa Dependant Visa, which is a 25% drop, or 27,870 fewer people. 

Also, from March 2023 to March 2024, 446,925 Student Visas were granted, which is 6% lower than in the previous period of March 2022 to March 2023. This is a drop of 26,815 visas. However, numbers are still much higher than they were before COVID-19. It is likely that some people are not as interested in applying for a Student Visa if they cannot bring their dependants with them.

The top five countries for Student Visa applications are India, China, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the United States, in that order. India and Nigeria were also the fastest growing countries regarding applications, accounting for most of the increase in applications between 2019 and 2023. However, as of March 2023 to March 2024, applications have dropped by 16% for Indian nationals, and 38% for Nigerian nationals.

Graduate Visas

Whilst the Graduate Visa has not received any direct changes, there are rules to other related areas that will impact those on the visa. 

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) were asked to review the route, and provide recommendations on what should be done, and whether it should be kept or not. They determined that it was still fit for purpose and that it was not being abused, but they did recommend changes to how people on the visa are monitored by universities.

We have a blog on MAC’s review of the Graduate Visa that goes into detail about their recommendations.

Family related visas

So far, we have seen decreases in the number of applicants for other types of visas. However, for family related visas, the opposite is true. There has been an increase.

From March 2023 to March 2024, there were 79,384 people granted a Family Visa, which is 17,464 more people than the previous period of March 2022 to March 2023. 

However, this increase could be explained by the fact that the Government increased the income threshold that a British partner needed to meet to be able to sponsor their partner for a Spouse Visa. On 11 April, the requirement went up from £18,600 to £29,000, with another unannounced increase in 2024, and then a final one in 2025 that will take the threshold up to £38,700. It is likely that many people applied before the changes out of panic, due to the limited time they would have before they no longer met the requirements. 

The Government has also said that the increase in Family Visas could be a result of a backlog being cleared, as previously, Ukraine schemes such as the Ukraine Family Scheme, were being prioritised. If they were focussing more on other applications, and have only just started moving back towards normal applications, then that could contribute to a sudden increase as well.

Family Reunion Visa

Aside from the increases already mentioned, the Family Reunion Visa saw an increase in the number of approvals between March 2023 and March 2024. There were 8,032 more visas granted than in the previous period of March 2022 to March 2023, which is an increase of 185%. The Government stated that this trend could be a result of more people being granted refugee status than before, as these people are now eligible to bring family with them.

Settlement and citizenship

There have not been any notable changes to the rules around settlement and citizenship over the last year. However, the statistics are still worth mentioning.

The number of people who were granted settlement in the UK has not seen much of a change. Between March 2023 and March 2024, there was only an increase of 2% over the previous period of March 2022 to March 2023. For March 2023, it was 126,445, but for March 2024, it was slightly up to 129,029.

Once people have been granted settlement, they can apply for British citizenship after a year. 


Unlike settlement, the number of people who were granted citizenship has grown by a more substantial percentage. In the period of March 2023 to March 2024, the number of people granted British citizenship was 215,706, which is a 19% increase over March 2022 to March 2023. 

From March 2023 to March 2024, 165,512 non-EU nationals were granted citizenship, which is 21% higher than the previous year. The most common nationalities were 19,477 Indians, 17,345 Pakistanis, and 9,573 Nigerians. Together, they accounted for 28% of non-EU immigration.

During the same period, 50,194 people from EU countries were granted British citizenship, which is 13% higher than the previous year. The three most common nationalities were 11,463 Italians, 6,566 Romanians, and 6,120 Poles. These three combined nationalities made up 48% of all EU nationals granted citizenship. This has been a roughly consistent percentage since 2013.

It seems that whilst the number of people applying to settlement has not changed much, many of the people who have previously applied to settle are now eligible to apply for citizenship, or have simply decided that now is the right time to do so.

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Have the Government’s immigration plans worked so far?

Some of the Government’s plans have only just been implemented, so it is hard to tell if they have had much of an impact yet or not. However, it is clear that in the months leading up to the introduction of the changes, there were consistent increases in applications and grants for certain visas, such as the Health and Care Worker Visa. 

The Government’s plans have seen people apply for a visa en masse in response to the requirements changing, as they wanted to get a visa before the requirements became more restrictive. In the short term then, their plans have not succeeded yet.

However, some visas, such as Student Visas, have seen a decrease in the number of applicants. These are after rule changes that were implemented earlier than others, so it is possible that this could become a trend for other types of visas.

We shall see over the next year how the rest of the rule changes to cut migration play out, and if they work or not. Once more information is available, we will provide updates.

How we can help

Although there is not much we can do regarding the immigration rules, we can assist you to the best of our ability in getting a visa, applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain, or with applying for naturalisation as a British citizen.

Our expert immigration law team can guide you through the complexities of the British immigration system, and ensure that you meet all of the requirements of your chosen immigration route.

To talk to our team, you can arrange a free 10-minute assessment, which allows our team to see if they can help you or not. If they decide they can help, then you can book a longer, paid consultation that lasts either 30 minutes, or an hour. You will receive legal advice and guidance in the longer consultation.

Get in touch with us today to see how we can help you with your immigration needs.

Please note, we are not a recruitment agency, so we cannot help you with getting a job in the UK. We can only help you get a visa once you have already got a job ready.

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