Indian nationals accounted for nearly 60% of the skilled work visas granted by the UK last year even as immigration fell to the lowest levels since 2014, according to new figures released by the British government on Thursday.
Indians accounted for 53,575 of the 93,244 skilled work visas granted by Britain – or 57% – for the year ending September 2016. Indian and Chinese nationals also accounted for the highest number of non-visitor visas, the Migration Statistics Quarterly Report showed.
Indian nationals were way ahead of others in the skilled work visa category in Britain, with US nationals the next largest group with 9,348 visas or 10% of the total.
The information technology sector sponsored 42% of skilled work visa applications, followed by professional, scientific and technical activities (19%) and financial and insurance activities (12%). In the sponsored skilled work visa segment, the top three countries were India, the US and Australia.
Immigration, particularly from European Union member states, was one of the key factors behind the UK’s vote last year to exit the bloc. Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to clamp down on the number of non-EU workers and students coming to Britain.
President Donald Trump’s “America First” rhetoric has triggered fears in India’s $150 billion IT services industry that he could clamp down on the H-1B visa programme used extensively by firms to send Indian experts to the US. The EU has said it is ready to accommodate more Indian IT professionals.
Indians were also the largest group among skilled work visa holders in Britain who had been granted settlement five years after being granted visas in 2010. Of these skilled Indian nationals, 32% received settlement and a further 12% had valid leave to remain in the UK.
The report included only three months of data following the EU referendum. The estimate for immigration to the UK in 2016 was 596,000, compared with 619,000 a year earlier. This was the lowest immigration estimate since June 2014.
The number of students coming to the UK continued to fall. The number for 2016 was 134,000, a significant reduction from 175,000 in 2015. This was also the lowest estimate recorded since 2002. Chinese nationals accounted for 76,225 or 39% of the 194,608 student visas in 2016, followed by Americans (13,701) and Indians (10,798).