Why do people come to the UK? To work
Updated 23 September 2022
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Back to Immigration statistics, year ending June 2022 content page.
Data relate to the year ending June 2022 and most comparisons are with 2019 (reflecting a comparison with the period prior to the Covid-pandemic).
On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic. A range of restrictions were implemented in many parts of the world, and the first UK lockdown measures were announced on 23 March 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the UK immigration system, both in terms of restricting migrant movements to and from the UK and the impact on operational capacity.
Year ending comparisons that follow will include impacts resulting from the restrictions put in place during this period of the pandemic. All statistics include dependants, unless indicated otherwise.
This section contains data on:
- Work-related visas
- Sponsored work visa applications from different economic sectors
1. Immigration for work
There were 331,233 work-related visas granted in the year ending June 2022 (including dependants). This was 72% more than in 2019, the last full year prior to the pandemic.
‘Worker’ visas (previously known as ‘skilled work’) accounted for two-thirds (67%) of all work-related visas granted with 216,450 grants. This is almost double (+96%) when compared to equivalent routes in 2019, with the growth driven by the introduction of the ‘Skilled Worker’ visa in 2020. Grants from ‘Temporary Worker’ routes have also increased by 67% to 72,526, following an increase in the number of visas available through the ‘Seasonal Worker’ route, from 2,500 in 2019 to 40,000 in 2022.
All work visa categories saw an overall increase compared to 2019. This is the highest number of work visas issued in any 12-month period since the data series began in 2005.
These increases can be partly attributed to the requirement for EEA and Swiss nationals to apply for entry clearance visas, following the end of free movement when the UK left the EU at the start of 2021. EEA and Swiss nationals represented 10% of work visas granted in the latest year. Non-EEA nationals granted work-related visas also rose by 55% compared with 2019, with the increase partly reflecting the recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international travel.
Table 1: Work-related visas granted, by visa type
|Visa type||Year ending December 2019||Year ending June 2022||Change||Percentage change|
|Investor, business development and talent||5,922||6,175||253||4%|
|Other work visas and exemptions1||29,615||30,183||568||2%|
Source: Entry clearance visa applications and outcomes – Vis_D02
- The ‘Other work visas and exemptions’ category includes the ‘Frontier Worker Permit’, the ‘High Potential Individual’ visa and older routes such as ‘European Community Association Agreement (ECAA) businessperson’, ‘Overseas Domestic Worker’, ‘UK Ancestry’ visas and other routes that are now closed.
Figure 1: Work-related visas granted by visa type, year ending by quarter, June 2013 to June 2022
Source: Entry clearance visa applications and outcomes – Vis_D02
Figure 1 shows that there was a fall in the number of grants for each of the main work-related visa types in the first two quarters of 2020, following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. A sharp rise in all visa types is seen across 2021 and continues into 2022, with ‘Worker’ visas and ‘Temporary Worker’ visas continuing to show a particularly strong recovery in the latest quarter. Some of these increases may reflect a bounce back from the low levels during the pandemic.
According to the Labour Force Survey statistics from April to June 2022 (the latest data with nationality region breakdowns) published in the ONS Labour market overview, UK: August 2022 release, there were an estimated 1.79 million non-EU nationals working in the UK, 302,000 higher (+20%) than a year earlier. In contrast, there were an estimated 2.18 million EU nationals working in the UK, 31,000 lower (-1%) than a year earlier.
The number of non-UK nationals working in the UK is estimated to be around 3.96 million, 272,000 higher (+7%) than last year. In comparison, there were around 28.8 million UK nationals working in the UK, 219,000 more (+1%) than a year earlier.
1.1 Worker (previously known as ‘Skilled work’)
The ‘Worker’ visa category includes sponsored visas which typically lead to settlement.
In the year ending June 2022, ‘Worker’ visa grants increased by 96% (+108,794) to 222,349 compared with 2019, and now represent 67% of all work visas.
There were 87,266 grants of ‘Skilled Worker’ visas and an additional 96,249 grants of ‘Skilled Worker - Health & Care’ visas. Grants for ‘Skilled Worker’ visas have grown every quarter since they were first introduced in December 2020, and together represent over half (55%) of all work visas granted in the latest year.
The ‘Senior or Specialist Worker (Global Business Mobility)’ route was launched in April 2022 to replace the ‘Intra-company Transfer (ICT)’ visa and there have been 2,927 grants to main applicants up to the end of June 2022. Excluding dependants, ICT-related visas together represented 18,247 grants which is 33% lower than the 27,138 visas granted in Tier 2 ICT routes in 2019, continuing the decline since 2016 seen in these visa routes.
Indian nationals continue to be the top nationality granted ‘Worker’ visas, accounting for 46%. They also saw the greatest increase across all nationalities, increasing by 45,894 (+80%). In contrast, grants to nationals of the United States fell by 1,474 (-16%).
Table 2: Top 5 nationalities 1 granted ‘Worker’ visas, 2019 compared to year ending June 2022
|Nationality||Year ending December 2019||Year ending June 2022||Change||Percentage change|
Source: Entry clearance visa applications and outcomes – Vis_D02
- Top 5 nationalities in the most recent year.
- ‘Other nationalities’ includes those that do not feature in the top 5 in the latest year.
The top 3 nationals granted ‘Skilled Worker’ visas are Indian nationals, accounting for 39% (34,186), United States nationals with 6% (5,637) and South African nationals with 4% (3,578). Similarly, for the ‘Skilled Worker - Health & Care’ visa, Indian nationals represented the highest number of grants with 45% (42,966) of the total. Nigerian nationals were the second highest with 14% (13,609) followed by Filipino nationals with 11% (11,021).
1.2 Temporary Worker
The ‘Temporary Worker’ category includes shorter-term visas which do not typically lead to settlement.
Grants of ‘Temporary Worker’ visas have increased by 29,059 (+67%) to 72,526 compared with 2019. The increase has been largely driven by the ‘Seasonal Worker’ visa.
1.2.1 Seasonal Worker visas
Of all ‘Temporary Worker’ visas, ‘Seasonal Workers’ have seen the greatest increase, from 2,493 in 2019 to 39,919 in the year ending June 2022 and currently represent 55% of all ‘Temporary Worker’ visas.
This route came into effect in Q1 2019 as part of a series of annual pilots that provided 6-month visas for seasonal horticultural workers. The growth in this route reflects the quota increases for this visa, which increased from 2,500 visas in 2019 to a current quota of 40,000 in 2022, including 2,000 visas for temporary migrants to work in the UK poultry sector. More information can be found on the Seasonal Workers information page and in the Government food strategy, announced in June 2022.
When the scheme was first introduced in 2019, the visa was primarily granted to Ukrainians who represented 91% of all grants in the first year. In the year ending June 2022, Ukraine remains the largest nationality with 35% (14,127) of all grants. However, nationals from other countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia represent an increasing proportion of grants in this route, with the second and third highest grants from Uzbekistan (4,210, 11%) and Tajikistan (3,840, 10%) nationals.
The second quarter of the year has historically seen the highest number of ‘Seasonal Worker’ grants. However, in the second quarter of 2022 there were 3,429 grants to Ukrainians, 61% lower than in the same period in the preceding year. This is despite the quota increasing from 30,000 to 40,000 during this period and reflects the impact of the war in Ukraine on this visa route.
The increases seen in nationals from Eastern Europe and Central Asia mean that overall, grants are 7,955 or 64% higher compared with the second quarter of 2021.
1.2.2 Other Temporary Worker routes
In contrast, all other ‘Temporary Worker’ routes have seen an overall decrease of 20% compared with 2019.
The ‘Youth Mobility Scheme’ is the second largest ‘Temporary Worker’ route, accounting for 13,278 granted visas or 18% of ‘Temporary Worker’ grants, which is 34% fewer than in 2019. The highest amount of Youth Mobility visas were issued to nationals of Australia (4,871 or 37% of the total), Canada (2,434, 18%) and New Zealand (2,208, 17%).
In April 2022, there were five Global Business Mobility routes launched, including four under the ‘Temporary Worker’ category. There were 49 grants for the ‘Graduate Trainee’ visa, three grants for the ‘Secondment Worker’ visa, two grants for the ‘Service Supplier’ visa, and no grants to the end of June 2022 for the ‘UK Expansion Worker’ visa.
1.3 Investor, business development and talent
The ‘Investor, business development and talent’ category includes the ‘Global Talent’, ‘Innovator’, and ‘Start-up’ visas, and the now closed Tier 1 routes.
Grants in this category increased by 4% (+253), to 6,175 between 2019 and the year ending June 2022.
The ‘Global Talent’ visa, introduced in February 2020, accounted for 3,833 grants in the year ending June 2022. This is 78% higher (+1,676) than the previous year, an increase similar to other routes across the period and likely due to travel restrictions lifting following the COVID-19 pandemic. Indian nationals were granted the highest number of visas on this route and represented 15% (586) of grants, followed by Nigerian (433, 11%) and United States (420, 11%) nationals.
The ‘Innovator’ visa was introduced in April 2019, to replace the ‘Tier 1 – Entrepreneur’ visa. There were 625 grants for the ‘Innovator’ visa, rising from 86, while Entrepreneur visa grants have fallen from 3,294 to 265 grants. The combined grants from both visas have fallen by 74% compared with 2019.
There were 778 grants in the latest year for the ‘Start-Up’ visa which launched in March 2019.
1.4 Other work visas and exemptions
Grants to all other work visas and exemptions increased by 2% (+568) to 30,183 in the year ending June 2022, compared with 2019.
The largest visa in this category was the ‘Overseas Domestic Worker’ visa with 17,438 grants, although this has fallen by 17% (-3,637) compared with 2019. The second largest was the ‘Frontier Worker Permit’ with 5,491 grants.
The High Potential Individual (HPI) visa launched on 30 May 2022 and is available to recent graduates from a set list of top global universities to work or look for work in the UK. Up to the end of June 2022, there were 83 applications for this visa with 40 grants, including 6 dependants.
There were 66,211 grants of further leave to remain in the Graduate route with Indian, Nigerian, and Chinese nationals accounting for 64%. The Graduate route was introduced on 01 July 2021 and allows students who have successfully completed a bachelor’s degree, postgraduate degree, or other eligible course to extend their stay in the UK for a period after their studies to work or look for work. A Graduate visa lasts for two years, or three years in the case of completing a PhD or other doctoral qualification.
At the year end June 2022 there were over 46,000 organisations and institutions registered as licensed sponsors for work and study.
Home Office management information indicates that there were 6,555 decisions on applications for sponsor licences in Q2 2022, 81% more than in the same quarter in 2021 (3,618). Of these, 4,688 licenses were granted, and 1,867 applications were not granted (including both applications withdrawn and those rejected). These data also show that there were 20,869 decisions made in the year ending June 2022 compared to 10,347 in the year ending June 2021. Of the 20,869 decisions, 14,996 licences were granted (85% higher than the year before) and 5,873 were not granted (including both applications withdrawn and those rejected).
In the year ending June 2022, there were a total of 172,763 applications for a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) for work visas. This was 52% higher (+58,989) than in the year ending September 2019. (Comparisons are made with the year ending September 2019, due to data quality issues between Q4 2019 and Q2 2020. See section 2.4 for details.)
CoS applications for ‘Worker’ (formally Skilled work) visas made up 113,497 (66%) of the total applications. Almost two-fifths of sponsored ‘Worker’ visa applications were in the health and social care sector, with the five largest sectors comprising:
- Human Health and Social Work Activities (38%)
- Information and Communications (17%)
- Professional, Scientific and Technical Activities (13%)
- Financial and Insurance Activities (8%)
- Manufacturing (5%)
Human Health and Social work CoS applications for ‘Workers’ have increased by 178% since the year ending September 2019. They then represented 24% of sponsored ‘Worker’ visa applications and the largest sector at that time was Information and Communications at 31% of the total. The increase is likely due to a combination of the removal of doctors and nurses from the Tier 2 Visa Cap in mid-2018 and the further demand for healthcare professionals resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
1.6 The new immigration system (for work) and EEA and Swiss nationals
From the 1st of January 2021, changes in the immigration rules resulting from the UK’s departure from the European Union mean that EEA and Swiss (excluding Irish) nationals now require a visa to work in the UK. In the year ending June 2022, there were 32,413 work-related visas granted to EEA and Swiss nationals seeking to come to the UK, representing 10% of all work-related visas.
The top three EEA nationalities granted work visas and permits in the year ending June 2022 were French (5,373 grants, 17% of EEA work visas), German (4,284 13% of EEA work visas) and Italian nationals (3,489 grants, 11% of EEA work visas).
The work route with the largest number of EEA grants was the ‘Skilled Worker’ visa, with 13,624 grants or 16% of all grants in this route. French nationals were the EEA nationality with the highest number of grants in this route with 3,044, followed by Italian (2,231) and Spanish (1,489) nationals.
The second largest EEA work route was the ‘Frontier Worker Permit’ with 5,488 grants. This route is open to EEA and Swiss nationals who began working in the UK before 31st December 2020 but also live outside of the UK. Polish nationals had the highest number of grants on this route with 1,192, followed by Romanian nationals at 739 grants and German nationals at 560 grants.
Frontier Worker permits and ‘Skilled Worker’ visas together made up 59% of all EEA Worker grants.
EEA and Swiss nationals represented 16% (630) of all ‘Global Talent’ visa grants. The top EEA nationalities in this route were German with 113 grants, followed by Italian (100) and French (90).
2. About these statistics
The statistics in this section provide an indication of the number of people who have an intention to enter the UK for work reasons.
Before 2021, due to the application to the UK of European Union (EU) free movement law, UK immigration control related almost entirely to non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationals. From 2021, unless otherwise stated, data in this release relate to both EEA and non-EEA nationals.
Entry clearance visas allow an individual to enter and stay in the UK within the period for which the visa is valid. From 2021, EEA nationals require a visa to enter the UK to work, unless they hold status.
Data in this section refer to the number of Entry clearance visas granted for work reasons within the period. If an individual was granted a visa more than once in a given period, this has been counted as multiple grants in the statistics. If an individual entered the UK multiple times within the period for which a visa was valid, this has been counted as one grant in the visa statistics.
The data do not show whether, or when, an individual arrived in the UK, what they did on arrival to the UK, or how long they stayed in the UK.
Year-on-year comparisons of the number of decisions can be affected by quarterly fluctuations in the data. These fluctuations can be examined in the quarterly data available in the published tables. Year ending comparisons will also include impacts resulting from the travel restrictions put in place during the pandemic.
The ‘Worker’ visa category includes sponsored visas which typically lead to settlement.
These visas are Tier 2 routes from the Old Points Based system and their successors: the ‘Skilled Worker’ visa, ‘Skilled Worker - Health & Care’, ‘Intra-company Transfer’ and ‘International Sportsperson’ visa. The ‘Senior or Specialist Worker’ visa introduced in April 2022 as part of the new Global Business Mobility routes have also been included, as the successor to the ‘Intra-company Transfer’ visa.
Tier 2 was implemented in November 2008. There were four routes within Tier 2: General, Intra-company Transfer, Minister of Religion and Sportsperson.
2.2 Temporary Worker
The ‘Temporary Worker’ visa type includes shorter-term visas which do not typically lead to settlement.
Tier 5 was implemented in November 2008 to provide a route for those coming to the UK for primarily non-economic reasons. The Tier 5 routes were then closed at the end of 2020 and replaced by equivalent ‘Youth Mobility’ and ‘Temporary Worker’ routes.
The Seasonal Worker route was opened to new applicants from January 2019 and the Creative Worker visa launched in October 2021.
The ‘UK Expansion Worker’, ‘Secondment Worker’, ‘Service Supplier’ and ‘Graduate Trainee’ visas from the recently launched Global Business Mobility routes in April 2022 are also included in this visa category.
2.3 Investor, business development and talent
The ‘Investor, business development and talent’ category includes the Global Talent, Innovator, and Start-up visas, and the now closed Tier 1 routes.
Tier 1 of the PBS was phased in between February and June 2008 as a general route. However, from 2010, Tier 1 has focused on providing visas for ‘High value’ migrants only.
The Tier 1 Entrepreneur route was closed to most new applicants in March 2019 and replaced by the non-PBS Innovator route.
The Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur route was closed to new applicants in July 2019 and replaced by the non-PBS Start-up route.
The Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route was closed to new applicants in February 2020 and replaced by the non-PBS Global Talent route.
The Tier 1 Investor route was closed to new applicants in February 2022.
The remaining Tier 1 routes were closed at the end of 2020.
2.4 Certificate of sponsorship (CoS)
From Q4 2019, the method for extracting in-country and out-of-country Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) data has changed. Data quality issues identified as part of this change in methodology has meant that some cases from Q4 2019 onwards are unable to be separately identified as either a visa or extension case, and so have been categorised as ‘unknown’.
Applicants for ‘Worker’ and ‘Temporary Worker’ visas (and extensions) must obtain a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) from a registered employer. Any organisation that wishes to sponsor a worker must be registered on the Home Office’s Register of Sponsors.
Further information about the CoS allocation process is given in the user guide and on the UK visa sponsorship for employers section of GOV.UK.
2.5 Other sources
Until 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published long-term international migration (LTIM) estimates in its ‘Migration Statistics Quarterly Report’ (latest data available is for the year ending March 2020). The ONS are currently reviewing their methods for measuring population and migration but have released provisional experimental statistics for the year ending June 2021.
3. Data tables
Data on immigration for work can be found in the following tables:
- Sponsorship summary tables
- Detailed sponsorship datasets
- Entry clearance visas summary tables
- Detailed Entry clearance visas datasets
- Admissions summary tables
- Extensions summary tables
- Detailed Extensions datasets
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