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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/immigration-statistics-year-ending-march-2021/summary-of-latest-statistics
1. How many people come to the UK each year (including visitors)?
There were an estimated 18.0 million passenger arrivals in the year ending March 2021 (including returning UK residents), an 87% (123.2 million) decrease compared with the previous year. This was due to the travel restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There were 668,979 visas granted in the year ending March 2021, 78% fewer than the previous year, a similar reduction to overall arrivals. Of the visas granted in this last 12 months, 38% were for study, 26% were to visit, 18% were to work, 6% were for family, and 12% for other reasons.
For further details see ʻHow many people come to the UK each year (including visitors)?’.
2. Why do people come to the UK?
There were 122,512 work-related visas granted in the year ending March 2021 (including dependants), 37% lower than in the previous year.
The majority of the fall was accounted for by a decrease in grants of Intra-company transfer visas, which fell by 72% to 13,691 in the year ending March 2021. While much of this decline is as a result of COVID-19, it follows a fall over the last few quarters before the pandemic.
There were 14,016 grants of the new ‘Skilled worker – Health and Care workers’ visa, making up 18% of the Skilled work-related visas.
‘Seasonal Workers’ were the only former Tier 5 route to see an increase, nearly quadrupling from 2,861 to 10,659. Of those granted a Seasonal Worker visa in the year ending March 2021, 85% were Ukrainian nationals.
For further details see ʻWhy do people come to the UK? To work’.
In the year ending March 2021, there were 250,683 Sponsored study (Tier 4 and new Student routes) visas granted (including dependants), a 16% decrease compared to the previous year.
Chinese nationals were the most common nationality granted Sponsored study visas in the year ending March 2021, accounting for 35% of the total. However, the number of grants to Chinese nationals (87,611) was 26% lower than the previous year. Chinese Students comprised almost two thirds (65%) of the overall decrease in Sponsored study visas in the year ending March 2021. COVID-19 restrictions were implemented early in China, from January 2020, and may have disproportionately affected Chinese students.
Nigeria was the nationality with the largest increase in Sponsored visas and now account for 7% of all sponsored study visas in the year ending March 2021, up from 3% a year earlier.
For further details see ʻWhy do people come to the UK? To study’.
There were 168,464 visas and permits granted for family reasons in the year ending March 2021, 13% fewer than the year ending March 2020. A sharp fall in grants was seen in April to June 2020 (90% lower than in the same period in 2019) due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There were falls in both family-related visas granted (down 33% to 37,343) and visas granted to dependants of people coming to the UK on other types of visa (down 10% to 76,594).
Grants of family permits increased by 5% to 54,527. There were 17,110 EEA family permits and 37,417 EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) family permits granted in the year ending March 2021.
For further details see ʻWhy do people come to the UK? For family reasons’.
3. How many people do we grant asylum or protection to?
The UK offered protection, in the form of asylum, humanitarian protection, alternative forms of leave and resettlement, to 8,640 people (including dependants) in the year ending March 2021. This figure is around half (42%) of the number in the year ending March 2020, and the lowest level since 2012. The fall in people granted in the latest year is due to fewer initial decisions being made on asylum applications (12,968 in the year ending March 2021 compared with 20,552 in the year ending March 2020), as well as the pause to resettlement activity between March and November 2020, both a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There were 353 people granted protection through resettlement schemes in the year ending March 2021, 93% fewer than in the previous year. Resettlement activity was paused in March 2020 following the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, with no resettlement taking place between April and November. Resettlement resumed in December 2020, with 345 people resettled in the first quarter of 2021.
In February 2021, the UK met its target to resettle 20,000 refugees under the Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme (VPRS). In total, 20,319 people were resettled under the VPRS between March 2014 and February 2021 (this includes 239 resettled before the scheme was upscaled and who are not included in the 20,000 commitment). Following this, the government launched the new UK resettlement scheme (UKRS), bringing to an end the VPRS, Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme (VCRS), and the Gateway Scheme. In its first month (March 2021), the UKRS resettled 25 refugees.
There were 26,903 asylum applications (main applicants only) in the UK in the year ending March 2021, a 24% decrease from the previous year. This latest figure will have been impacted by the measures taken in response to COVID-19.
In the year ending March 2021, there were 12,968 initial decisions made on asylum applications, and just under half (48%) of these were grants of asylum, humanitarian protection or alternative forms of leave (such as discretionary leave or UASC leave), down from the previous year (54%).
For further details see ʻHow many people do we grant asylum or protection to?’.
4. How many people continue their stay in the UK or apply to stay permanently?
4.1 Extension of temporary stay in the UK
Excluding extensions granted to individuals who were unable to leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to COVID-19, there were 257,637 decisions on applications to extend a person’s stay in the UK (including dependants) in the year ending March 2021, 15% fewer than a year earlier.
There were 93,143 decisions on applications for settlement in the UK from non-EEA nationals in the year ending March 2021, a 2% decrease on the previous year. Of these, 91,346 (98%) resulted in a grant.
4.3 EEA nationals and their family members
Some current residence documents will no longer be valid after 30 June 2021. Applications received before 1 January 2021 are still being processed. More information is available on the relevant visas and immigration pages on GOV.UK.
In the year ending March 2021, there were a total of 36,138 decisions in applications for EEA residence documents, 64% fewer than the previous 12 months. This included 14,343 registration certificates and registration cards issued, and 7,627 documents certifying permanent residence and permanent residence cards issued.
The Home Office publishes updates to headline EU Settlement Scheme numbers on a monthly basis, with more detailed statistical reports published quarterly. The latest data show that 5.42 million applications to the EU Settlement Scheme had been received up to 30 April 2021.
There were 176,910 applications for British citizenship in the year ending March 2021, 7% more than the year ending March 2020.
Applications for citizenship by EU nationals rose by 45% compared to the previous year, to 63,872. EU nationals now account for more than a third (36%) of all citizenship applications compared with 12% in 2016. Applications made by non-EU nationals fell by 7% in the year ending March 2021 to 113,038.
There were 125,691 grants of British citizenship in the year ending March 2021, 23% fewer than the previous year. This fall was due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic response and comes after a period of relative stability since 2014.
For further details see ʻHow many people continue their stay in the UK?’.
5. How many people are detained or returned?
5.1 Immigration detention
The number of people entering detention in year ending March 2021 was 12,967, 44% fewer than the previous year. Although in part affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, this continues a general downward trend since 2015 when the number entering detention peaked at over 32,000.
As at 31 March 2021, there were 1,033 people in immigration detention, 15% more than at 31 March 2020 (895) immediately following the first UK lockdown, but 37% fewer than at 31 December 2019 (1,637), pre-pandemic.
In the year ending March 2021, 12,840 people left the detention estate (down 46%). Nearly two-thirds (64%) had been detained for seven days or fewer, compared with 38% in the preceding year. This is in part due to an increasing proportion of detainees being those detained for short periods on arrival to the UK before being dispersed through appropriate routes such as asylum.
In 2020, enforced returns from the UK decreased to 3,327, less than half the number (54% lower) than the previous year and the lowest number since in the timeseries began in 2004. Although the number of enforced returns has been declining since 2013, the fall in the latest year was related to the impact of the pandemic.
In 2020, there were 2,864 FNOs returned from the UK, 44% fewer than the previous year when there were 5,121. Although the number of FNOs returned has fallen, the reduction has been slightly less than overall enforced returns (of which the majority of FNO returns are categorised as), which fell 54% over the same period. FNO returns had steadily increased from 4,761 in 2011 to 6,437 in 2016 – due to more FNOs from the EU being returned but has fallen since.
For further details see ʻHow many people are detained or returned?’.
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