General aspects of Britain’s Immigration Policies


To visit the United Kingdom, the government has put forward certain procedures and regulations laid out in laws passed over the years. These laws, such as the Immigration Act of 1971, the United Kingdom Borders Act 2007, Seniors Courts Act of 1981, Immigration Act of 2014, Criminal Justice Act and Immigration Act of 2008, British Overseas Territories Act of 2002, Tribunal, Courts and Enforcement Act of 2007, Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc.) Act of 2004 and many other such acts that relate directly to visiting, settling and leaving the United Kingdom have been passed throughout the country’s history.

These laws change and are at times completely redefined, depending on social and economic conditions of the country. The laws mentioned above, while several in number, have been written to lay out conditions for each scenario depending on the case of the individual. An individual visiting or wanting to settle in the United Kingdom for business purposes will have different laws apply to him/her than an individual visiting as a student or a person visiting as a tourist.

All of these acts passed over the years represent amendments. The Immigration Rules is the immigration policy of the United Kingdom that is comprised of all of these acts and changes with new acts introduced or amendments made to present clauses or laws. Any individual wanting to look up the immigration policies of the UK will refer to the Immigration Rules rather than any specific act.

The Immigration Rules have been divided into fifteen separate parts that define procedures and policies for every scenario such as for T1 visa UK, tier 1 entrepreneur policy guidance, tier 1 investor policy guidance, business migration to UK etc.

What are the most common reasons for people coming to the United Kingdom?

According to data compiled over the years, the 4 most common reasons for people coming to the United Kingdom are:

  • Individuals coming for work purposes to the country.
  • Individuals entering to join their families who are currently in the country.
  • Individuals coming for study purposes to the country.
  • Individuals want to claim asylum in the country.

The number of people who entered the United Kingdom for work purposes decreased in 2016 as compared to the previous year. The Immigration Rules can be referred to for guidance on business settlement and to understand policies e.g. tier 1 entrepreneur policy guidance, business migration to UK, tier 1 investor policy guidance etc. Statistics also show that the two most common reasons for why people come to the United Kingdom is either to study or for work purposes.

Since the government of the United Kingdom has no control over European Union (EU) nationals entering the country for study (or any other) purposes, due to being protected under the European Union’s free movement rights, measures are being taken to make the laws stricter for non-EU students. This is due to the fact that the number of non-EU students entering the UK has significantly been increasing every year. This is worrisome for the government since the target they have set to let migrants in every year is missed mainly due to students.

The highest number of student migrants coming to the United Kingdom are from Asian countries while the second highest number has been recorded to be middle-eastern countries. 81% of these students come to the United Kingdom to study at universities while further education institutes comprise the second highest figure of a mere seven percent. The rest include independent educational institutes, English language schools and others.

The Asylum category is the least common reason of all the four top reasons. Individuals also enter for all sorts of other reasons such as for investment and business purposes, as tourists, to get married.

Net Migration:

The difference obtained from subtracting the number of individuals entering the United Kingdom from the number of individuals leaving the United Kingdom is known as net migration. In 2009, a net migration figure of 196,000 was recorded that includes both European Economic Area (EEA) and non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationals. The net migration increased the next year but has decreased in recent years such as 2016 and further decreased in 2017.

Do more people move away from the United Kingdom or come to the United Kingdom?

The early twentieth century saw the United Kingdom export its people to many parts of the world and in dominated in this figure. Most people moved to North America, New Zealand and Australia. But, World War 1 saw a change in this statistic as economic conditions forced other nations to leave their homeland and move to safer countries, among which, was the United Kingdom. This change in trend of people immigrating to the United Kingdom reached an all time high in 1981 when only a mere 108,000 UK nationals left the county. In 1985, an all time high number of immigrants came to the United Kingdom, and that has remained the trend to this day.

The effect of Brexit (The UK leaving the European Union) on the country’s immigration figures

In 2018, the highest figure since 2008 of European Union (EU) nationals entered the United Kingdom to settle. While the number of individuals leaving the country was lowest of the past five years. So yes, the effect of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union has been major.

What are the general views of the British public on immigration?

The citizens of the United Kingdom generally realize the fact that immigrants are important so that taxes can be paid, pensions can be funded in an age where people live to old age, to work as labor in work places where a normal citizen wouldn’t work. Most citizens are also aware of the fact that any immigrant that is willing to come to another country is also willing to work hard and most also come for higher education, and when they decide to stay, help fill vacancies of highly skilled jobs which a regular citizen might not be qualified for.

But, they also view immigrants as using public resources such as schools, houses, hospitals etc and exhausting them for the general public.

So, the views of the public differ on this topic for it being a primary topic of discussion in elections and other public matters of debate. One of the major reasons for the UK leaving the EU was the general public’s consensus on EU nationals coming to the United Kingdom freely without any restrictions. The young and more educated among the public have mostly been recorded as viewing immigrants in a positive manner while the older generation generally is against it.

The fact of the matter is that the British government has little choice in this matter as it has to consider economic realities as well. The government realizes that immigrants are necessary to sustain economic flow. Migrants come and fill jobs that helps sustain the economy. Thus, the government realizes immigrants as a major labor force that the world economy is dependent on. Almost 30% of people coming to the United Kingdom were nationals of the EU entering under free movement laws. But, this figure is expected to drastically change once the United Kingdom officially leaves the United Kingdom in 2019.

So, the government has had no choice but to reduce the number of student visas as it is the only visa category that it can efficiently control. The government, having its hands tied, has significantly reduced the number of student visas being issued. It has also said that the students who are granted visas will generally will not be allowed to stay for work unless an employer that is recognized has offered them a job.

But, this view of allowing fewer foreign students to come to the United Kingdom has been strongly opposed by universities. A major reason for them opposing this decision is the fact that universities are currently running in deficit. This means they are short of cash and foreign students, who are generally charged higher, filled this gap before. Foreign students usually pay three times the usual fee paid by a United Kingdom citizen. They pour a significant figure of 9 billion pounds to the economy of the United Kingdom annually. Another major reason for the opposition is the reluctance of the general UK public of studying in universities and in highly technical degree programs that foreign students usually filled. Universities viewed foreign students as highly skilled of realizing the full extent of the degree and help further the universities reputation. Now, they fear that due to stricter laws allowing fewer students from coming, they will instead opt to study in other countries such as Germany, Australia, the United States of America, Canada.

What countries does the Home Office generally view as low risk and is more lenient on while granting visas?

The Home Office has a list of countries who they are most lenient on while granting visas to. These countries are:

  • Overseas British Nationals
  • Brunei
  • Canada
  • South Korea
  • United States of America
  • Croatia
  • Argentina
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • New Zealand
  • Chile
  • Australia
  • Hong Kong
  • Taiwan
  • Canada
  • Japan

Which countries are generally viewed as high risk and have a harder chance of being granted visas by the United Kingdom?

A list of countries has been compiled by the United Kingdom Home Office due to a large amount of citizens of these countries having abused the visa in the past. These countries include:

  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Ghana
  • Sri Lanka
  • India

The History of Migration in the United Kingdom

The history of immigrants and their movement in the United Kingdom goes back to the early ages of its inception. The British Isles have seen foreign conquests throughout its early history by several forces such as the Celtic and Pict tribes, the Romans, the Vikings, the Germanic Tribes, the Norman tribes and also includes influences from the French. The current public of the United Kingdom are descendants from all of these races and have significantly shaped the culture and language of the country.

When the Middle Ages arrived, the number of non-white races in the United Kingdom was not much. Then, when the United Kingdom started expanding to other lands and got involved in the slave trade of non-white races, the number of immigrants in the United Kingdom significantly increased. When the United Kingdom parliament banned the slave trade, this number also significantly reduced. But was increased due to immigrants from Irish moving to the United Kingdom due to poverty and lack of access to basic needs.

As for modern history, World War 1 and 2 have had a significant effect on immigration in the United Kingdom. Around 1.3 million Indians who had fought for Britain in World War 1 gave way to small communities in port areas and were a major reason a major portion of these people moved to the United Kingdom after war.

When World War 2 ended, the United Kingdom saw a shortage of labor to make up for the workforce that was needed to rebuild the country’s economy. At this point in time, the United Kingdom required foreign nationals to come to the country fill the labor gap. This mostly included Polish and Italian nationals at first. Indians also moved after the partition of the subcontinent along with people from the Caribbean. At this point, the government was forced to curb immigration because of the large number of people that had started to move in.

Since that time, the government has only made the immigration laws stricter and stricter. Laws such as requiring recent graduates to earn at least 20,000 pounds if they want to stay after studying.