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What Do The Latest Visa Figures Tell Us About Family Immigration to The UK?

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused considerable harm to the plans of migrants all around the world hoping to come to the UK for a new life. The family migration route enables partners, children, parents, and dependant relatives of British citizens or those who have settled in the UK to come here to live with their loved ones. At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, thousands of people would have been planning to make the journey to join their loved ones through the family migration route. For many, these plans would have been affected due to lockdowns in some countries, travel restrictions in the UK, and the closure of and delays within visa processing centers. Here will take a look at the latest government statistics 1 on how many family visas have been issued in the UK in 2021, how this compares to previous years, the most popular visa routes, and which countries family migrants are coming from.

How many family visas and permits were issued by the Home Office in 2021?

Within their report on family migration, the UK government includes four categories of entry:

  • Family-related Entry clearance visas
  • Dependants on other types of visas
  • European Economic Area (EEA) family permits
  • EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) family permits

The numbers show that in total, 263,415 family visas and permits (across all four types) were issued in the year to September 2019; this represents a considerable increase of 79% on the year ending September 2020 and a 47% increase on the year ending September 2019.

The government attributes these large increases to the rise in the number of dependants of people on work and study visas, in addition to dependants of those coming to the UK on the relatively new BN(O) visa route.

Within each of the four categories, the number of visas and permits for the year ending September 2021 was as follows:

Family-related entry clearance visas

46,250 visas family-related visas were issued, which represents a small increase of 8% from last year and a drop of 11% compared to the year ending September 2019. The majority (71%) of family-related visas were for partners and spouses.

Dependant visas

The figures show a large increase in the volume of dependant visa holders coming to the UK to accompany those on other visa types (e.g. work visas and study visas). 144,944 dependants came to the UK, representing a rise of 127% over the previous year and an 87% increase on the year ending September 2019.

The data shows that this increase was highest for the dependants of those with study and work visas. Visas for dependants of study visa holders rose from 29,540 last year to 44,605 in 2021. And for the dependants of Skilled workers, this rose from 24,481 to 60,385 for the year ending September 2021. In addition, 23,880 dependants came to the UK with BN(O) visa holders.

European Economic Area (EEA) family permits

13,691 people were issued with EEA family permits in the year ending September 2019, which is a considerable drop of 42% from 2020, and 71% from 2019.

EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) family permits

The latest government data shows that 58,530 EUSS family permits were granted. These are issued to non-EEA family members of people from the EU, EEA, and Switzerland. Not surprisingly, given the enormous amount of coverage of the need to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme, EUSS family permits were up by 238% from the year ending September 2020 and an enormous 2113% from the previous year.

Where are family-related visa holders mainly coming from in 2021?

When looking at the top nationalities granted family-related visas, what really matters is the comparison between 2021 and 2019, due to the skewing of the figures by the pandemic in 2020. When we compare the year ending September 2021 with the year ending September 2019, we see the largest increase is from Iran, of 17% to 2,000 visas being issued. The same figure for India is -25% and -18% for Bangladesh, showing a marked decrease in families applying for visas from those countries. Overall, the largest volume of family-related visas were granted to nationals of Pakistan (8,821), with the second-largest being India (3,098).

Are we seeing a sustained recovery in the number of family visas and permits being issued?

Taking a wider view, the data shows that the number of family visas and permits had been increasing before the pandemic “all family-related visa and permit routes had been steadily increasing for a number of years prior to the pandemic, before falling sharply in 2020, with the exception being EUSS family permits, which continued to increase with 58,530 grants in the year ending September 2021”. The government now believe that the number of family permits and visas is starting to recover; “A sharp fall in grants was seen in April to June 2020 due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the number of grants of visas and permits has begun to recover to pre-pandemic levels”.

The Q3 numbers for 2021 show a marked recovery in family visas and permits above pre-pandemic levels, with 144,944 being granted. The government believe this recovery has been caused by three factors:

  1. A large spike well above pre-pandemic levels of dependants connected to sponsored study visas,
  2. Dependants on skilled work visa routes saw a return to pre-pandemic levels and growth above what was seen in 2019
  3. The addition of the BN(O) route.

COVID-19 and other world events permitting, we can expect this recovery to continue and be reflected in the September 2022 family visa and permit statistics.

Final words

The volume of family visas and permits being granted is something of a mixed picture, with overall numbers up but family-related visas down compared to 2019. The trend is generally upward, however, especially in Q3 2021, suggesting that 2022 may see a strong recovery in family visa and permit numbers.

For expert assistance with family visas and permits or any other immigration matter, contact Reiss Edwards, immigration lawyers and solicitors in London, on 020 3744 2797 or by email at info@reissedwards.co.uk


References:

1 Home office: Why do people come to the UK? For family reasons


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