How Many People Come to the UK Each Year?

My great-grandfather was an accountant and used to say: ‘Numbers are fascinating and don’t lie’.

How Many People Come to the UK Each Year
How Many People Come to the UK Each Year

When I found out how many people actually cross the UK border each year, first of all, I started making sure that all my liquids are in the clear sealable bag, not exceeding 100ml each. Secondly, I now take off my boots and all metal objects, which may slow down the constant stream of passengers, going through the airport security, ready to board the plane. It was in addition to ensuring that my laptop is not on top of other electronic devices so it does not go into the ‘check queue’. Importantly, I also started feeling immense appreciation towards all members of staff at the airports. Slowly realising that what they do here is almost a miracle. Otherwise, how can I possibly explain such a smooth operation of these enormous entities, welcoming in access of 140 MILLION people each year to the UK?

According to the Home Office annual statistic, the UK said ‘hello’ to 145.1 million people in 2019. Imagine welcoming citizens of France and Germany in the UK, all in one year….The numbers are growing. There was an increase of 3% in UK migration in comparison to 2018.

Luckily for the Home Office, only slightly more than 2% (3.1 million) are in need of visas. In this article, I’ll concentrate solely on non-EEA nationals, hence they are the ones who require visas to remain in the UK. EEA nationals and their family members are not included in the statistics.

Visitors to the UK

There were 2.7 million visas issued to visa nationals wishing to visit the UK as visitors. There are two countries that accounted for just under half of all Visitor visas granted: Chinese nationals (636,547 visas) and Indian nationals (512,681 visas). Nigerian nationals were granted 82,780 visitor visas.

Working in the UK

The UKVI granted 189,459 work-related visas. Here is how it balances between various work-related immigration categories:


Visa Type Number of Visas Granted in 2019 Change in Comparison to 2018
Skilled Work (Tier 2) 111,035 11,551
Youth Mobility and Temporary Workers (Tier 5) 43,636 3,012
Non-Points Based System Work visas (e.g. UK Ancestry visas, start-up, innovator, Turkish workers, domestic workers, overseas business representatives etc.) 28,971 2,746
High value (Tier 1) 5,817 711
Total: 189,459 18,020


Tier 2 Workers

How Many People Come to the UK Each Year
How Many People Come to the UK Each Year

Where do they come from? Mainly from India (56,241). Then it is the United States (9,377), Philippines (5,509), Nigeria (3,495) and Australia (3,341).

Why? What niche do they fulfil?

Rather remarkably, just five sectors accounted for almost 9 in 10 (87%) Tier 2 work visa applications:

Information and communication (31%)

Human health and social work activities (24%)

Professional, scientific and technical activities (16%)

Financial and insurance activities (10%)

Education (6%)

Tier 2 of the Points Based System is a UK immigration route allowing workers from non-EEA countries to work in the UK. They need to have an offer of employment in the UK in an occupation classed as skilled to National Qualifications Framework level 6 and above (NQF6+). This broadly corresponds to the bachelor’s degree level.

Tier 2 was implemented in November 2008. There are four routes within Tier 2: General, Intra-company transfer (ICT), Minister of religion and Sportsperson.

Tier 5 (Youth mobility and temporary workers)

Tier 5 (Youth mobility and temporary workers) was implemented in November 2008 to provide a UK immigration route for those coming to the UK for primarily non-economic reasons. The Tier 5 Seasonal workers route was open to new applicants from January 2019.

 Studying in the UK

Equally important are study-related UK visa routes. In 2019 the UKVI granted 276,889 Tier 4 visas (Sponsored study). This is a dramatic 16% increase in comparison 2018, which is 37,510 in numbers. Chinese (119,697) and Indian (30,550) nationals together again account for over half of all Tier 4 visas granted (43% and 11% respectively).

Then we have students from the United States (14,987), Saudi Arabia (9,123) and Hong Kong (9,095).

The majority (86%) of those applying to come to the UK as a student apply to study to universities.


Family Reunion Applications

How Many People Come to the UK Each Year
How Many People Come to the UK Each Year

Home Office granted 180,257 family-related visas. 52,802 visas were granted to those who have British citizen relatives or someone settled in the UK. 38,612 came as partners, 7,192 came as children (this figure includes children of parents with limited leave to remain) and only 6,998 visas were granted to adult dependent relatives.

Also, 77,762 came as dependants of people coming to the UK on other types of visas, for example as dependants of Tier 2 visa holders.


How Many People Were Granted Asylum or Protection in the UK?

Additionally, the UK offers protection in the form of asylum, humanitarian protection or some other alternative forms of leave and resettlement. There were 19,480 people granted protection in 2019.  In fact, this was the highest number of people granted protection in the UK in a single year since the year ending September 2003.

The Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) accounted for just over three-quarters (4,291) of those resettled in the UK. Since it began in 2014, the UK government helped 18,252 people (mainly Syrian nationals) to resettle under the scheme.

There were 34,354 asylum applications in the UK (main applicants only). The UKVI granted slightly less than half (48%) of these applications.

 Settlement Applications

How Many People Come to the UK Each Year
How Many People Come to the UK Each Year

Settlement visas (also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (or ILR)) is when an applicant applies to remain in the UK indefinitely. In other words, when they remain in the UK without any conditions attached to their stay. For example, the applicants may be spouses of British citizens, those who lived and worked in the UK for 5 years, those who want to settle in the UK on the basis of their private life in the UK etcSpouses of British citizens can apply for British citizenship immediately after getting their ILRs. All other applicants can apply after holding their ILR for 12 months, provided, of course, they meet all other requirements. Finally, there were 91,023 decisions on ILR applications and what is exciting is the fact that 96% of these applications were granted.


Further Help

If you would like to understand the UK visa rules, you may find it useful to attend one of these online courses:

1. ‘Three Secrets of a Successful UK Visitor Visa Application’ 
2. ’10 Ways to Avoid the Refusal of Your British Citizenship Application’ 
3. ‘How to Meet the Financial Requirement of Your British Spouse Visa Application when Applying from Outside the UK’ 
4. ‘How to Avoid the Refusal of Your Adult Dependent Relative UK Visa Application’ 

For more online courses, check THIS PAGE.

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How Many People Come to the UK Each Year?