The Case of the Vanishing Non-EU Students

June 21, 2016

Overseas students who stay on indefinitely in the UK are a massive part of non-EU migration. That is the conclusion of a report issued today by Migration Watch UK.

The EU referendum campaign has highlighted the apparent failure of the government to reduce the current record level of net migration, about half of which comes from the EU and half from outside the EU.

This new report demonstrates that this is very largely due to the government’s failure to tackle the very significant number of overseas students who appear to have stayed on in the UK.

The report finds that average non-EU inflow has been 271,000 in the last ten years while outflow has averaged just 99,000. The major part of this net inflow is foreign students who in 2015, for example, accounted for 100,000 of the total net flow of 150,000.

Those who find an employer and stay on legally currently amount to only about 6,000 a year while another 3,000 stay on to marry a British citizen. By far the largest category of those who stay on is students who extend their visa for further studies. It seems, however, that they do not subsequently depart.

It is not possible to be precise but the number for whom there is no evidence of departure is of the order of 100,000 a year. Clearly genuine students are valuable to our universities and colleges, both financially and socially but those who stay on illegally are not – nor, of course, do they contribute to our influence overseas.

This report should be read in conjunction with other Migration Watch UK research (link here) which has shown that, following a possible Brexit, the UK could cut EU migration by 100,000 a year through the introduction of work permits. This research is based on data from the International Passenger Survey (IPS), which is a voluntary survey of those arriving and departing the country. It asks passengers about their nationality, intended length of stay and their reason for migration.

Commenting, Lord Green of Deddington, Chairman of Migration Watch UK said:

In all the talk about the government failing to reduce non-EU migration, the question of the vanishing students has been overlooked. The government have postponed, until after the referendum, the publication of the first information about the exit checks which came into effect in April 2015. They must be used to identify the culprit colleges and achieve the enforcement that is long overdue.

This could bring net migration down below 100,000 a year if British emigration of some 50,000 a year is subtracted. That would leave EU migration which is currently running at 180,000 a year of which about two thirds are in low paid employment.

To read the full paper, click here

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