Net migration to hit record amid rise in foreign nationals extending visas
By David Barrett Home Affairs Editor
dmg media (UK)
NET migration could hit 700,000 in new figures this week, the Mail understands, opening a new front for attacks on Rishi Sunak by the Tory Right. Internal Home Office forecasts suggest the official net migration estimate – to be published on Thursday – will rise to a record level. The figure for the year to June is expected to top 700,000, beating the high of 606,000 for 2022, sources said. A surge could prove damaging for the Prime Minister after Suella Braverman claimed she lobbied for a series of measures to cut legal migration – but did not win backing from Downing Street. She accused Mr Sunak of reneging on a secret deal she struck with him in exchange for her support in last year’s leadership election. The 700,000 figure is based on the Home Office’s own data on immigration arrivals – such as the number of visas awarded – and an estimate of emigration. However, the official Office for National Statistics (ONS) figure may vary due to changes to methodology. The Mail reported yesterday that one factor behind the expected increase is a sharp rise in the number of foreigners extending their UK visas. Home Office data shows a 50 per cent increase in the number of foreign nationals who successfully applied to extend their permission to stay in Britain. There were an extra 105,000 visa extensions for work, study or family reasons in the first six months of this year. The total rose 49 per cent to 319,979 in first half of this year compared with 214,899 in the same period last year. This rise was mainly due to foreign workers winning new visas to stay in Britain – an increase of nearly 103,000. It means many temporary migrants are staying in Britain for longer than expected – a factor likely to contribute to an overall rise in net migration. In addition, the overall number of work visas handed out in the year to June was up 45 per cent, Home Office figures published in August showed. Net migration is notoriously difficult to predict, due to ever-changing methods deployed by the ONS. Earlier this year, the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank forecast net migration of between 700,000 and a million for 2022 – but changes to ONS methodology led to the official estimate of 606,000. The ONS has again changed the way it calculates net migration for the figure to be published this week. It will also issue revisions to its immigration estimates from 2012 to 2021, and separate revisions to its figures for last year. Conservatives on the Right of the Tory party have demanded urgent measures to cut levels of migration to the UK. In a speech at the party conference in October, Mrs Braverman predicted immigration will turn into a ‘hurricane’ which could bring ‘millions’ to Britain. In July, the New Conservatives group of backbenchers published a 12-point plan to cut net migration to 226,000 by the end of next year. In June, the Migration Watch UK think-tank calculated the UK population would soar to up to 87 million by 2046 if net migration continued at the same rate, requiring 15 new cities the size of Birmingham. But a study by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory and the London School of Economics suggested that net migration is set to fall from current levels but will remain at about 300,000 a year until 2030.