August 25, 2017

UK vastly overestimates number of international students overstaying their visas

UK vastly overestimates number of international students overstaying their visas

Just 4,600 students overstayed their visas in 2016, according to new data published by the UK’s Office for National Statistics. Estimates for previous years suggested numbers were closer to 100,000.   

A new system of border checks implemented in 2016 has enabled the more accurate counting of those leaving. The figures indicate that 97% of international students from outside the European Economic Area leave before their visa expires.  

Net migration to the UK has fallen to its lowest level in three years, largely attributed to a significant increase in the number of EU nationals leaving the UK since the country voted to exit the EU in June 2016.

Limiting immigration has long been a Conservative manifesto pledge and student numbers have been included within net migration statistics much to the frustration of the UK higher education sector.

Portrayals of international students as being intent on entering Britain through a back door to stay and work illegally now appear to have been grossly over-exaggerated. 

Amber Rudd, the UK home secretary, has commissioned an expert review into the effect international students have on the UK economy, which is due to report in September 2018.

In his IZA World of Labor article, economist Arnaud Chevalier says that “[t]o expand the skilled workforce, countries need to attract skilled migrants.” One way of doing this is “by attracting and retaining international students.” He notes that “student migration can positively affect economic growth in both sending and receiving countries,” with migrants themselves reaping most of the gains, through higher earnings. “[I]n the end, international student mobility can be beneficial for all participants: migrating students and those who remain at home, as well as home and host societies.”

Read more articles on the effect migration has on labor markets

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