Brexit UK Tier 2 visa numbers by Migration Watch wrong

A press release published by Migration Watch on the morning of February 13 claimed that post-Brexit, UK visa proposals could lead to record levels of immigration. However, just hours later, the so-called independent, non-political think-tank issued a second press release withdrawing the claim.

Sanwar Ali comment:

Migration Watch has an anti-immigration agenda. They are in reality biased and frequently put out highly misleading information on UK visas. It is not surprising that Migration Watch has made yet another mistake with the figures. Somewhat controversially David Cameron when Prime Minister made the Chairman of Migration Watch, now called Lord Green of Deddington, a peer in October 2014.  People have commented that this was a cynical attempt to attract votes.

A study published by Migration Watch suggested that the government’s plans for Brexit could see UK immigration numbers increase by as much as 100,000, based on an estimated rise in the number of Tier 2 visas issued. It should be mentioned that the Tier 2 Sponsor Licence and Tier 2 visa system is expensive, bureaucratic and confusing. The system is already quite effective in putting off people from applying.

The figure relates to net migration, which currently stands at an estimated 273,000 per year. However, Migration Watch’s study claimed that this could rise to as much as 380,000 after Brexit.

In the second press release, Migration Watch said: “We have decided to withdraw the study issued today on post-Brexit migration levels. There was an error in the calculations, which was unfortunately overlooked at the final stages of preparation. We apologise for the error and will rectify it in the course of producing a revised version.”

UK immigration White Paper

Migration Watch’s estimated figures are said to be based on the predicted effects of the government’s UK immigration White Paper, published in December, 2018. The White Paper outlines the government’s proposals for a new, skills based immigration system - similar to the current Tier 2 visa system - and an end to free movement once the UK exits the EU.

According to Migration Watch’s estimates, net migration from EU and non-EU nations looks set to increase after Brexit. The think-tank attributes the estimate to an increase in non-EU net migration numbers of approximately 100,000.

The estimated 100,000 rise is mostly based on an assumption that, following Brexit, a lower salary threshold will be put in place for certain skilled workers to come to the UK. Currently, there’s a £30,000 minimum salary threshold for skilled professionals to obtain a Tier 2 visa in the UK – with some exceptions.

Migration Watch speculates that should the threshold be dropped to £21,000, a significant rise in non-EU immigration to the UK will occur.

However, Migration Watch’s speculations are unfounded as the government did not outline plans to reduce the minimum salary threshold in its immigration White Paper.

Migration Watch study overestimates UK immigration

According to independent fact checking charity, Full Fact, Migration Watch’s study has overestimated post-Brexit UK immigration numbers by analysing the total number of UK visa granted.

Full Fact says: “To estimate non-EU immigration, Migration Watch uses visa figures to estimate future levels. But these can’t be used to estimate immigration. An immigrant is usually defined as someone who comes to the UK to live here for a least a year. If they leave beforehand, they’re just considered a ‘short-term’ immigrant, or a visitor.”

“All of the figures you tend to see about “net migration” use this longer term definition of immigration,” Full Fact added.

The fact checking charity argues that UK visa figures not only include long-term immigrants, they will include short-term visitors to the UK. Meanwhile, the figures will also include people who are granted a UK visa, but never actually end up coming to the UK.

Based on this, Full Fact states that UK visa figures ‘far exceed actual levels of estimated immigration to the UK.’

UK visa figures wrong

In its study, Migration Watch uses a figure of 465,000 a year for the number of UK visas granted. However, according to Full Fact, equivalent numbers put actual non-EU immigration numbers at around 290,000, indicating that Migration Watch has seriously overestimated future non-EU immigration levels to the UK.

Full Fact acknowledges that official UK immigration estimates are imperfect and have faced legitimate scrutiny concerning their accuracy in recent years. However, they’ve described Migration Watch’s study as ‘conflating estimates from two different sources.’

“The Migration Watch study is comparing a figure based on visa grants to one based on official immigration estimates,” Full Fact said.

Migration Watch is seemingly making assumptions based on proposals that the government has not yet made. The think-tank argues “our estimate could happen if the proposals in the White Paper become the basis of our future immigration system.”

However, Full Fact points out that Migration Watch’s estimate isn’t actually based on the proposals outlined in the government’s UK immigration White Paper.

Migration Watch’s estimates are largely based on a predicted increase in the number of workers entering the UK on a Tier 2 visa, if the minimum salary threshold for the visa is lowered from £30,000 to £21,000.

However, the government did not propose lowering the threshold. Instead, it indicated that it may look to lower the £30,000 in some circumstances, but did not disclose what the reduction would be.

According to the government White Paper:

“For intermediate skills, the Migration Advisory Committee recommends keeping the current minimum salary threshold of £30,000. The government believes that in some circumstances – for example where skills are in shortage—there should be some flexibility to allow migration at lower salary levels…

…Before confirming the level of a future salary threshold we will want to engage extensively with businesses and employers, consider wider evidence of the impact on the economy, and take into account current pay levels in the UK economy…”

Home Office labels Migration Watch study as inaccurate and untrue

In its study, Migration Watch concedes that the salary threshold is still under discussion, but this doesn’t come across clearly.

Meanwhile, an official Home Office statement, said: “The remarks in the Migration Watch report are inaccurate and untrue.

Skilled workers will be required to meet a minimum salary threshold, which the Migration Advisory Committee recommend should be set at £30,000. We will be engaging with businesses on this, but this ensures we can attract the talented people we need for the UK to prosper while controlling immigration.” can help with Tier 2 visas and Sponsorship Licences

If you need help with a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence or would like help with complying with your Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence obligations can help. Call 0344 991 9222 for further details. has been in the visa business for more than 30 years, helping thousands of people to study, work, invest and live in the UK. We represent clients under Section 84 of the 1999 Immigration Act, and we can advise and assist with your UK visa application.