UK immigration and travel has been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with far fewer South Africans making the move abroad compared to previous years, data from the UK’s office of national statistics shows.
An estimated 268,000 people moved to live in the UK during 2020, compared with 592,000 people in 2019 and 538,000 people in 2018.
The fall in immigration was seen across all three groups: EU nationals, non-EU nationals, and British returnees. It is likely that the Covid-19 pandemic was a major contributing factor alongside the effect of Brexit, the stats body said.
“Although there is no evidence of an exodus from the UK in 2020, global travel restrictions meant the movement of people was limited, with all data sources suggesting migration fell to the lowest level seen for many years,” said Jay Lindop, director of the centre for international migration at the office for national statistics.
“These are our best current estimates for international migration over this period, however, they are modelled figures based on experimental research and subject to a high level of uncertainty.”
The office of national statistics uses two metrics for overseas populations – country of birth and nationality.
The survey shows that country with the largest overseas population by country of birth is India, with an estimated 896,000 Indian-born people currently living in the UK. This is followed by Poland (682,000 people) and Pakistan (456,000 people) who ranked in second and third place respectively.
By comparison, Poland has the highest overseas population by nationality (696,000), followed by India (370,000) and the Republic of Ireland (370,000).
The data shows that South Africa is ranked 16th with an estimated 101,000 nationals currently living in the country.
This is a steep decline from previous years, with the country typically featuring in the top 10, and is likely a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and strict travel restrictions.
However, the number is also likely distorted as a number of South African nationals have dual South African/British citizenship.
|#||Non-British population in the United Kingdom by nationality||Total estimate||Male||Female|
|1||Poland||696 000||316 000||380 000|
|2||India||370 000||186 000||184 000|
|3||Republic of Ireland||370 000||171 000||199 000|
|4||Italy||342 000||179 000||164 000|
|5||Romania||342 000||179 000||163 000|
|6||Portugal||268 000||134 000||135 000|
|7||Spain||206 000||102 000||105 000|
|8||Pakistan||181 000||96 000||85 000|
|9||Nigeria||178 000||83 000||95 000|
|10||United States of America||166 000||71 000||95 000|
|11||Lithuania||153 000||61 000||92 000|
|12||France||149 000||66 000||84 000|
|13||Germany||135 000||51 000||84 000|
|14||China||124 000||54 000||70 000|
|15||Hungary||118 000||52 000||67 000|
|16||South Africa||101 000||50 000||51 000|
UK immigration and travel has been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with far fewer South Africans making the move abroad compared to previous years, data from Sable International shows.
The data recorded for entry clearance visas granted outside the UK shows a sharp drop in applications made overseas.
At the end of December 2020, a total of 996,636 entry clearance visas were granted, compared to 3,171,721 in 2019. This represents a decrease of 69%.
“Since 2012, there have generally been year-on-year increases in the number of visitors to the UK,” Sable international said. “However, in 2020 the number decreased by 79% (1.9 million), with only 506,644 visitor visas granted compared to the previous year’s over 2.4 million.”
17,288 of these visitor visas were granted to South Africans – the 10th most of any country.
While the number of visitor visas has declined, data from the UK’s Home Office shows that the country remains a popular destination for South Africans who are moving for work, to study or to join family members. Of these business visas, a total of 4,012 applications were granted to South Africans in 2020.
A total of 1,497 applications for family visas were granted to South Africans.