New Home Office data will let you watch international recruitment slump in near real-time

Yes – monthly data on visa applications until the end of 2024

David Kernohan is Deputy Editor of Wonkhe

Michael Salmon is News Editor at Wonkhe

It’s a good day to be James Cleverly.

Here he is, the current home secretary, bragging about an 80 per cent drop in dependants accompanying international students between March 2023 and March 2024. This follows, of course, January’s changes to visa rules which mean that only postgraduate research students can bring dependants.

This comes alongside a new monthly data release from the Home Office, also published today. These are to be updated on a monthly basis until the end of 2024, after which the department will review the need for them. They are a long way from the detailed stats we get on a quarterly basis, simply showing Skilled Worker and Student application numbers (and dependants). They are marked as provisional, and as this is the first time we’ve had them it will be interesting to see to what extent they are revised with the full Q1 figures at the end of May.

Still, if they are good enough for James Cleverly to make an announcement off the back of them, they are worth taking a look at, right?

Here’s what the data says:

[Full screen]

If you click on either of the legends you can highlight particular years, main applications, or dependant applications. The “visa type” dropdown allows you to look at the Student visa [Study], the Health and Care Worker visa [Care], or the Skilled Worker visa [Skilled Worker].

The new data here covers January, February and March 2024 – all of which are down noticeably, in particular March. Dependant numbers have predictably fallen off a cliff – we don’t know whether the remaining applications are from research students or were just incorrectly made.

Now, a drop of almost 40 per cent for March main applicants year-on-year isn’t a killer datapoint in the sponsored study time series, though it is going to set some alarm bells ringing. We’re at the lowest ebb in visa applications, and we need to take into account global conditions (and wider government messaging) that have depressed applications in early 2024. August will be the month to watch, though we’ll see weak signals from data being collected round about now.

When you plot data on scales like this, it does feel like Cleverly’s pride in the efficacy of the January changes is a little premature. There are global pressures on migration more generally, there are other application restrictions on the table – and speculation is already febrile regarding the conclusions of the controversial Migration Advisory Committee rapid review of the graduate route. He’ll clearly feel like things are moving in the “right” direction, but there’s no way he can be certain that a particular decision has caused this result.

What’s more striking from this release is the issues with the Health and Care Worker visa route. Because of a shortage of staff in the health and social care sector, there’s been a separate route for workers (with a lower salary threshold). The decision to limit dependent applicants via this route – also taken in January – has had a huge impact on main applications as well as dependants.

There has been some concern about students switching from Student visas to Health and Care Worker visas – as Cleverly notes the ability to move from a Student visa to another visa before the end of the course (including, in many cases, the care route) has now been removed. There’s also been some noise about restricting movement to this visa on graduation – though we don’t (as pointed out yesterday) have any good data on the scope or extent on this – with a wider suspicion that care jobs are not suitable for graduates.

One response to “New Home Office data will let you watch international recruitment slump in near real-time

  1. The move to stop or restricting switching from students visa to care visa route may be acceptable.

    The unacceptable and baseless argument is “the restriction of people with care visas” who are told only to work for their sponsors even if the sponsors are out of business now.

    This policy , to me, is an ad-hoc and superfluous- causing more problems than the boat people. . Many care homes and care settings are struggling to find commited carers.

    Many are already here from abroad with visas and work permits, why don’t you allow them to work for any healthcare institutions which need their services?.

    Let’s keep those already here before preventing others from adding up . Population influx must be looked at on the basis of “pooling and pushing factors” .

    You don’t have to use the turbulent politics of today, to destroy our great British Nation.
    Thank you.

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