Here’s how many South Africans are moving to the UK

 ·6 Sep 2021

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.

Work visas

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.

A total of 125,173 work visas were approved by December 2020, Sable International said. This was made up of:

  • 77,760 skilled worker visas – down 35% (67,386) from the previous year;
  • 26,500 temporary worker visas – down 39% (16,967);
  • 1,669 high-value visas – down 70% (3,935).

Of these business visas, a total of 4,012 applications were granted to South Africans in 2020.

Family visas 

There were 40,255 family visas granted, a decrease of 28% (15,388). These included:

  • 8,230 dependants joining or accompanying a family member – down 12% (1,151);
  • 19,234 EEA family permits – down 58% (26,458).

A total of 1,497 applications were granted to South Africans.

Total South Africans who have moved 

Data published by UK’s office for national statistics in March 2021, shows that a significant number of South Africans have made a move to the UK permanently.

The data – which is based on the country’s annual population survey – shows the number of overseas-born people (by country) who live permanently in the UK as of the end of June 2020.

The survey shows that country with the largest overseas population is India, with an estimated 847,000 Indian people currently living in the UK.

This is followed by Poland (746,000 people) and Pakistan (519,000 people) who ranked in second and third place respectively.

South Africa is ranked in ninth position, with an estimated 229,000 people currently living in the country.

By comparison, there were 255,000 South Africans living in the UK as at the end of 2019. This means that there has been an effective net decline of 26,000 people.

While this is a significant drop, similar declines were seen for other countries – likely as a result of the pandemic and Brexit regulations.

# Country Total Male Female
1 India 847 000 419 000 428 000
2 Poland 746 000 333 000 412 000
3 Pakistan 519 000 265 000 254 000
4 Romania 370 000 202 000 168 000
5 Republic of Ireland 364 000 168 000 196 000
6 Germany 310 000 135 000 175 000
7 Bangladesh 251 000 128 000 123 000
8 Italy 240 000 129 000 112 000
9 South Africa 229 000 110 000 118 000
10 Nigeria 219 000 108 000 111 000

Data published by SWLondoner shows that over 53,000 South Africans live in London alone.

Wandsworth is the borough with the highest number of South Africans, an estimated 6,000, while Merton reported approximately 3,000 and Lambeth, Kingston and Richmond each reported around 2,000.

Emigrations are not uncommon during the pandemic according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and CareerJunction, as around 59% of South Africans were still willing to move to another country for work but this was a dip from a 72% willingness level in 2018.

Young and highly educated South Africans were also willing to move abroad with 56% of young people and 61% of highly educated people in the country saying they would be willing to relocate during the pandemic.

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