Figures from the Home Office highlight the impact of the pandemic on the amount of skilled workers receiving UK work visas – a fall that has been attributed to COVID-19. 

New figures from the Government’s Home Office reveals that there were only 122,512 work-related visas granted in the year ending March 2021. This was almost two-fifths (37 per cent) fewer than in the previous year.

Additionally, skilled work, which accounts for two-thirds (63 per cent) of work-related visas granted, saw the largest fall, down by a third.

Contrastingly, new work routes – introduced in late 2020 – such as Skilled worker, Skilled worker Health and Care, and Intra-company transfer accounted for 22 per cent of the total work-related grants.

The changes in immigration rules, which came into force on the 1st January 2021, impacted numbers as EEA and Swiss (excluding Irish) nationals were now required to obtain a visa to work in the UK.

The pandemic also had a large effect as there were almost no work visas granted immediately after the onset of the pandemic (April-May 2020).

Despite the number of grants increasing as the year went on, this did not recover until March 2021. At this point, the number of work visas granted was higher than both March 2020 and also March 2019 – displaying a sense of recovery.

Temporary work visas issued also fell by almost half (43 per cent) in the year following the pandemic. This was most prominently seen with the large falls in Youth mobility visa grants, down 12,752 (65 per cent).

In addition, almost four-fifths of sponsored Tier 2 work visa applications were made to the following five sectors:

  • Human Health and Social Work Activities (28 per cent)
  • Information and Communications (18 per cent)
  • Education (14 per cent)
  • Professional, Scientific and Technical Activities (12 per cent)
  • Financial and Insurance Activities (7 per cent)

During the period of October-December last year, estimates suggest there were 1.26 million non-EU nationals working in the UK, 84,000 less than a year earlier. Similarly, there were only 1.83 million EU nationals working in the UK, a decrease of 478,000.

However, the number of UK nationals working during this period was up by 22,000, reaching 29.35 million.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.