The most senior official in the UK Home Office, Permanent Secretary Matthew Rycroft has recently visited Pakistan to fortify ties between the countries which, according to Rycroft, “are reliant on an effective and well-functioning migration relationship”. This is the second visit of a top UK representative to Pakistan in the last 90 days.
This time, in his two-day tour through Islamabad, the Permanent Secretary met students from Bahria University to introduce them to a new immigration system that will allow them to study and work in the United Kingdom in several skilled roles. Rycroft says that this will “level the global playing field to those wishing to come to the UK.”
The promise is to “strengthen visa routes” to make travel and migration easier between the United Kingdom and Pakistan.
Travel was facilitated last month when the UK removed Pakistan from its travel red list, easing non-essential travel and entry restrictions to British territory. The UK also started recognizing the validity of the COVID-19 vaccination certificates issued by Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). Thanks to this, Sinopharm, Sinovac, and Coxavin are approved vaccines in the UK now.
As for migration, there are currently around 1.5 million Pakistani migrants in the United Kingdom —a diaspora that reinforces the two countries’ relationship and that is meant to grow thanks to the new immigration system and visas.
Applications for student visas are on the rise since the points-based immigration system was implemented in the United Kingdom on January 1st, 2021. Applications have increased 68% from June 2019. By June 2021, more than 53,000 visas were granted to Pakistani citizens, with 9,700 of these being student visas and 4,600 working visas. These numbers represent 93% of work visas and 91% of student visas to Pakistani nationals, as well as a 6% increase in applications granted from 2019, even with the difficult context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restriction of movement between countries.
By granting more and more visas to Pakistani students, the United Kingdom is offering “clear opportunities to the brightest and best from Pakistan” and enabling new graduate routes for them in the UK job market.
According to the British government, the UK job market has deeply benefited from the points-based immigration system and the Skilled Worker Visa, which allow skilled people from abroad to work legally in the United Kingdom. “Imported talent” has helped enhance the United Kingdom’s public services, workforce, wages, and overall growth, as well as adding value to the international competitiveness of British companies —an important step in Britain’s post-pandemic economic revival.
“We recognize there are jobs where we need the expertise and skills of overseas workers and extraordinarily talented people who want to make the UK their home. Under our points-based immigration system, people who want to contribute to our society will be welcome, based on their skills and talents, not where their passport is from”, said Kevin Foster, the Minister for Safe and Legal Migration.