The United Kingdom is a popular choice for many immigrants. According to the Office for National Statistics, about 612,000 people immigrated to the UK in 2019 and this number is only predicted to steadily increase. This places the UK among countries with the highest shares of migrants in their population. But why do so many migrants choose the UK and what benefits do immigrants get in the UK?
The most common reason for moving to the UK used to be in order to find work. However, since March 2019, education has overtaken work as the most common reason. This effect has largely to do with Brexit, as a lower number of EU nationals now come to the UK with the intention of staying over 12 months.
High economic growth within the UK helps hold a consistent demand for all types of workers. The UK is also a major globalised economy, which means it is home to many top tier companies offering diverse and competitive working environments. The currency is strong making it favorable for the many migrants who work in the UK to send remittances back home. Moreover, entrepreneurship is encouraged by the government and the UK is generally a good and stable place to do business with secure laws in place.
After Brexit, however, fewer EU nationals now come looking for work in the UK. The primary reason for coming to the UK now is to obtain a high standard of education. Universities in the UK are well respected and internationally recognized, having the second-largest number of international students after the US according to Unesco. Almost any course can be found to study and there is ample opportunity for international students to find work, during and after their studies.
However, it is important to note that not all immigrants are looking for work or education. A significant number of people come to the UK seeking asylum. In 2019, approximately 21,000 people were granted asylum and settled as refugees in the UK.
Why seek asylum in the UK?
The right to claim asylum is enshrined within international law instruments to which the UK is a signatory. Therefore, they are implemented through local legislation and the UK is obliged to protect people who are able to successfully claim asylum and become refugees.
The process of seeking and claiming asylum in any country can be a long legal battle. However, the UK provides several benefits to such migrants.
Benefits for asylum-seekers:
The UK provides some benefits to those in the process of seeking asylum if they are unable to support themselves. This may be in the form of financial assistance to purchase necessities and/or housing support. It includes:
- The current rate is £37.75 per week per person.
- Rates vary for pregnant women, babies, and young children.
- Asylum seekers are also entitled to free healthcare through the NHS and;
- Any children aged 5-16 will be entitled to attend a local school free of cost.
- A one-time maternity payment of £300 can also be claimed.
Benefits for refugees:
Once a person successfully claims asylum and is granted leave to remain in the UK, they are officially classed as a refugee. Any support they were receiving while their asylum-seeking application was being processed would be discontinued after a period of 28 days. Instead, they will now be able to claim benefits much like a normal British citizen.
- Refugees are allowed to work at any skill level in order to support themselves, however, they can apply for benefits if they find themselves out of work.
- Refugees studying English can claim income support for up to 9 months
- Tax credits, child benefits, and guardian’s allowance can be claimed and backdated. However, if asylum support was availed, tax credits may be canceled out.
- A Refugee Integration Loan can be availed. This loan has to be paid but is free of any interest.
- Pension Credit can be claimed if a refugee is over the working age.
- Free healthcare is provided to refugees through the NHS.
While these benefits might seem equal to those that a British pensioner might receive, it is unlikely that a refugee would have built up the required level of national insurance contributions.
Note: You may not be entitled to these benefits if one of the conditions of your refugee status is ‘no recourse to public funds’.
Other general benefits of immigrating to the UK over other countries:
Good work opportunities, world-class education, and dedicated support for refugees is not all that the UK has to offer. Many immigrants are motivated simply by the diverse culture and freedom it provides. The UK also has:
- An excellent healthcare system: The NHS provides free healthcare to every immigrant. Some of the world’s best hospitals are located in the UK.
- Diversity: Many cultures can be found within the UK, making it easier for people to integrate. Racism and prejudice are low.
- Patriotism and a rich heritage: The British monarchy and Royal Family continue to fascinate people with their occasional events.
- London: UK’s capital is a global business hub with the presence of top-tier global firms. Economic opportunities are varied and widely available.
- A geographic Location: Its central location offers immigrants a gateway to the rest of Europe.
- A stable government: there is a general sense of security and trust when it comes to the authorities making it safer for entrepreneurs to conduct their businesses.
- Free education for children of compulsory age
- A strong currency: Immigrants who work in the UK to send remittances back home enjoy a higher standard of living than their at-home counterparts
- Low crime rates: The UK is generally safe
- Tolerant attitudes: People are more accepting of differences due to diverse backgrounds.