Visa applications from Turkish people seeking work in the UK have surged over the past year.
The increase came amid a post-Brexit immigration overhaul which ended Britain’s membership in a migration pact with Turkey, prompting a rush of applications before the deadline.
Brexit has also led to thousands of EU workers leaving Britain, creating gaps in the workforce for non-EU citizens to fill.
About 37,400 Turks sought a UK work visa in the year ending in June – an increase of about 400 per cent on the previous year. They were second only to Indians, who made 44,600 applications.
However, Turkish applicants suffered far more rejections than Indian workers. More than 20,000 Turks had their applications refused.
The UK’s Home Office said applications under a decades-old agreement between Turkey and the EU had risen sixfold before the end-of-2020 deadline.
About 6,000 businessmen and women had visas approved under this route, which is no longer open to new applications.
“This surge in applications, and resulting grants, is likely due to people seeking to apply before the route closed,” the Home Office said.
Supporters of Brexit claimed before the EU referendum that remaining in the bloc could open the door to mass migration from Turkey.
Turkey hopes to one day join the EU, but potential membership is regarded as a long way off after a series of disputes between Brussels and Ankara.
Britain’s new immigration rules mean that most successful applicants must have a job offer and minimum English skills to qualify under a points system.
A cap on skilled workers from outside the EU is being suspended as part of the overhaul.
After India and Turkey, the top nationalities applying for work visas were people from Ukraine, the Philippines, the US, Nigeria and South Africa.
The end of free movement for EU citizens took effect in January, meaning there is only half a year’s figures for them.
The UK issued about 172,000 work visas in the year ending in June, up compared to the pandemic-affected year of 2020 but down on 2019.
The government last week unveiled plans which it says will make it easier for employers to sponsor a work visa.
Britain wants to make the process faster than in any other G20 country, said Borders and Immigration Minister Kevin Foster.