A significant drop in applications seen in March, from Chinese nationals, in particular, is likely due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Home Office said.
The Home Office said that applications for work visas were down 3% between January and March compared with the same quarter in 2019, and, while student visas saw an initial 65% before falling in March.
Overall arrivals had seen an 18% in the years first 3 months to 23.7m but of the 18.1 million who had entered the UK by air between 1 January and 23 March, just 273 were formally placed into quarantine.
Restrictions on travel also saw a reduction in those removed from the country. Forced returns were reduced by 30% to 1,356 in the first quarter in contrast to the same quarter in 2019, while voluntary returns fell 37% to 2,253. Those refused or turned away at ports went down by 27% to 3,405.
The number granted asylum status also fell by 7% in the first quarter as asylum applications decreased by 5%, which is also a result of coronavirus the Home Office claims.
51,906 asylum seeker applications were still pending as of March, a 33% increase on the previous year. All of which are unable to work and subsist on £5.39 a day government support. Of those who were waiting for their application response for six months, there had been a 68% spike to 31,516.
This data comes as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released a report revealing that net migration into the UK from outside of the European Union had increased by 270,000 in 2019, the highest since records began. The figures, according to the ONS, had been driven been a growth in the number of students from China and India.
In May, the UK paused all face-to-face screening interviews but are still registering asylum claims and is looking into alternative ways of conducting interviews.