Net immigration figures released today show a slight drop to just above 250,000 a year.
Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May want to reduce the number to under 100,000 by the end of the parliament in 2015.
But the Office for National Statistics said estimated net migration to Britain – the number of people arriving for more than 12 months minus those leaving – in the year to September 2011 was 252,000, down only 3,000 on the previous year.
Long-term immigration fell from from 600,000 to 589,000, similar to the level it has been at since 2004, while emigration also dropped slightly from 345,000 to 338,000.
Of those coming to Britain, 250,000 were overseas students, who are worth billions to the UK economy.
The left-of-centre thinktank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said net migration was effectively unchanged.
Associate director Sarah Mulley said: “The Government has so far made no progress towards meeting its target of reducing net migration to less than 100,000.”
The Home Office said new rules had resulted in a big fall in the number of student visas issued to non-Europeans.
Student visas down 62%
Its own research, covering the period to March 2012, showed student visas were down 62% in the first three months of this year compared with the same period in 2011.
The figures confirm many UK university’s fears that overseas students are taking their fees elsewhere.
At a conference in February on how immigration policies are affecting universities and will cost the UK billions in lost revenue, Professor Julia King, the vice-chancellor of Aston University, said her institution had recorded a 39% fall in the number of applications from Indian students this year compared with last.
She added that there had been a decline of 29% in applications from Nigerian students. She put both down to Britain’s immigration policies.
As a result, her institution had £3m less income, which was “quite significant for an institution with a £120m turnover”. Birmingham’s economy would suffer at least a £6m loss as a result, she told the conference.
Meanwhile students and skilled migrant workers, such as nurses, are increasingly turning to countries like Australia, NZ and Canada.
Work and family visas were also down, the Home Office said.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said: “Our tough new rules are now making a real difference with a record 62% drop in student visas in the first quarter of 2012, and overall falls in work visas, family numbers and people settling.
“As these policies start to bite we are seeing an end to the years when net migration was consistently on the rise.
“But the hangover from the old system of weak controls means it is still too high and we will continue our programme of reforms to bring net migration down from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands.”
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