Immigration Cap - Home Affairs Committee Contents

2  Immigration figures

Migration data

10. There is no single source of migration data in the UK. Migration is measured in several different ways, which are not directly comparable. Until exit checks are implemented across the UK (in the form of e-Borders), it will not possible to count individuals out of the country, and so figures on the inflow and outflow of migrants cannot be matched. Currently, the principal sources of migration data are:

a)  International Passenger Survey (IPS) data. Published quarterly by the Office for National Statistics, it counts the number of passengers arriving at and departing from UK ports and surveys passengers about their reasons for migration. It measures only those coming to the UK for 12 months or longer.[7]

b)  Long-Term International Migration (LTIM) data. Published quarterly by the Office for National Statistics, it uses International Passenger Survey data, plus a number of other sources: the Labour Force Survey, Home Office data on asylum seekers, and international migration data relating to Northern Ireland.

IPS and LTIM migration figures are similar, but IPS data allow more detailed analysis, including breakdown of immigrant numbers by characteristics like 'reason for migration'. Both sets of data include British citizens as well as EEA citizens and non-EEA citizens.

c)  Control of Immigration data. Published quarterly by the Home Office, these cover Border Control, Asylum, Enforcement & Compliance, and Managed Migration figures (including visas issued under the Points Based System). They do not include British or EEA citizens.[8]

The Government's figures: net long term immigration

11. In discussing immigration, the Government has been using the Long-Term International Migration data (b, above) published by the Office for National Statistics (see Table 1a and Chart 1a). International Passenger Survey data (a, above) gives a further breakdown of net migration by citizenship, allowing comparisons to be made between the numbers of British, EEA and non-EEA migrants which make up the net migration figure (see Table 1b). Table 1c shows total inflows and outflows of non-EEA economic migrants for the six years from 2003-08. In the current context, it is noteworthy that in 2008—the last year for which data were available—there was a new outflow of non-EEA economic migrants. However, it is important not to place too much emphasis on a single year's figures.

Table 1a: Long Term Migration to the UK, 1991-2009 (thousands)[9]
YearInflow OutflowTotal
1991329 285+44
1992268 281-13
1993266 266-1
1994315 238+77
1995312 236+76
1996318 264+55
1997327 279+48
1998391 251+140
1999454 291+163
2000479 321+158
2001481 309+171
2002516 363+153
2003511 363+148
2004589 344+245
2005567 361+206
2006596 398+198
2007574 341+233
2008590 427+163
2009567 371+196

Chart 1a: Long Term Migration to the UK, 1991-2009[10]

Table 1b: International Passenger Survey net Long Term Migration by citizenship, 2000-2009 (thousands)[11]
YearBritish EEANon-EEA All citizenships
2000-47 +13+111 +77
2001-21 +13+129 +122
2002-65 +19+134 +87
2003-66 +16+163 +112
2004-99 +80+233 +214
2005-80 +78+174 +172
2006-127 +81+205 +159
2007-87 +126+181 +219
2008-90 +51+169 +129
2009-36 +43+184 +191

Table 1c: International Passenger Survey net Long Term Migration: Inflows and outflows of non-EEA economic migrants, 2003-08 (thousands)[12]
YearInflow Outflow
200385 63
2004113 65
200593 74
2006100 79
200773 63
200866 74

12. There is no single source of migration data in the UK. Until exit checks are implemented in the form of e-Borders, it is not possible to count individuals out of the country, and so figures on the inflow and outflow of migrants cannot be matched. Migration is currently measured in several different ways, which are not directly comparable one to another. This can obscure and complicate the public policy debate on immigration, a difficulty which was highlighted by the use of varying sets of figures by different witnesses, and exemplified by the fact that the Government itself is using one set of data for its immigration target (net long-term immigration) but is acting on another set (entry clearance visas issued) to implement a cap. We urge the Government to implement exit checks as soon as possible to ensure that immigrants leaving the country can be matched with those entering it.

13. The figure of 'hundreds of thousands' of immigrants cited by the Government in respect of its immigration policy objective (see paragraph 1) comes from Long-Term International Migration data and relates to the net number of immigrants entering the UK for a year or longer (immigrants minus emigrants), and includes British and EEA citizens. The latest data show that 196,000 net immigrants entered the UK in 2009. Net long-term migration peaked in 2004 at 245,000 and continued at an annual rate of about 200,000 in the five years to 2009. Data from the International Passenger Survey show that non-EEA citizens consistently make up the majority of net immigrants, but that the overall rise in 2009 was accounted for by a decrease in the number of British citizens emigrating.

Gross long-term immigration

14. The migrants who make up the net long-term immigration figure cited by the Government (196,000 in 2009) fall into three broad groups, and three immigration routes: British, EEA, non-EEA; and work, study, family. The only group subject to immigration control are the non-EEA nationals, and the Government's proposed cap will therefore apply to non-EEA nationals entering for work only, under Tiers 1 and 2 of the PBS.[13]

15. The gross long-term immigration figure in 2008—the latest year for which a breakdown by reason for migration is available—was 538,000. In 2009 there were 567,000 gross long-term immigrants, but the figure is not yet broken down. [14] The International Passenger Survey provides a breakdown of this figure by group and reason for migration, giving a picture of the proportion of non-EEA migrants, as compared to British and EEA migrants, immigrating for work purposes (see table 2).

Table 2: International Passenger Survey data (2008): Citizenship by main reason for migration to UK (thousands)[15]
Main reason for migration All citizenships BritishEEA Non-EEA
All reasons 53882 178278
Definite job 13723 7044
Looking for work 7018 2923
Accompany/join 877 1961
Formal study 1726 40126
Other34 86 20
No reason stated 3919 155

16. Table 2 shows that in 2008, according to the International Passenger Survey, non-EEA migrants accounted for 52% of all gross long-term immigrants (British, EEA and non-EEA citizens). However, non-EEA immigrants giving 'having a definite job' or 'looking for work' as their reason for immigration accounted for only 12% of all gross long-term immigrants. Amongst non-EEA migrants, economic migration accounted for 24% of those entering the UK in 2008, whereas formal study was the biggest single reason for immigration amongst this group (45%).

17. The Home Office Control of Immigration bulletin reports the number of visas actually issued to individuals under the Points Based System (and pre-PBS equivalent routes), thus also giving a breakdown by purpose for migration (see table 3).[16] Although these data are not directly comparable with overall Long-Term International Migration or International Passenger Survey data, they are the numbers through which a cap will be operated.

Table 3: Non-EEA migrants issued entry clearance visas for work, study and family reunification, 2007-2009[17]
2007 20082009
Tier 1: Highly-skilled & equivalent Main applicants10,055 15,51518,780
Dependants 6,2858,200 15,010
Tier 2: Skilled with job offer & equivalent Main applicants68,355 59,11536,490
Dependants 30,15022,055 26,985
Total (employment, leading to settlement) Main applicants78,410 74,63055,270
Dependants 36,44030,255 41,995
TOTAL (main applicant & dependants) 114,850104,885 97,265

2007 20082009
Students (PBS Tier 4 and student visitors) Main applicants229,415 250,950311,135
Dependants (tier 4 only) 19,29524,200 30,170
Total 248,710275,150 341,305
Family reunification Main applicants49,035 44,62038,335
Dependants 20,54520,895 10,730
Total 69,58065,515 49,065

Non-work routes

18. The Home Secretary's statement on 28 June said:

    Our commitment to reduce net migration will require action ... beyond the economic routes. I tell the House now that I will be reviewing other immigration routes in due course and will be bringing forward further proposals for consideration by the House.[18]

That the Government also intended to consider changes to non-economic routes was confirmed by the Immigration Minister, Damian Green MP, in oral evidence to us:

    We are looking at every route as you would expect. The asylum numbers are really very small compared with what they were previously, but one can always make improvements. We are looking at the student and educational route which just in terms of sheer numbers is the biggest single route within the points-based system. We are also looking at family reunification and rights of settlement.[19]

19. International Passenger Survey data (see table 2) shows that in 2008, some 45% (126,000) of all non-EEA long-term immigrants to the UK stated on their arrival that they had come to study; and some 22% (61,000) similarly stated that they came to accompany or join a family member.

7   Defined as "those who have entered or left the UK for an actual (or intended) period of at least 12 months" Back

8   Except in relation to the number of passenger journey arrivals Back

9   Office for National Statistics (ONS) Long Term International Migration (LTIM) tables: 1991-latest: Provisional estimates of Long-term international migration, year ending December 2009, 2-series (LTIM Calendar Year), Table 2.03 LTIM Country of Birth 1991-2008. Data are calculated on a rolling basis at the end of the calendar year. 1991 is the latest year for which comparative figures are available. Figures include British, EU and non-EU citizens. . Accessed 26 October 2010. Back

10   See Table 1a for data and source. Back

11   Office for National Statistics (ONS) International Passenger Survey estimates of long-term international migration, year ending December 2009: Accessed 4 October 2010. Back

12   Data taken from International Passenger Survey annual data, and reported by the UK Statistics Authority in response to a Written Parliamentary Question: HC Deb 28 July 2010, Col 450W-452W.  Back

13   Tier 5 is also a work-related route, but is limited to temporary work, such as Working Holidaymaker schemes, and has no link with settlement. Back

14   Office for National Statistics (ONS), Long-Term International Migration, estimates from the International Passenger Survey: annual data 2008. Table 3.08: Citizenship by main reason for migration. Accessed 4 October 2010. The ONS published provisional total figures for year ending December 2009 (in August 2010), which show that gross long-term immigration was 567,000, but a breakdown of this total by reason for migration will not be available until November 2010. For the purposes of discussing reason for migration we therefore use the 2008 figures. IPS figures are not directly comparable with the Long Term Migration figures (from where the 196,000 figure comes) but are close, with IPS forming the principal data source for LTM.  Back

15   Office for National Statistics (ONS), Long-Term International Migration, estimates from the International Passenger Survey: annual data 2008. Table 3.08: Citizenship by main reason for migration. Accessed 4 October 2010. Back

16   Figures are not comparable between the two sources, since the International Passenger Survey measures journeys, and Control of Immigration visas issued. A cap will be administered through the Points Based System and would apply to the number of Entry Clearance visas issued under Tiers 1 and 2.  Back

17   Home Office Control of Immigration : Statistics United Kingdom 2009, Bulletin 15/10, August 2010. Table 1;1: Entry Clearance Visas to the United Kingdom issues by category. . Accessed 4 October 2010. Back

18   HC Deb, 28 June 2010, Col 585-6 Back

19   Q 50 Back

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