Long-term UK international migration

By Patrick Barnham

The Office to National Statistics today (May 25) released figures on UK international migration from 2018 to 2022.

Total long-term immigration was estimated at around 1.2 million in 2022, and emigration was 557,000, which means migration continues to add to the population with net migration at 606,000.
Most people arriving to the UK in 2022 were non-EU nationals (925,000), followed by EU (151,000) and British (88,000).
People coming to the UK from non-EU countries for work, study and for humanitarian purposes, including unique events such as those arriving from Ukraine and Hong Kong, have contributed towards relatively high levels of immigration over the past 18 months. However, growth has slowed over recent quarters potentially demonstrating the temporary nature of these impacts.
The composition of non-EU immigration changed in 2022, with 39% of people arriving for study related reasons, down from 47% in 2021. Those arriving on humanitarian routes (including Ukrainian schemes) increased from 9% to 19% over the same period.
Evidence suggests that students typically stay for shorter periods than other migrants and that the majority leave at the end of their study. The latest data shows that those who arrived for study reasons in 2021 are now starting to leave, driving an increase in total emigration from 454,000 in 2021 to 557,000 in 2022.
Both a slowing of immigration, and rising emigration means that levels of net migration have levelled off in recent quarters. An estimated 606,000 more people arrived long-term to the UK than departed in YE December 2022, 118,000 higher than a year previously, but comparable to levels in YE June 2022.
The improvement in methods means the previously published immigration estimate for YE June 2022 is revised upwards by 45,000 to 1,109,000, emigration downwards by negative 57,000 to 503,000 and net migration revised by 102,000 to 606,000.
Jay Lindop, Deputy Director of the Centre for International Migration, said:

“A series of unprecedented world events throughout 2022 and the lifting of restrictions following COVID led to record levels of international immigration to the UK.

“The main driver of the increase was people coming to the UK from non-EU countries for work, study and for humanitarian purposes, including those arriving from Ukraine and Hong Kong. For the first time since using our new methods to measure migration, we have also included asylum seekers in our estimates, with around 1 in 12 non-EU migrants coming via this route.

“There are some signs the underlying drivers behind these high levels of migration are changing. As lockdown restrictions were lifted in 2021, we saw a sharp increase in students arriving. Recent data suggests that those arriving in 2021 are now leaving the country, with the overall share of non-EU immigration for students falling in 2022. In contrast, those arriving on humanitarian routes increased over the 12 months. Evidence also suggests immigration has slowed in recent months potentially demonstrating the temporary nature of these events.”

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