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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/immigration-statistics-year-ending-december-2018/summary-of-latest-statistics
1. How many people come to the UK each year?
The number of passenger arrivals to the UK for all reasons in 2018 reached a record 142.8 million (an increase of 5.7 million, or 4%). There were increases for British, other EEA and Swiss nationals (up 4% to 122.3 million), and non-EEA nationals (up 3% to 20.5 million).
There were over 2.9 million visas granted for all reasons in 2018, an increase of 197,524 (7%) compared with the previous year, continuing the upward trend across all visa categories seen over the last decade. Of these, over three-quarters (77%) were to visit, 8% were to study (excluding short-term study), 6% were to work, and 2% were for family reasons.
2. Why do people come to the UK?
The number of Visitor visas granted in 2018 (including dependants) was 2.2 million, an increase of 7% to the highest level on record. Chinese nationals saw the largest increase (up 56,095, or 11%, to 587,986).
In the year ending June 2018 (latest available data by purpose of journey), the number of non-EEA Visitor arrivals increased by 3.5 million (or 31%), to 14.8 million (includes both visa and non-visa visits). This was the highest number of arrivals on record, following a general upward trend since 2009.
There was an increase in Tier 2 (Skilled) work visas granted in 2018, up 9% to 102,653 accounting for the majority (58%) of all work-related visas. This has led to an increase in the overall number of work-related visas granted (up 7% to 176,126), the highest level since the year ending March 2009, around the period when the points based system (PBS) was rolled out.
The increase in Tier 2 (Skilled) work is likely to be related to the removal of doctors and nurses from the Tier 2 cap, which led to an increase in certificates of sponsorship applications for Tier 2 (Skilled) work, in particular in the Human health and social work activities sector, which increased by 54% to 10,108.
The number of sponsored Student visa applications in 2018 (main applicants) rose 8% to 229,488. In particular, there were increases in applications for the Higher education (university) sector, which increased by 10% to 194,861, and is now at the highest level on record.
The number of Tier 4 (Sponsored study) visas granted over the same period (including dependants) increased by 8% to 241,054, the highest level since 2011. In particular there were increases in grants to Chinese nationals (up 13% to 99,723) and Indian nationals (up 35% to 19,505).
There were 151,953 visas granted for family reasons in 2018, 14% more than in the previous year. This included:
- 44,429 visas granted for family-related reasons, 11% higher than the previous year, reflecting a change in the classification of children of a parent given limited leave to enter or remain in the UK for a probationary period who are now included in this category
- 70,969 dependants of people coming to the UK on other types of visas (excluding Visitor visas), up 7%
- 36,555 EEA Family permits, up 35% compared with the previous year, a return to levels similar to 2016 following a fall in 2017
For further details see ʻWhy do people come to the UK? (4) For family reasons’ and the data tables.
3. How many people do we grant asylum or protection to?
The UK offered protection – in the form of grants of asylum, alternative forms of protection and resettlement – to 15,891 people in 2018 (up 8%). The number of people offered protection in the UK has been around this level since early 2015.
The Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) accounted for three-quarters (4,407) of the 5,806 refugees resettled in the UK in 2018. Since it began in 2014, 14,945 people have now been resettled under the scheme. A further 688 were resettled under the Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme (VCRS) over the last year.
There were 29,380 asylum applications in the UK from main applicants in 2018, 11% more than the previous year. Although this remains below levels seen in 2015 and 2016 during the European migration crisis, the number of applications in the latest quarter was the highest level since 2015 quarter 4, with notable increases in applications from Iranians, Iraqis and Albanians.
Data on the Dublin Regulation, published annually, show there were 1,215 transfers into the UK and 209 transfers out of the UK under the Dublin Regulation.
For further details see ʻHow many people do we grant asylum or protection to?’ and the data tables.
4. How many people continue their stay in the UK?
Extension of temporary stay in the UK
There were 274,480 decisions on applications for extension of temporary stay (including dependants) in 2018 for all reasons, 18% more than in the previous year.
Of these, 250,421 were grants of extensions of temporary stay, a grant rate of 91%. This was a 17% increase on the previous year, primarily due to the change to the family Immigration Rules requiring individuals to obtain extensions every 2.5 years.
There were 94,690 decisions on applications for settlement in the UK in 2018, 38% more than in 2017.
Of these, 90,608 resulted in a grant, a grant rate of 96%. This was a 39% increase on the previous year. In particular, grants for family reasons nearly trebled, reflecting family rule changes in July 2012 that increased the qualifying period for settlement from 2 to 5 years. Individuals on a 5-year route to settlement following the rule change are now becoming eligible to apply.
EEA nationals and their family members
In 2018, there were 86,999 registration certificates and registration cards issued, 29% fewer than in 2017. This fall followed an increase in the period immediately after the referendum on membership of the EU in June 2016. There were 46% fewer registration certificates issued to EU nationals (down 36,441 to 43,183) while documents issued to non-EU nationals increased by 4% (up 1,539 to 43,816).
There were 95,945 documents certifying permanent residence and permanent residence cards issued in 2018, 43% less than the previous year. Although this is a fall since the peak of 168,413 in 2017, current levels remain considerably higher than prior to the EU referendum.
There were 158,795 applications for British citizenship in 2018, 12% more than in the previous year.
In 2018, applications for citizenship by EU nationals increased 23% to 47,568. EU nationals now account for 30% of all citizenship applications, compared with 12% in 2016.
Applications made by non-EU nationals increased by 8% in the most recent year to 111,227, following falls in the previous 2 years.
5. How many people are detained or returned?
At the end of December 2018, there were 1,784 people held in the detention estate, a fall of 30% compared with the same date 12 months earlier and the lowest level since comparable records began in 2009. The fall follows the introduction of the new Immigration Bail in Schedule 10 of the Immigration Bill 2016 (15 January 2018), and changes across the immigration system following Windrush.
In 2018, 24,748 individuals entered the detention estate, 10% fewer than the previous year and the lowest level since comparable records began in 2009.
Over the same period, 25,487 left the detention estate (down 10%). Over two-thirds were detained for less than 29 days and 4% were detained for more than 6 months. The Home Office would usually only detain someone for more than 6 months if they are a foreign national offender (FNO), or if they have subsequently claimed asylum while in detention.
There were 9,474 enforced returns from the UK in 2018, 21% fewer than the previous year. The fall coincides with changes across the immigration system following Windrush. In particular there were falls in enforced returns of people who were in immigration detention prior to their return, which fell by 17% to 8,578.
There were 5,209 foreign national offenders returned in 2018, 15% fewer than the previous year.
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