National statistics

Summary of latest statistics

Published 27 February 2020

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1. How many people come to the UK each year (including visitors)?

There were an estimated 146.3 million passenger arrivals in 2019 (including returning UK residents), a 2% increase compared with the previous year and the highest number on record.

There were 3.2 million visas granted in 2019, a 10% increase compared with the previous year, continuing the upward trend seen over the last decade. Of these, over three-quarters (76%) were to visit, 9% were to study (excluding Short-term study), 6% were to work and 2% were for family reasons.

For further details see ʻHow many people come to the UK each year (including visitors)?’.

2. Why do people come to the UK?

2.1 Work

There were 193,517 work-related visas granted in 2019 (including dependants), 10% higher than 2018, and the highest level since 2007, before the ‘points-based system’ (PBS) was introduced.

Most of the rise was accounted for through increases in grants of Skilled (Tier 2) work visas, which increased by 11% to 113,958, the highest level on record. The Tier 2 category accounts for 59% of work-related visas granted. However, there were also increases in the number of grants in all other work categories.

For further details see ʻWhy do people come to the UK? To work’.

2.2 Study

In 2019, there were 285,508 Sponsored study (Tier 4) visas granted (including dependants), a 19% increase on 2018, and the highest level since the year ending June 2011.

Chinese nationals were the most common nationality granted Tier 4 visas in 2019, accounting for 42% of the total. Indian nationals also saw a notable increase in the number of Tier 4 visas granted, almost doubling (up 93% to 37,540) compared with 2018, continuing an increase seen since 2016. This was the largest number of grants to Indian students since the year ending September 2011.

In the year ending September 2019 (the latest available data), the vast majority (86%) of those applying for Tier 4 visas in the UK applied for study at higher education (university) institutions.

For further details see ʻWhy do people come to the UK? To study’.

2.3 Family

There were 190,973 visas granted for family reasons in 2019, 27% more than in 2018. There were increases in family-related visas granted (up 30% to 56,647), dependants of people coming to the UK on other types of visas (up 15% to 81,525) and EEA family permits (up 27% to 46,111).

There were also 6,690 EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) family permits granted since the scheme was launched on 30 March 2019.

For further details see ʻWhy do people come to the UK? For family reasons’.

3. How many people do we grant asylum or protection to?

The UK offered protection – in the form of asylum, humanitarian protection, alternative forms of leave and resettlement – to 20,703 people in 2019, up 30% compared with the previous year and similar to levels seen in 2003.

The Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) accounted for over three-quarters (4,408) of those resettled in the UK in 2019. Since it began in 2014, 19,353 people (mainly Syrian nationals) have been resettled under the scheme.

There were 35,566 asylum applications in the UK (main applicants only) in 2019, 21% more than the previous year, but lower than the peak in year ending June 2016. In 2019, 52% of initial decisions on asylum applications were grants of asylum, humanitarian protection or alternative forms of leave (such as discretionary leave or unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC)), compared with 33% in the previous year.

For further details see ʻHow many people do we grant asylum or protection to?’.

4. How many people continue their stay in the UK?

4.1 Extension of temporary stay in the UK

There were 293,812 grants of extensions of stay in the UK in 2019, 18% more than in the previous year. Family was the most common route in which people extended, with 115,180 family-related grants of extensions in 2019, followed by 110,155 extensions in the work category.

4.2 Settlement

There were 94,762 decisions on applications for settlement in the UK from non-EEA nationals in 2019, similar to the previous year. Of these, 91,307 (96%) resulted in a grant.

4.3 EEA nationals and their family members

In 2019, there were 65,606 registration certificates issued to EEA nationals and registration cards issued to non-EEA family members, down 24% on the previous year.

There were 52,426 documents certifying permanent residence and permanent residence cards issued in 2019, 45% fewer than the previous year (down 43,165).

4.4 Citizenship

There were 174,438 applications for British citizenship in 2019, 6% more than the previous year.

In the last 12 months, applications for citizenship by EU nationals have remained fairly stable at 49,480, following increases after 2016. Applications made by non-EU nationals increased by 8% in the most recent year to 124,958.

For further details see ʻHow many people continue their stay in the UK?’.

5. How many people are detained or returned?

5.1 Immigration detention

The number of people entering detention in 2019 was similar to the previous year at 24,443. Prior to this, there has been a downward trend since 2015.

As at 31 December 2019, there were 1,637 people in immigration detention – 8% fewer than on 31 December 2018 and fewer than half the number as at 30 September 2017.

In 2019, 24,512 people left the detention estate (down 4%), a similar number to those entering detention.

Almost two-fifths (39%) of those leaving detention had been detained for 7 days or less, and three-quarters (74%) detained for 28 days or less. There has been an increase in the proportion of people leaving detention within 28 days, from 69% in 2018 to 74% in 2019.

5.2 Returns

In 2019, enforced returns from the UK fell to 7,361, the lowest number since records began in 2004 and 22% lower than the previous year.

There were 11,421 voluntary departures in 2019. Although these data are not directly comparable over time (as voluntary returns are subject to upward revision, as in some cases it can take time to identify people who have left the UK without informing the Home Office), the numbers recorded have fallen since 2015.

For further details see ʻHow many people are detained or returned?’.

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