Migration Statistics Over Time


1. Since the late 1990s, net migration to the UK has been rising and records regularly broken. The high-water mark was 745,000 in 2022 (originally reported by the Office for National Statistics as 606,000). The charts and table in this revamped tracker will automatically update every day in the late afternoon.

What is net migration?

2. Net migration is the difference between the number of people who have come to Britain (immigrants), and those who have left (emigrants). If the number of immigrants was equivalent to the number of emigrants, net migration would be net zero. The last time net migration to the UK was that low was 1993, before which net migration had periodically fallen below zero, resulting in a net outflow of people to which the emigration of British nationals made a significant contribution.

If you would like to see the above data in a table, click here.[1] If you would like to see an equivalent chart for the year ending June, click here.

How has the make-up of migrants changed?

3. Post-2004, immigration from Eastern and Central Europe considerably increased immigration from the European Union, prior to this it had been comparatively low. However, It wasn't until 2012 that EU migration started outstripping non-EU migration.

4. Chart 2 reveals that from 2010 to 2019, major immigration to the UK came from the European Union. After Brexit, EU immigration to the UK declined. In 2022, Chart 3 indicates a shift – out of 1.3 million visas, only 47,000 went to EU nationals. Meanwhile, migration from South and East Asia increased significantly, with noticeable rises from the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, albeit to a lesser degree.

If you would like to see the above data in a table, click here.[2]

If you would like to see the above data in a table, click here.[3] As a result of the UK’s past membership of the European Union, most entrants from the EU did not need a visa, as such they are, largely, not shown within visa statistics prior to 2020.

Immigration by category

If you would like to see the above data in a table, click here.[4]

The Points-Based System

5. The UK first introduced a points-based system (PBS) for immigration in 2008. However, during the referendum campaign and later in the lead-up to the 2019 election, the Conservative Party led by Boris Johnson championed an 'Australian-style' points-based system. In the event, the system introduced bore little resemblance to the Australian one, which features an overall limit, and was loosened to the extent that Migration Watch UK said would likely increase immigration rather than reduce it as was being claimed by Mr Johnson.

6. A number of visa routes were introduced or widened in the wake of the ending of free movement with the European Union in 2020. The most important changes related to work immigration. Prior to adopting the new PBS, general visas for high skilled work to non-EU nationals required a degree or its equivalent qualification level, a salary of £30,000 or more, and from 2011 was limited to 20,700 visas a year. Along with other changes, the skill requirement was reduced to A-level equivalent, the salary requirement reduced to £25,600, the requirement that employers advertised jobs in the UK first was abandoned and the number of people who could be issued a work visa was uncapped.[5]

7. Regardless of what this liberalisation of immigration rules was meant to do, as the above charts make clear the changes turbocharged immigration from outside of the EU.


8. A notable trend in recent years has been the significant increase in the number of dependants (spouse and/or children) entering the UK alongside main applicants. This has been particularly noticeable among postgraduate student migrants, leading the government to restrict who can bring dependants from 2024.

If you would like to see the above data in a table, click here.[6]

9. As chart 5 below shows, up to 2020 student dependants made up only a small proportion of the total. Never, until 2021, more than 9%. In 2022, however, this grew to 22%.

10. However, the number of dependants permitted is not the same for all nationalities. For instance, in the 2022-23 academic year, for every 100 EU students there was just one dependant. For the developed generally, the figure was four per hundred.

11. By contrast, students from South Asia brought 36 dependants per hundred students, and from sub-Saharan Africa, more dependants came than students at a ratio of 103 dependents for every hundred students.

12. The number of work dependants has also risen, from an average of 36% in the 2010s to 48% in the first half of 2023.

How has immigration affected different regions of the UK?

13. The scale of immigration has greatly affected the demographic make-up of the UK. As the chart below shows, utilising data from the past three censuses mass migration has rapidly changed the demographics of London. The white British population having fallen from 60% in 2001 to just 37% in 2021.

14. Other regions in the UK are also rapidly changing and an increasing number now have a population comprising less than 80% White British. However, as the ONS census map shows here, migrants are frequently going to particular areas. Towns and cities, such as Birmingham, Leicester, Luton and Slough now have minority White British populations.


  1. House of Commons Library, Research Briefing: Migration statistics (CBP06077-data), 31 May 2023, available at: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn06077/
  2. Office for National Statistics, Provisional long-term international migration estimates, 27 August 2020, available at: ONS Website
  3. Home Office, Immigration system statistics, quarterly release (Entry clearance visa applications and outcomes detailed datasets), available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/immigration-statistics-quarterly-release
  4. Home Office, Immigration system statistics, quarterly release.
  5. House of Commons Library, The UK’s new points-based immigration system, 27 September 2022, p.16. Available at: https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-8911/CBP-8911.pdf
  6. Home Office, Immigration system statistics, quarterly release.