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Bulgarian and Romanian migration to the UK

We look at the latest changes and trends in migration

There has been a lot of public interest in Bulgarian and Romanian (EU2) migration to the UK, following the end of transitional employment restrictions on 1 January 2014. These restrictions had previously placed limits on the kind of employment Bulgarian and Romanian citizens could undertake in the UK. Latest figures for the year ending March 2015 show that 53,000 EU2 citizens migrated to the UK. This represents 9% of total immigration to the UK.

What do the latest figures show, and how have these changed since 2007?

The latest estimates of long-term migration  from the International Passenger Survey (IPS)  are for the year ending March 2015, when an estimated 53,000 Bulgarian and Romanian citizens immigrated to the UK. This is a statistically significant increase from 28,000 for the year ending March 2014.

International Passenger Survey estimates of long-term immigration to the UK, Bulgarian and Romanian citizens, year ending June 2007 to year ending March 2015

International Passenger Survey estimates of long-term immigration to the UK, Bulgarian and Romanian citizens, year ending June 2007 to year ending March 2015
Source: International Passenger Survey (IPS) - Office for National Statistics

Notes:

  1. Click on image to view an enlarged version.

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This chart shows how migration of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens to the UK has changed since 2007, the year that Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union (EU), subject to transitional employment restrictions. Prior to the year ending June 2013, immigration of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens had peaked at 17,000 in the year ending December 2008, before decreasing to 6,000 by the year ending June 2011. Since 2012, immigration of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens has increased again, reaching 53,000 in the year ending March 2015.

Emigration of EU2 citizens peaked at 12,000 in the year ending December 2008, when the majority stated that they were ‘going home to live’. Since then, emigration of EU2 citizens has been lower and relatively steady, standing at 4,000 in the year ending March 2015.

Since IPS estimates are based on a sample survey, they are subject to statistical uncertainty. This means that some apparent changes may be due to random variability in the sample selected, particularly where estimates are small. However, the rise in Bulgarian and Romanian immigration since 2014 is statistically significant.

We also produce annual estimates of the resident population of the UK by country of birth and nationality. The latest available data were published in August 2015, for January to December 2014. They show the estimated population of Romanian citizens in the UK was 175,000 compared with 128,000 in the previous year. The estimated resident population of Bulgarian citizens was 59,000 compared with 49,000 in the previous year.

Why are Bulgarian and Romanian migrants coming to the UK?

The IPS records a person’s main reason for migration, although it should be noted that this may not be a person’s only reason. In the year ending March 2015, just over three-quarters of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens (42,000) migrated to the UK for work-related reasons. This is a statistically significant increase of 20,000 on the year ending March 2014.

What has been the impact of lifting the restrictions in January 2014?

The best estimates to show any changes in long-term migration between the UK and EU2 countries are from the IPS, since the information is collected at the point of arrival or departure. The estimates for the year ending March 2015 show that there has been an increase in immigration of EU2 citizens to the UK, predominately for work. This increase began in 2013 before the lifting of restrictions, and appears to have continued into 2014.

Figures from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and National Insurance Numbers (NINos) allocated to adult overseas nationals provide information on employment of EU2 nationals. These sources suggest that over the last year there were increases in the number of EU2 nationals either seeking work or in employment.

In the year ending June 2015, Romanian citizens were allocated the largest number of NINos; the total of 170,000 was a 168% increase on the 63,000 NINos allocated in the year to June 2014. Over the same period NINo allocations to Bulgarian nationals increased by 104% from 22,000 to 44,000. A change to the process of recording NINos in 2014, means that the volume of NINo registrations was lower in YE June 2014 and then higher in the latest year to YE June 2015 than would otherwise be the case. Caution should therefore be taken when making comparisons of NINo registrations between these periods.

The NINo statistics represent a flow measure of non-UK nationals registering for a NINo. These patterns will also include short-term migrants and are not a direct measure of when a person immigrated to the UK, as those registering may have arrived to live in the UK weeks, months or years before registering.

Data from the LFS shows the number of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens in employment in the UK. The latest estimates show 178,000 Bulgarian and Romanian nationals employed in the UK in April to June 2015, a 30% increase on the same period in 2014. This compares with an increase of 16% to 838,000 for EU15 (excluding British) citizens and an increase of 12% to 959,000 for EU8 citizens. Labour Force Survey figures are estimates of the stock of people aged 16 and over working in the UK, and are not a measure of when people have immigrated to the UK.

When will data for 2015 become available?

International Passenger Survey (IPS) statistics estimate the number of long-term migrants entering and leaving the UK during a given period. A long-term migrant is defined as someone changing their country of usual residence for a period of at least one year. Estimates for year ending March 2015 were published on 27 August 2015. These figures show estimates of how many long-term immigrants have arrived from Bulgaria and Romania.

Population by country of birth and nationality data show how many of the usually resident population of the UK were born outside the UK and how many are non-British nationals. It is important to note that these figures do not include people living in communal establishments, such as university halls of residence. Estimates are published annually and 2014 estimates were published on 27 August 2015.

Employment levels by country of birth and nationality data show the number of Bulgarian-born and Romanian-born people and Bulgarian and Romanian nationals in employment in the UK. They may have arrived recently and taken up employment immediately, or come to the UK in the past and only recently taken up employment. Estimates for April to June 2015 were published on 12 August 2015.

Allocations of National Insurance numbers (NINos) to adult overseas nationals show the number of non-British nationals who have been allocated a NINo in a given time period. It is important to note that people are not necessarily allocated a NINo during the same quarter in which they immigrate to the UK. These data will also include people who stay in the UK for less than one year. Estimates for the year ending June 2015 were published on 27 August 2015.

Where can I find out more about migration statistics?

If you would like to find out more about the latest international migration statistics, please see the Migration Statistics Quarterly Report or visit our international migration page, which includes a First Time User Guide to international migration statistics (375.6 Kb Pdf) . If you have any comments or suggestions, we would like to hear them. Please email us at: migstatsunit@ons.gov.uk

Notes for Bulgarian and Romanian migration to the UK:

  1. A long-term migrant is defined as someone who changes their country of usual residence for a period of at least a year. 

  2. The International Passenger Survey (IPS) is a large sample survey carried out at airports, seaports and tunnel routes throughout the UK. It identifies between 4,000 and 5,000 long-term migrants each year from a sample of between 700,000 and 800,000 passengers. IPS estimates of long-term international migration do not include adjustments for asylum seekers, people who change their migration intentions and people who cross the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. 

Categories: Population, Migration, International Migration
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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