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Long-term international migration within the UK

Latest estimates on international migration show that fewer people are migrating to the UK.

Long-term international migration (LTIM) is the most comprehensive estimate of long-term migrants entering and leaving the UK. A long-term migrant is defined as someone who changes their country of usual residence for a period of at least a year.

Latest provisional migration estimates (published February 2013) show that:

  • Total long-term immigration to the UK was 515,000 in the year to June 2012, down from 589,000 in the year to June 2011.

  • Total long-term emigration from the UK was 352,000 in the year to June 2012, up from 342,000 in the year to June 2011.

  • Net long-term migration to the UK was 163,000 in the year to June 2012, significantly lower than the 247,000 estimated in the year to June 2011.

Changes in net migration are caused by changes in one or both of immigration and emigration. For example, the rise in net migration between years ending December 2008 and September 2010 was driven by falling emigration. However, the recent decline in net migration since the year ending September 2011 has been driven by a fall in immigration.

Figure 1.1: Latest total long-term international migration estimates, UK, 2002–2012 (year to June 2012)

Figure 1.1: Latest total long-term international migration estimates, UK, 2002–2012 (year to June 2012)
Source: Long-term International Migration - Office for National Statistics


  1. Figures for YE Mar 12 and YE Jun 12 are provisional.
  2. Up to YE Dec 09, data are only available at six month intervals.

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Who is migrating to the UK?

An estimated 282,000 non-EU citizens arrived to live in the UK in the year to June 2012, which is 55% of all immigrants.

From within the EU, 157,000 EU citizens (excluding British) migrated to the UK in the year ending June 2012, similar to the estimate of 175,000 the previous year. Of these citizens, 62,000 were citizens of the countries that joined the EU in May 2004: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, known collectively as the EU8.

Why are people migrating?

Study has been the most common reason for migrating to the UK since December 2009. In the year to June 2012, an estimated 197,000 people migrated to the UK for study, which is significantly lower than the 239,000 people who arrived to study 12 months previously. Work-related reasons are the next most common main reason given for migration to the UK. In the year to June 2012, 173,000 migrants arrived for work-related reasons.

Work-related reasons also continue to be the main reasons given for emigration. An estimated 201,000 (57%) emigrated from the UK for work-related reasons in the year ending June 2012. Of these people, 125,000 (62%) left for a definite job.

Where are people migrating from or intending to emigrate to?

The top five countries of origin of immigrants (including percentage total of all immigration) to the UK in 2011 were:

  • India (12%)

  • China (8%)

  • Pakistan (8%)

  • Poland (6%)

  • Australia (5%)

There was a significant increase in the numbers of migrants coming to the UK from China, from 29,000 in 2010 to 44,000 in 2011. The majority (40,000) of these intended to study in the UK.

Prior to 2010, Pakistan had not been in the top five countries of origin since 2007. However, there has been an increase in the number of migrants from Pakistan, to 43,000 in 2011. 30,000 migrants from Pakistan arrived in 2011 to study in the UK.

Over the last five years, fourth and fifth places in the ranking have fluctuated between Australia, Germany, the USA, Pakistan and China.

The top five countries of destination for emigrants from the UK (including percentage total of all emigration) in 2011 were:

  • Australia (15%)

  • India (7%)

  • USA (7%)

  • Poland (6%)

  • France (6%)

Australia remains the most popular country of destination for emigrants from the UK. In 2011, final estimates show that 49,000 emigrants from the UK intended to live in Australia. Of this number, 36,000 were British citizens.

There was an increase in emigration to India between 2010 and 2011, from 15,000 to 23,000. This increase made India the joint second most common country to emigrate to in 2011, alongside the USA.

Poland was the second most common destination in 2008 at 50,000, but now shares fourth place with France, each with 20,000 emigrants leaving the UK in 2011.


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