Record immigration
levels prior
to Brexit

With the Office of National Statistics publishing the UK’s highest annual level of migration ever recorded, employment opportunities prove to be the primary reason for immigration to Britain reaching 650,000 in the run up to the EU referendum.

It is important to note that the International Passenger Survey data in this release relates to the year ending June 2016, unless otherwise stated, and as such does not cover the period following the UK’s vote to leave the EU (apart from one week).  Labour market data is available to the end of September 2016 and therefore includes 3 months of data following the EU Referendum.

Net migration

Net migration to the UK in the year-ending June 2016 has been estimated at 335,000, a similar figure to year ending June 2015. Of this total, 189,000 migrants are of EU citizenship and 196,000 are of non-EU citizenship.

EU migration

It is estimated that 284,000 EU citizens immigrated to the UK (the highest estimate ever recorded), compared with 265,000 in the year ending June 2015. The most commonly stated reasons for immigration to the UK are work or study. Of the 284,000 EU nationals who came to the UK, around 63% entered the country for work reasons and 22% for study.

Non-EU migration

Similar to 2015’s estimate, immigration of non-EU citizens during 2016 was approximated to have reached 289,000. Significantly, this is only 5,000 more than the number of EU citizens migrating to the UK during the same period and reaffirms the continual narrowing of the gap between the two citizenship groups in recent years.


311,000 people migrated to the UK for work reasons.  Of these, 182,000 (59%) had a definite job to go to. There were 164,501* work-related visas granted to non-European Economic Area nationals in the year ending September 2016 including just under 94,000* Tier 2 visas.


Long-term immigration to the UK for study fell by 30,000 to 163,000. This is the lowest estimate since 2007 and can be attributed to the Government’s on-going drive to significantly reduce overseas student numbers.  Of the 163,000 individuals who did choose the UK for study reasons, 22% of these were EU citizens and 73% were non-EU citizens.


The third most popular reason behind migration to the UK is to accompany or join family members who are already here. Of all long-term immigrants arriving in the year ending June 2016, 12% (80,000) arrived in the UK to accompany or join other family members.


315,000 people emigrated from the UK this past year, with 53% of emigrants leaving for work-related reasons.

Settlement in the UK

The number of non-EEA nationals granted permission to stay permanently in the UK fell by 38% to 61,664 in the year ending September 2016.

*Figures include dependants.


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