Today ONS publishes the latest Migration Statistics Quarterly Report, giving estimates of long-term international migration to and from the UK up to December 2015. Published alongside this is the Short Term International Migration (STIM) release, which gives estimates of short-term migration in the year ending (YE) June 2014, and a ‘UK Perspectives’ article on international migration.

The key findings of the reports include:

  • Net UK long-term international migration (someone who changes their country of usual residence for 12 months or more) in the year ending December 2015 was estimated to be 333,000, up 20,000 from YE December 2014 (not statistically significant). Net migration in YE December 2015 was 10,000 higher than the 323,000 published for YE September 2015.
  • In 2014 13%, or 8.3 million, of the UK resident population were born outside the UK. This has risen from 9%, or 5.3 million, in 2004.
  • STIM estimates are available for England and Wales, on the basis of 3 definitions of a short-term migrant:
    • The United Nations (UN) definition of a short-term migrant, 3 to 12 months for the purposes of work or study
    • 3 to 12 months covering all reasons for migration
    • 1 to 12 months covering all reasons for migration
  • The latest STIM estimates show that:
    • Using the UN definition in YE June 2014 there were 165,000 short-term immigrants, a statistically significant increase (43,000) compared with 122,000 in YE June 2013. There were 44,000 short-term emigrants compared with 39,000 the previous year
    • In YE June 2014 short-term immigration for 3 to 12 months, for all reasons stood at 317,000, up 87,000 (statistically significant) from YE June 2013. Short-term emigration of 3 to 12 months for all reasons was 399,000 compared with 384,000 in YE June 2013
    • Short-term immigration of 1 to 12 months for all reasons in YE June 2014 was 1.2 million, a statistically significant increase of 110,000 visits compared with the previous year. Short-term emigration of 1 to 12 months for all reasons was 2.4 million, similar to YE June 2013
    • Nearly 3 out of 4 (73%) of 1 to 12 month short-term immigrants leave within three months and all leave within 12 months. Of all the short-term migrants coming to England and Wales for 1 to 12 months, 62% (719,000) were for the reason ‘other’, which includes visiting family or friends and holidays.
  • It is also possible to calculate the impact that short-term migration (1 to 12 months) has on the resident population (stocks). In YE June 2014, these stock estimates showed that on average during the year 420,000 short-term England and Wales emigrants lived outside the UK compared with 241,000 short-term immigrants living in England and Wales, so the impact of short-term migration (using the 1-12 month definition) was to reduce the resident population in England and Wales.

Today’s figures follow the publication of an ONS report on 12th May explaining the differences between the number of long term migrants entering the UK, measured by the International Passenger Survey (IPS), and the numbers of non-UK nationals registering for National Insurance Numbers (NINos). This concluded that:

  • Short term migration (between 1 to12 months) from the EU for work and study has been growing and largely accounts for the recent differences between the numbers of long-term migrants (over 12 months) and NINo registrations for EU citizens;
  • The International Passenger Survey continues to be the best source of information for measuring long-term international migration
  • NINo registrations are not a good measure of long term migration trends, as they do not necessarily indicate the presence of an individual in the country, or how long they spend here.

There are a number of different definitions that can be used when referring to migrants. The headline net migration figure refers to long-term migration, which is the UN’s definition. Short-term migration refers to those that visit a country other than their usual residence for a period of more than one month but less than one year. The short-term estimates help us to understand the overall picture of international migration; however, short-term migrants – by definition - leave and return to their usual country of residence within 12 months.

Adding together LTIM and STIM estimates does not provide a reliable measure of all migration to and from the UK within a specific time period1. However, LTIM and STIM estimates of immigration and emigration should be considered alongside and in the context of each other. The estimates represent different people migrating for different reasons, but they can help to provide an overall picture of international migration. Historical data on short-term and long-term international migrants are published on the ONS website.

Glen Watson, Deputy National Statistician for Population and Public Policy, said:

“Today’s figures on net long-term migration are not very different to those published last quarter.

We have also published our annual figures on short-term migration, which covers a number of definitions of a short-term migrant.

Under the UN definition of a short-term migrant, someone who visits for 3 to 12 months for the purposes of work or study, there were 165,000 immigrants to England & Wales and 44,000 emigrants in the year ending June 2014.

Using the broadest definition of a short-term migrant, someone who visits for 1 to 12 months for any reason, there were 1.2 million immigrants to England & Wales in the year ending June 2014, roughly half the level of the short-term emigration of 2.4 million over the same period. Both figures include a large proportion of visits under 3 months and a large proportion of visits to see family or friends and holidays.

These figures are useful for giving a detailed picture of UK migration trends, but simply adding together long-term and short-term migration figures does not give a reliable estimate of overall migration.

We are confident the International Passenger Survey remains the best available way of measuring long-term migration to the UK”.

1. Short-term immigration flows are based on journeys, not people, and have methodological differences from LTIM flows. In addition, it is possible for someone to be both a long-term and short-term migrant in the same period, and STIM estimates are based on actual flows whereas LTIM estimates are based on migrants' intentions. The two series were used alongside each other in 12 May report to demonstrate that the gap between the LTIM series and the NINo series could be largely explained by short-term migration.