1. Main points

  • There are three measures of short-term migration - those that migrate between 1 to 12 months for all reasons, 3 to 12 months for all reasons and the United Nations (UN) definition of those that migrate for 3 to 12 months for work and study; all estimates in this report are for short-term international migration to and from England and Wales.

  • In year ending (YE) June 2015, short-term immigration for 3 to 12 months for all reasons stood at 304,000 – of these, 39% (118,000) were for the reason “other” (which includes holidays and travelling; visiting or accompanying family and friends; and working holidays); short-term emigration of 3 to 12 months for all reasons was 390,000.

  • Using the UN definition, in the YE June 2015 there were 160,000 short-term immigrants and 39,000 visits away, both similar to YE June 2014.

  • Short-term immigration of 1 to 12 months for all reasons in YE June 2015 was 1.2 million, (where three out of four of these left within 3 months); short-term emigration of 1 to 12 months for all reasons was 2.7 million, a statistically significant increase of 265,000 compared with the previous year.

  • There were more than twice as many visits (1 to 12 months) abroad than to England and Wales and this pattern has been similar since YE June 2004; there is a similar pattern for the 3 to 12 month migrants but the gap is smaller and the opposite is true when using the UN definition of short-term migration.

  • “Other reasons” are the most common main reason for short-term international migration both to and from England and Wales.

  • Home Office data for 2016 show that entry clearance visas for non-European Economic Area nationals were issued as follows: 58,000 short-term work visas (of which 60% were for less than 6 months), 55,000 short-term sponsored study visas (46% for up to 6 months) and 87,000 short-term study visas (91% for up to 6 months).

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2. Things you need to know about this release

A short-term international migrant is someone who visits a country other than that of his or her usual residence for a period of between 1 and 12 months, as opposed to a long-term migrant, who changes their country of usual residence for a year or more, for which statistics are published separately. STIM estimates have been published annually since 2007.

Short-Term International Migration (STIM) estimates for England and Wales are available on the basis of three definitions:

  • United Nations (UN) definition of a short-term migrant – “a person who moves to a country other than that of his or her usual residence for a period of at least 3 months but less than a year (12 months), except in cases where the movement to that country is for purposes of recreation, holiday, visits to friends or relatives, business, medical treatment or religious pilgrimage”

  • 3 to 12 months – all reasons for migration, this includes the UN definition and the categories “Work (other)” and “Other”

  • 1 to 12 months – all reasons for migration, this includes the above but for 1 to 12 months. As such this definition captures more visits made for holidays and to visit family and friends

The citizenship, age and sex tables associated with this publication are available for all three definitions. With the exception of sections 3 and 5, this bulletin refers to the 3 to 12 months definition. This group are more likely to use resources and services in their destination country than those visiting for 1 to 2 months.

To be included as a short-term international immigrant to England and Wales under any of these definitions, a person arriving must have been usually resident outside the UK for 12 months or more (these tend to be foreign citizens, but can include British citizens). Similarly, a short-term international emigrant from England and Wales must have been usually resident in the UK for 12 months or more prior to leaving (these tend to be British citizens, but can include foreign citizens).

Currently STIM estimates are only available for England and Wales, for information see STIM – frequently asked questions.

STIM estimates are produced directly from the International Passenger Survey (IPS) at the end of the person’s stay in the country. This means that data for short-term migrants are only available for the reporting period after they have completed their visit, so figures for 2015 are only available in 2017. This is necessary for accuracy, as short-term migrants are often unsure as to the length of their visit.

To help improve timeliness provisional STIM estimates are published, which use 18 months of final IPS data and 6 months of provisional data. The provisional estimates are then updated the following year. Using this method we know the start of the person’s arrival or departure and when they are leaving or returning to the UK.

The method used for STIM is different from the method used for estimating long-term international migration (LTIM), where people are interviewed at the start of their stay and defined as long-term by their intended length of stay. LTIM estimates are available for the UK.

STIM estimates can also be used to estimate the impact of short-term international migration on the overall population. For example, if four migrants each stayed in England and Wales for 3 months, this would be the equivalent of one person staying for 1 year and so the “stock” equivalent would be 1. Stocks are calculated from the number of stays and the length of stay. In YE June 2015, the stock estimates showed that, on average, during the year there were 448,000 short-term emigrants compared with 247,000 short-term immigrants using the 1 to 12 month definition; using the 3 to 12 month definition there were 156,000 and 128,000 respectively, showing that, on average, short-term migration reduces the resident population in England and Wales; however, using the UN definition the opposite is the case, 18,000 short-term emigrants compared with 69,000 short-term immigrants.

Adding together LTIM and STIM estimates does not provide a reliable measure of all immigration to the UK within a specific time period. 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 covers migrants' intentions. However, although they cannot be added together to provide one single measure of international migration, LTIM and STIM estimates of immigration and emigration should be considered alongside and in the context of each other. These estimates represent different people migrating for different reasons but they can help to provide an overall picture of international migration.

On 12 May 2016 we published an information note explaining the reasons why long-term international immigration figures from the IPS could differ from the number of National Insurance number (NINo) registrations. It noted that the two series are likely to differ because of short-term immigration; definitional differences between the data sources; timing differences between arriving in the UK and registering for a NINo; and a change to the process of recording NINos during Quarter 2 (April to June) 2014. Definitional differences between these data are fundamental and it is not possible to provide an accounting type reconciliation that simply “adds” and “subtracts” different elements of the NINo registrations to match the LTIM and STIM definitions.

Following feedback from the Consultation on International Migration Statistics Outputs in November 2016, one of the recommendations was to redesign the Migration Statistics Quarterly Report and migration products to meet user needs of developing a more coherent story of international migration in the UK, which could incorporate STIM estimates. With regards to STIM estimates no preference was noted for the different definitions, so we will continue to publish all definitions in the supporting data tables so users have the option to use the definition best suited to their purpose.

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3. More than twice as many short-term visits were made abroad than to England and Wales

Figure 1 shows that for the 1 to 12 months and 3 to 12 months definition of short-term international migration, there are considerably more short-term emigration visits by usual residents of England and Wales to other countries than there are visits to England and Wales by usual residents of other countries. It also highlights there are considerably higher short-term international migration flows for periods of 1 to 12 months than there are for 3 to 12 months. This is largely due to the 1 to 12 months definition capturing more visits made for holidays and to visit family and friends, as most of these visits are likely to be for a shorter time period.

Immigration

In year ending (YE) June 2015 there were an estimated 1.2 million short-term international visits to England and Wales for 1 to 12 months, comparable with the previous year. Of these, 43% (513,000) were visits by EU citizens, 42% (504,000) by non-EU citizens and 15% (183,000) by British citizens.

Short-term immigration for 3 to 12 months was estimated at 304,000 in YE June 2015, similar to the previous year. Of these, 48% (147,000) were visits by EU citizens, 43% (131,000) by non-EU citizens and 9% (27,000) by British citizens. Immigration of British citizens in YE June 2015 saw a statistically significant increase of 15,000 compared with YE June 2014. There was a statistically significant decrease in the estimated number of visits for 3 to 12 months from the rest of the world (Africa, the Americas and Oceania) in YE June 2015, with 45,000 visits, a decrease of 23,000 from the previous year. This can be partly accounted for by a statistically significant decrease in visits from North America with 15,000 visits, a decrease of 19,000 from the previous year. Each of the other definitions also showed similar statistically significant decreases for this area.

There were an estimated 160,000 short-term international visits to England and Wales for 3 to 12 months under the UN definition (a visit of between 3 to 12 months for employment or study purposes) in YE June 2015. Of these 65% (104,000) were made by EU citizens, 35% (56,000) were made by non-EU citizens and less than 1% (1,000) were made by British citizens.

Emigration

In YE June 2015 there were an estimated 2.7 million short-term international visits away from England and Wales for 1 to 12 months, a statistically significant increase of 265,000 compared with the previous year. Of these, 15% (402,000) were visits by EU citizens, a statistically significant increase of 86,000, 17% (467,000) were made by non-EU citizens, a statistically significant increase of 85,000, and 68% (1.8 million) were made by British citizens. Within the EU, statistically significant increases were seen for EU8 (152,000, up 45,000) and EU2 (75,000, up 32,000) citizens.

Spain remains the most commonly visited country by usual residents of England and Wales emigrating for 1 to 12 months, with 255,000 visits, followed by France (218,000) and India (209,000).

Short-term emigration for 3 to 12 months was estimated at 390,000 in YE June 2015, similar to the previous year. Of these, 12% (45,000) were visits by EU citizens, 23% (89,000) were visits by non-EU citizens and 66% (256,000) were made by British citizens. The most commonly visited country by usual residents of England and Wales emigrating for 3 to 12 months was again Spain (38,000), followed by India (36,000) and France (28,000).

There was an estimated 39,000 short-term international visits away from England and Wales for 3 to 12 months under the UN definition (a visit of between 3 to 12 months for employment or study purposes) in YE June 2015. Of these, 10% (4,000) were made by EU citizens, 8% (3,000) were made by non-EU citizens, and 82% (32,000) were made by British citizens.

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4. Why do people visit for less than 12 months?

There are four main categories for a person’s main reason for visit: employment, study, work (other) and “other”. Employment refers to the UN definition of employment (for details, see Short-term international migration – frequently asked questions) but excludes those visiting on business for their existing employer; these are included in “work – other” along with self-employment. Study includes all formal higher and further education but excludes evening and informal tuition. “Other” reasons include holidays and travelling; visiting or accompanying family and friends; working holidays; medical treatment; and religious pilgrimage.

The estimates presented so far have been for each of the three definitions of short-term international migration, which serves to highlight the differences in estimates, all are useful depending on user needs. The following sections will concentrate mostly on estimates for 3 to 12 months (all reasons), as this group are more likely to use resources and services in their destination country than those visiting for 1 to 2 months. All data for each definition are included in the accompanying datasets.

Of short-term international migration visits into the country, 39% are for those coming for “other” reasons, such as holiday, visiting friends or family. As would be expected, the same is also true for those leaving England and Wales to visit another country but with a majority of 84%. This pattern is similar for 1 to 12 months and those visits away from the UK made for “other reasons” saw a statistically significant increase of 243,000 to 2.5 million in year ending (YE) June 2015, compared with the previous year.

Short-term visas by nationality

Visa data relates to those non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationals, who are subject to immigration control and who require a visa. EEA nationals do not normally require a visa to enter the UK (although a small number of EEA nationals do apply and are issued with visas). For more information about non-visa nationals, please refer to the Home Office guidance.

In this bulletin, a short-term visa is defined as being a visa of less than 12 months duration issued to those who have arrived in the UK for work or study; this definition is presented to better align visa data with the UN definition of short-term international migration. The figures presented relate to visas issued for entry clearance to the UK and do not relate to individual countries within the UK. The figures also include dependants.

It is important to recognise that visa duration does not necessarily represent length of stay. Many individuals will depart prior to the expiry date, whilst a proportion of these may also be granted extensions of stay. For example, it is not possible to determine whether a holder of a visa has actually stayed for 3 months or more.

Figure 3 shows trends in short-term visas issued for less than 12 months for work and study combined (including short-term study, previously described as “student visitors”).

Total short-term visas issued for work and study fell from 159,000 in 2006 to 139,000 in 2009 and then steadily increased, reaching 202,000 in 2013. There was then a small fall to 171,000 in 2015, followed by an increase to 200,000 in 2016 (17%).

Short-term international migration for employment for 3 to 12 months

This section explores patterns of employment (including those looking for a job). There are two definitions of “employment” to consider:

  • employment as defined by the UN (henceforth referred to as “employment”) includes migrants going to a definite new job, including au pair work, and those seeking a job, but excludes those visiting on business for their existing employer or those who are self-employed

  • other employment (in tables this is labelled as “work (other)”) refers to migrants visiting on business for their existing employer and for self-employment

In YE June 2015, employment and work (other) accounted for 38% (117,000) of 3 to 12 months short-term international visits to England and Wales from outside the UK, similar to the previous year. Of these visits, 76% (89,000) were made by EU citizens. In contrast, employment and work (other) accounted for 13% (50,000) of all short-term international visits of 3 to 12 months away from England and Wales. The majority (86% or 43,000) of these visits were made by British citizens.

Short-term visas for work (non-European Economic Area nationals)

Home Office data on the number of entry clearance visas issued show that 58,000 (36%) of the 164,000 work visas issued in 2016 were short-term. Of the short-term work visas, 13% were for less than 3 months, 48% were for between 3 and 6 months, and a further 40% were for from 6 months to less than 1 year.

The latest figures show that, from 2015 to 2016, there was a 19% (9,000) increase in short-term work visas issued, from 49,000 to 58,000, mainly accounted for by an increase in short-term Intra Company Transfers (ICTs) issued to Indian nationals, from 10,000 to 18,000.

The increase in short-term work visas follows a sharp decrease the previous year, from 65,000 in 2014 to 49,000 in 2015. The previous decrease was almost entirely accounted for by a 15,000 fall in visas of under 365 days issued in the category “short-term intra-company transfers” (with a concurrent increase of 14,000 issued for exactly 365 or 366 days, moving them in to the long-term category in line with Office for National Statistics definitions for long-term migration). The recent increase was almost entirely accounted for by an increase in short-term ICTs issued for under 365 days, from 13,000 to 21,000 (with a concurrent decrease of 8,000 issued for exactly 365 or 366 days, moving them in to the long-term category).

Short-term international migration for study for 3 to 12 months

Short-term international migration for 3 to 12 months for study includes all formal higher and further education but excludes evening classes and informal tuition.

In YE June 2015, of the total (304,000) 3 to 12 months short-term international visits to England and Wales, 69,000 (23%) were made for study purposes, compared with 87,000 the previous year (not statistically significant). By contrast, of the visits made by England and Wales residents overseas for 3 to 12 months, only 4% (14,000) were made for study.

In each year for which data are available, considerably more short-term international study visits have been made to England and Wales for 3 to 12 months than have been made away from England and Wales.

Of those international visits to England and Wales for study, 59% (41,000) were made by citizens of non-EU countries and 41% (28,000) were visits made by EU citizens.

Short-term visas for study

There are two kinds of study visa referenced in this bulletin: short-term (less than 1 year) regular sponsored study visas and short-term study visas (previously described as “student visitors”).

In 2016, 55,000 short-term sponsored study visas and 87,000 short-term study visas were issued. There has been a 39% increase in short-term study visas issued, up 24,000 from 63,000 in 2015. Of the 87,000 short-term study visas issued, 91% were issued for up to 6 months and 9% were issued for the extended period of up to 11 months. The 55,000 short-term sponsored study visas granted in 2016 was a fall of 8% (down 5,000) compared with 2015 (60,000). Figure 12 shows trends in short-term visas issued for sponsored study and short-term study for 2005 onwards.

Of the 55,000 short-term (under 365 days) sponsored study visas issued in 2016, 13% were for less than 3 months, 33% were for between 3 and 6 months, and a further 54% were for from 6 months to less than 1 year.

Combining the short-term regular sponsored study visas and short-term study visas gives 105,000 visas that were issued for less than 6 months (74%) and 37,000 (26%) for more than 6 months but less than 1 year.

Passenger arrivals in the UK

The number of visas granted is an indicator of the level of immigration of non-EEA nationals, but not all nationalities require visas for a stay of up to 6 months (such as US nationals). For example, in 2015 there were an estimated 9.4 million admissions in the visitor category, of which 2.7 million were US nationals who do not need a visa. Over the same period, 1.9 million visitor visas were issued.

Data on admissions counts the number of passenger arrivals of all nationalities (including more than one arrival by the same passenger in the same period). However, data on admissions and visas cannot be directly compared as they use different counts of the same group of people. There are a range of other reasons for the differences between these figures, which include:

  • visas can be granted in one period and the individual arrives in a later period

  • the individual may not arrive

  • the individual may make more than one journey into the UK in the period the visa is valid

  • not all individuals arriving require a visa for entry

  • arrivals are based on estimates of landing cards, while visas granted are sourced from the database used to process the visas

In 2015 there were an estimated 306,000 admissions in the short-term study (previously described as “student visitors”) category. These data include large numbers of non-visa nationals (such as US and Brazilian nationals) who, if studying for less than 6 months, do not require a visa. US nationals accounted for the largest proportion of short-term study admissions in 2015 at 185,000 (60% of admissions), with Japan (4%), Brazil (4%) and China (4%) the next largest nationalities. Over the same period 63,000 visas were issued for short-term study.

Whilst the admissions and visas data do not identify how many of those travelling were short-term migrants using the International Passenger Survey definitions of short-term migration, these may suggest that the largest proportions are likely to have been for the visitors, short-term study and work categories. They also indicate that those granted visas are a fraction of the total short-term non-EEA immigration to the UK.

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5. How many short-term migrants are in or away from England and Wales at any one time?

Short-Term International Migration (STIM) estimates can also be used to estimate the impact of short-term international migration on the overall population. For example, if four migrants each stayed in England and Wales for 3 months, this would be the equivalent of one person staying for 1 year and so the “stock” equivalent would be 1. Likewise, two migrants staying for 6 months would give the equivalent of one person staying for 1 year. In the second example, the number of arrivals is half that of the first example but results in the same stock estimate.

Stocks are calculated from the number of stays and the length of stay, so an increase in either can lead to an increase in stocks. Stocks give an average number of migrants in the country on an average day. For more information about how short-term international migration stocks are calculated, please refer to the Short-term international migration methodology – national estimates. Stock estimates are referred to as “in-stock”, that is, those coming into England and Wales, and “out-stock”, those who have left England and Wales.

An estimate of net short-term international migration based on flows data is not appropriate (for more information refer to Frequently Asked Questions), but these stocks estimates do show that the impact of short-term migration, on average, reduces the resident population in England and Wales.

On an average day in year ending (YE) June 2015, there would have been approximately 18 usual residents of England and Wales visiting abroad for 1 to 12 months, for every 10 short-term migrants in England and Wales for 1 to 12 months from outside the UK.

Using the 3 to 12 month definition, there would have been approximately 16 usual residents of England and Wales visiting abroad, for every 13 short-term migrants in England and Wales from outside the UK in YE June 2015.

Conversely, using the UN definition there would be approximately 3 usual residents of England and Wales visiting abroad, for every 10 short-term migrants in England and Wales from outside the UK in YE June 2015. This is because there are more short-term migrants coming into England and Wales for study and work purposes compared with those leaving for these reasons on a short-term basis. However, these numbers are much smaller than using the other definitions of short-term migration.

Not surprisingly, the majority of the in-stock of short-term migrants comprises both EU and non-EU citizens, whilst most of the out-stock of short-term migrants comprises British citizens.

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6. Most UN defined short-term immigrants go to London and the South East

Using a range of administrative data sources, it is possible to estimate the number of short-term international visits made to each local authority in England and Wales for employment and study reasons for 3 to 12 months. The local authority totals will not compare exactly to the national estimates. This is because local authority estimates refer to moves made to the UK for 3 to 12 months for purposes of employment and study by non-UK residents who are not British citizens. For more information about how local authority estimates are calculated, please refer to the Short-term international migration methodology.

In year ending (YE) June 2015, the highest estimates of short-term international visits made for employment for 3 to 12 months were to London (34,214 or 38%) and the South East of England (13,233 or 15%). This compares with YE June 2014, where London again had the highest estimate of short-term international visits, at 41% (31,499), followed again by the South East of England with 14% of visits (10,546). The North East (1% or 1,264) and Wales (2% or 1,534) had the lowest estimates of short-term migration for employment for 3 to 12 months. This was also the case the previous year.

Table 1 shows the 10 local authorities in England and Wales with the highest estimates of short-term international migration for employment in YE June 2015, alongside the estimates for previous years. With the exception of Birmingham and Peterborough, the areas are all in London.

Short-term international immigration for study, 3 to 12 months by local authority

Similar to employment, the region with the highest estimates of short-term immigration for study is London, to which 29% (19,245) of all short-term international visits were made. A further 15% (10,304) were made to the South East of England. Wales (2,598 or 4%) and the North East of England (2,746 or 4%) had the lowest short-term immigration visits for study purposes.

Camden (2,371 or 4%) had the highest estimate of short-term international visits for study of any local authority in England and Wales, closely followed by Manchester, at 2,349 (4%). Table 2 shows the 10 local authorities in England and Wales with the highest estimates of short-term international immigration for study in YE June 2015, alongside the estimates for previous years. All of the areas are cities, home to multiple universities and further education providers.

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8. Quality and methodology

The Short-term International Migration Quality and Methodology Information document contains important information on:

  • the strengths and limitations of the data and how it compares with related data

  • uses and users of the data

  • how the output was created

  • the quality of the output including the accuracy of the data

For more detailed information on how our migration statistics are used and the methodology please see: Short-term international migration – frequently asked questions, Short-term international migration methodology – national estimates and Short-term international migration methodology – local authority estimates.

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