Residence permits statistics
- Data extracted in October 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: November 2018.
This article presents European Union (EU) statistics on first residence permits issued to non-EU citizens. Data are based on the regulatory framework provided by Article 6 of Regulation (EC) No 862/2007 on migration and international protection statistics.
Residence permits represent an authorisation issued by the competent authorities of a country allowing nationals of non-member (non-EU) countries (also known as third country nationals) to stay legally on its territory. Data on residence permits are collected by the reasons for issuing such permits — the main reasons include: employment opportunities, family reconciliation and educational opportunities, while ‘other reasons’ encompass stays without the right to work or international protection.
The development of residence permits in individual EU Member States reflects the national migration systems’ diversity and the impact of European immigration policy. Other factors such as characteristics of nationals of non-member countries, the legal frameworks and characteristics of countries involved in the immigration process — such as their geographical proximity or language ties — can also be important.
National administrative registers and databases are the main sources for these statistics, with the exception of the United Kingdom . Note that all of the EU-28 information reported for 2016 has been estimated; this involved summing the 2016 data available for 27 of the EU Member States and adding the data from the 2015 reference period for Ireland (no data available for 2016).
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 See also
- 5 Further Eurostat information
- 6 External links
- 7 Notes
Main statistical findings
In 2016, around 3.4 million first residence permits were issued in the EU-28  to nationals of non-member countries. This latest value was a record high — information exists since 2008 — representing a 28 % increase (or an additional 733 thousand permits) when compared with data for 2015 (see Figure 1).
Among the EU Member States, the United Kingdom  issued the highest number (866 thousand) of first residence permits in 2016, followed by Poland (586 thousand) and Germany (505 thousand). There was a considerable gap to France (235 thousand), Italy (222 thousand) and Spain (212 thousand), while Sweden (147 thousand) also recorded more than 100 thousand permits issued. These seven Member States together accounted for more than four fifths (83 %) of all first residence permits issued in the EU-28 in 2016 (see Table 1).
In 2016, the highest number of first residence permits in the EU-28 was issued for other reasons (1.03 million, or 31 % of all first permits issued), followed by employment-related reasons (853 thousand, or 25 %), family-related reasons (779 thousand, or 23 %) and education-related reasons (695 thousand, or 21 %).
Compared with 2015, the highest increase in the number of first residence permits issued in the EU-28 was recorded for other reasons (up 401 thousand permits in 2016). This increase was mainly due to a large increase (up 280 thousand) of permits issued to beneficiaries of international protection (from 140 thousand in 2015 to 420 thousand in 2016). Together with first permits issued for humanitarian reasons this category made up 14 % of all first permits in the EU in 2016. For each of the three other main reasons there was also an increase in the number of permits issued in 2016, with a rise of 169 thousand additional permits for education-related reasons, 145 thousand additional permits for employment-related reasons and 19 thousand additional permits for family-related reasons (see Figure 2).
Compared with the size of the resident population, there were an estimated 6.6 first residence permits issued in the EU-28 per 1 000 inhabitants in 2016; this was about 50 % more than the equivalent ratio for 2011 when there were an estimated 4.3 permits issued per 1 000 inhabitants (see Figure 3).
Across the EU Member States in 2016, the highest ratios of first residence permits to population were recorded in Malta (20.6 permits issued per 1 000 inhabitants), Cyprus (19.9), Poland (15.4), Sweden (14.8) and the United Kingdom (13.2). By contrast, at the other end of the range, fewer than 2.0 permits were issued per 1 000 inhabitants in Slovakia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania — where the lowest ratio was recorded, at 0.6 first residence permits issued per 1 000 inhabitants.
First residence permits by reason
Poland (494 thousand permits) was by far the leading destination in the EU for those seeking to obtain a residence permit on the basis of employment-related reasons; indeed, some 84.3 % of the residence permits issued in Poland in 2016 were for employment-related reasons. The next most popular destination was the United Kingdom (117 thousand permits issued for employment reasons), followed at some distance by Germany (40 thousand) and Spain (38 thousand). Aside from Poland, first residence permits issued for employment-related reasons represented more than half of the total number of permits issued in Lithuania (60.5 %) and Slovenia (51.0 %), while employment-related reasons accounted for the highest shares (but not an absolute majority) of the total number of permits issued in Croatia, Cyprus, Slovakia and Malta (see Table 1).
With over 100 thousand permits each, Germany (137 thousand), Spain (115 thousand) and Italy (101 thousand) were the three EU Member States with the highest number of first residence permits issued for family-related reasons in 2016. They were closely followed by France (94 thousand) and the United Kingdom (89 thousand). Family-related reasons were the most common reason for issuing residence permits in 11 of the EU Member States and in three of these — Spain, Greece and Luxembourg — family-related reasons accounted for more than half of all the permits issued.
The United Kingdom was by far the most popular destination in the EU for students from non-member countries. In 2016, there were 365 thousand first residence permits issued in the United Kingdom for education-related reasons; this represented more than half (52.6 %) of all the permits issued for education-related reasons in the EU-28 and 42.2 % of the total number of permits issued in the United Kingdom. Education-related reasons accounted for an even higher share of the total number of permits issued in Ireland (57.4 %), while there were two other EU Member States where the most common reason for granting a residence permit was education-related: Romania (39.0 % of all permits issued) and Hungary (34.5 %).
Table 1 also shows the number of first residence permits issued for other reasons, such as international protection, residence without the right to work (for example, pensioners), or people in the intermediate stages of a regularisation process. A cross-country comparison based on this miscellaneous category is hampered by the differences that exist in the national administrative and legislative systems. However, on the basis of the information that is available, these reasons accounted for more than half of the total number of permits issued in Germany (55.9 %), Sweden (50.8 %) and Austria (50.6 %), while they were also the most common reason for granting a permit in Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Finland.
Having peaked in 2011 at one third of the total (33 %), the relative share of family-related reasons in the total number of first residence permits issued in the EU-28 declined; this was particularly the case in 2016, when their share fell to 23 % (see Figure 1). The importance of first residence permits issued for education-related reasons was relatively stable during the period 2008-2016, while the share of employment-related reasons was initially quite high (almost one third of the total number of permits issued), but fell substantially in 2011 and then remained relatively unchanged thereafter. In 2010, other reasons accounted for 16 % of the first residence permits that were issued in the EU-28. Their share grew rapidly to reach a relative peak of 29 % in 2013, before falling for two successive years and then rebounding to 31 % in 2016.
An analysis based on information for 23 of the EU Member States (excluding Germany, Malta, Slovakia, Finland and the United Kingdom) reveals some considerable differences between the sexes as regards their principal reasons for seeking to be granted a residence permit. In 2016, almost one quarter (23.4 %) of all — in other words, the total number for both men and women — first residence permits issued in the EU were granted to men for employment-related reasons, while the corresponding share for women was 12.0 % of the total. By contrast, 16.2 % of all permits issued were accounted for by women who sought a residence permit for family-related reasons; this share was higher than the corresponding proportion recorded among men (11.7 %). A relatively high share (13.8 %) of the total number of permits issued among the 23 Member States were granted to men for other reasons, while the corresponding share for women was lower at 8.9 %. Finally, there was almost no difference between the sexes in terms of their relative shares of the total number of permits issued for education-related reasons (7.1 % of the total number of permits issued were granted to women and 6.8 % to men); note that these figures could be under-reported insofar as Germany and the United Kingdom are among the leading EU destinations for foreign students looking to extend their studies.
First residence permits by citizenship
In 2016, citizens of Ukraine (589 thousand beneficiaries, or 17.6 % of the total number of first residence permits issued in the EU-28) received the highest number of first residence permits (see Figure 5), ahead of citizens of Syria (348 thousand, or 10.4 %), the United States (251 thousand, or 7.5 %), India (198 thousand, or 5.9 %), China (196 thousand, or 5.8 %; note all data presented for China include Hong Kong) and Morocco (101 thousand, or 3.0 %). Around half (50.1 %) of all first residence permits issued in the EU-28 in 2016 were issued to citizens of these six countries.
Between 2015 and 2016 there was rapid growth in the number of residence permits in the EU-28 that were issued to citizens of the Philippines and Syria; in both cases growth was more than threefold. In absolute terms, the number of Syrians who were issued a residence permit rose by 235 thousand between 2015 and 2016, while there was an 89 thousand increase in the number of permits issued to citizens of Ukraine, and a growing number of additional permits were also issued to citizens of the Philippines (67 thousand more) and India (638 thousand more).
Some of the factors that may influence the destination chosen by citizens of non-member countries when they decide to seek a residence permit include: linguistic ties (for example, it is commonplace to find a high number of citizens of Australia or the United States applying for residence in the United Kingdom); geographical proximity (for example, there was a high number of Ukrainians seeking residence in Poland and a high number of Moroccans seeking residence in Spain); historical links (for example, there was a high number of Algerians and Moroccans seeking residence in France, and a high number of Brazilians, Cape Verdeans and Angolans seeking residence in Portugal); or established migrant networks (for example, there was a high number of Turkish citizens seeking residence in Germany) — see Table 2.
Looking in more detail (see Figure 6), more than four fifths (487 thousand, or 82.7 %) of all Ukrainians who were granted a residence permit in the EU-28 in 2016 received their permit on account of an employment-related reason. Poland was the principal destination for Ukrainians who sought a residence permit (87.0 % of all Ukrainians receiving a resident permit in the EU-28 in 2016; see Table 3).
An analysis of the relative shares of first residence permits by reason shows that alongside citizens of Ukraine, employment was also the principal reason for granting residence permits in the EU to citizens of India (28.7 %), while education was the primary reason for granting permits to citizens of China (66.9 %), the United States (46.5 %) and Brazil (41.6 %). Family-related reasons were predominant among Moroccans (69.8 %), Turks (41.2 %) and Russians (32.6 %) who were granted residence permits in the EU-28, while most Syrians (85.3 %) and Filipinos (72.9 %) were granted a permit for other reasons (see Figure 6).
In 2016, Ukrainians represented the largest absolute number of citizens who were granted a residence permit in the EU-28 for employment-related reasons (487 thousand), followed by Indians (57 thousand) and Americans (41 thousand). On the other hand, Moroccan (70 thousand), Indian (53 thousand) and Syrian citizens (48 thousand) were the largest groups receiving residence permits for family-related reasons, and Chinese (131 thousand), American (117 thousand) and Indian citizens (32 thousand) were the largest groups receiving residence permits for education-related reasons (see Table 4).
Data sources and availability
The statistics used for this article are provided to Eurostat by responsible authorities in each of the EU Member States and EFTA countries, principally Ministries of the Interior or Home Affairs or various immigration agencies. The data are based entirely on administrative sources supplied to Eurostat as part of an annual residence permits data collection exercise according to the provisions of Article 6 of Regulation (EC) No 862/2007 on Community statistics on migration and international protection. Commission Regulation (EU) No 216/2010 on Community statistics on migration and international protection, as regards the definitions of categories of the reasons for the residence permits provides the list and definition of reasons for permits being issued.
A subset of the data on resident permits — statistics on EU Blue Cards — have been collected since 2012 on the basis of Article 20 of Directive 2009/50/EC on conditions of entry and residence of third country nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment. From 2014, Eurostat has collected data on first residence permits granted to nationals of non-member countries during the reference year and data on first residence permits valid at the end of the reference period based on the single permit directive (Directive 2011/98/EU).
The data on residence permits may be analysed by: reporting country, citizenship of the permit holder, reason for the permit being issued, and length of validity for the permit. From reference period 2010 onwards, data on residence permits have also been collected on a voluntary basis by age and by sex.
Resident permits statistics are available as both flows and stocks.
- Data related to residence permits granted during the reference year (flows): the data published under this category contain information about first residence permits issued during the reference year and information about any change of resident status of immigrants during the reference year;
- Data related to residence permits valid at the end of the reference year (stock of permits): the data published under this category contain information about the number of valid permissions to stay at the end of the reference year and long-term legal resident status at the end of the reference year.
It should be noted that certain methodological aspects are not fully harmonised between the reporting countries due to different legal or information technology systems. Therefore, the results that are presented in this article should be interpreted with care and readers are advised to make reference to the metadata file on residence permits statistics. Some of the most important methodological and administrative differences between the EU Member States are noted below.
- Data for France relate to permits which were issued after at least 12 months since the expiry of any previous permit.
- Data for the United Kingdom are not based on a register of residence permits (as one does not exist at the time of writing); statistics for the United Kingdom have instead been provided by the Home Office and these are mainly based on passengers given leave to enter the United Kingdom under selected categories (for further details see the Home Office website).
Migration policies within the EU are built upon solidarity and responsibility, taking account of the contribution that immigrants make to the EU’s economic development and performance. Within the European Commission, the Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs is responsible for immigration policy. EU policy measures on legal immigration cover the conditions of entry and residence for certain categories of immigrants, such as highly qualified workers subject to the ‘EU Blue Card Directive’, students and researchers, as well as family reunification and long-term residents: see Towards a European agenda on migration for more information.
All relevant legal acts and information regarding the EU’s immigration policy can be accessed on the European Commission’s website.
- Asylum statistics
- Dublin statistics on countries responsible for asylum application
- Migrant integration statistics
- Migration and migrant population statistics
- Statistics on enforcement of immigration legislation
Further Eurostat information
- EU Member States issued a record number of 2.6 million first residence permits in 2015 — News release
- EU Member States issued 2.3 million first residence permits in 2014 — News release
- More than 2.3 million first residence permits issued in the EU-28 in 2013 — News release
- Residence permits (migr_res)
- Residence permits by reason, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resval)
- First permits by reason, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resfirst)
- First permits issued for family reasons by reason, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resfam)
- First permits issued for education reasons by reason, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resedu)
- First permits issued for remunerated activities by reason, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resocc)
- First permits issued for other reasons by reason, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resoth)
- Change of immigration status permits by reason and citizenship (migr_reschange)
- All valid permits by reason, length of validity and citizenship on 31 December of each year (migr_resvalid)
- Long-term residents by citizenship on 31. December of each year (migr_reslong)
- Single permits issued by type of decision, length of validity (migr_ressing)
- Long-term residents among all non-EU citizens holding residence permits by citizenship on 31 December (%) (migr_resshare)
- Long-term residence permits issued during the year (migr_resltr)
- First permits issued for family reunification with a beneficiary of protection status (migr_resfrps1)
- Permits valid at the end of the year for family reunification with a beneficiary of protection status (migr_resfrps2)
- Residence permits by reason, age, sex and citizenship (migr_resage)
- First permits by reason, age, sex and citizenship - Annual data (migr_resfas)
- All valid permits by age, sex and citizenship on 31 December of each year (migr_resvas)
- Long-term residents by age, sex and citizenship on 31 December of each year (migr_reslas)
- EU blue cards (migr_resbcard)
- EU blue cards by type of decision, occupation and citizenship (migr_resbc1)
- Admitted family members of EU blue card holders by type of decision and citizenship (migr_resbc2)
- EU blue card holders and family members by Member State of previous residence (migr_resbc3)
- Residence permits by reason, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resval)
- Residence permits (migr_res)
Methodology / Metadata
- Residence permits statistics (ESMS metadata file — migr_res_esms)
Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)
- European Commission — Towards a European agenda on migration
- European Commission — DG Migration and Home Affairs — Immigration
- EU Immigration Portal (EUIP)
- European Migration Network (EMN)
- European Web Site on Integration
- OECD — Migration (also available in French)
- International Migration Outlook (also available in French and Spanish)
- Statistics on residence permits for the United Kingdom are provided from a different data source to those used in other EU Member States. As such, statistics for the United Kingdom presented in this article are not fully comparable with those for other EU Member States. The data for the United Kingdom relate to the numbers of non-EU citizens arriving in the United Kingdom who are permitted to enter the country under selected immigration categories (the United Kingdom does not operate a system of residence permits). According to the United Kingdom authorities, data are estimated by combining information from the Home Office Statistical Bulletin ‘Control of Immigration: Statistics, United Kingdom’ with unpublished data. In the United Kingdom, the ‘Other reasons’ category includes: diplomats, consular officers treated as exempt from control; retired persons of independent means; all other passengers given limited leave to enter who are not included in any other category; non-asylum discretionary permissions.
- The 2016 data reported for the EU-28 in this article systematically includes data from 2015 for Ireland.
- As noted in footnote (1), statistics for the United Kingdom are not fully comparable with those presented for other EU Member States.