Residence permits - statistics on first permits issued during the year
Data extracted in November 2020.
Planned article update: November 2021.
In 2019, some 3.0 million first residence permits were issued across the EU to people from non-member countries.
In 2019, the main reason for a first residence permit being issued in the EU was for employment-related reasons (1.2 million first residence permits).
There were 757 000 first residence permits issued across the EU to citizens of Ukraine in 2019; this was 5.7 times as high as the number to citizens of Morocco (133 000; the second highest value).
Number of first residence permits issued by reason, EU-27, 2009-2019
This article presents European Union (EU) statistics on first residence permits issued to non-EU citizens during each reference year (in other words, detailing the flow of migrants). Data are based on the regulatory framework provided by Article 6 of Regulation (EC) No 862/2007 on migration and international protection statistics. Note that there is a complementary article providing information on statistics on the stock of valid residence permits held at the end of the year by migrants from non-member countries living in the EU.
A residence permit represents an authorisation issued by the competent national authorities allowing a national of a non-member (non-EU) country (also known as a third country national) to stay for at least three months on its territory. Data on residence permits are collected with information on the reasons for issuing such permits. The main reasons include: employment, family reunification and education, with a residual category for ‘other reasons’.
The development of the number of residence permits in individual EU Member States reflects the diversity of national migration systems and the impact of European immigration policy. Other factors, such as the characteristics of nationals of non-member countries, legal frameworks and the 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. While no longer an EU Member State, note that the statistics presented for the United Kingdom are an exception to this rule .
First residence permits — an overview
In 2019, almost 3.0 million first residence permits were issued in the EU-27 to citizens of non-member countries, the highest value recorded over the most recent decade for which data are available (2009-2019). The number of first residence permits that were issued increased by 5.8 % (or 163 000) compared with 2018, continuing an upward trend; this was the seventh consecutive annual increase (see Figure 1).
Among the EU Member States, Poland issued the highest number (724 000) of first residence permits in 2019 (see Table 1), followed by Germany (460 000), Spain (320 000), France (285 000) and Italy (176 000). Czechia (117 000), the Netherlands (102 000) and Sweden (also 102 000) were the only other Member States to record more than 100 000 first residence permits issued. These eight Member States together accounted for nearly four out of five (77.4 %) of all first residence permits issued in the EU-27 in 2019.
In 2019, the highest number of first residence permits in the EU-27 was issued for employment-related reasons (1.2 million, or 40.5 % of all first permits issued), followed by family-related reasons (810 000, or 27.4 %), other reasons (546 000, or 18.5 %) and education-related reasons (400 000, or 13.5 %).
The increase in the total number of first residence permits in 2019 in comparison with 2018 was almost exclusively due to a higher number of first permits being issued for employment reasons (up 214 000, or 21.7 %), while there was a modest increase in the number of permits issued for education reasons (up 3 000, or 0.8 %). By contrast, the number of first permits issued decreased for family (down 5 000, or 0.6 %) and other reasons (down 49 000, or 8.2 %) — see Figure 2.
Compared with the size of the resident population, there were an estimated 6.6 first residence permits issued in the EU-27 per 1 000 population in 2019; this was almost two thirds higher than the equivalent ratio for 2014 when there were 4.0 permits issued per 1 000 population (see Figure 3).
Across the EU Member States, the highest ratios of first residence permits to the size of the population in 2019 were recorded in Malta (42.0 permits issued per 1 000 population), Cyprus (26.4), Poland (19.1), Slovenia (15.1), Luxembourg (13.6), Croatia (12.4) and Ireland (12.0). By contrast, fewer than 2.0 permits were issued per 1 000 population in Bulgaria and Romania, where the lowest ratios were recorded, at respectively 1.9 and 1.4 first residence permits issued per 1 000 population.
First residence permits by reason
Poland with 625 000 permits for non-EU citizens was by far the leading destination in the EU-27 for those seeking to obtain a residence permit for employment-related reasons. Indeed, the number of permits issued in Poland for employment-related reasons was almost 10 times as high as in the next most common destinations, namely, Czechia (66 000 permits), Germany (also 66 000 permits) and Spain (63 000 permits). First residence permits issued for employment-related reasons represented more than half of the total number of permits issued in nine of the EU Member States, with the highest shares recorded in Croatia (92.3 %), Poland (86.3 %) and Lithuania (85.9 %), (see Table 1).
Germany (167 000), Spain (144 000), Italy (101 000) and France (98 000) were the EU Member States with the highest number of first residence permits issued in 2019 for family-related reasons; these four countries accounted for 63.0 % of the EU-27 total. Family-related reasons were the most common reasons for issuing residence permits in 11 of the Member States and in two of these — Italy and Belgium — family-related reasons accounted for more than half of all the permits issued at a national level. Family-related reasons also accounted for the highest share of permits issued in each of the EFTA countries.
France was by far the most common destination in the EU-27 for students from non-EU countries. In 2019, there were 90 000 first residence permits issued in France for education-related reasons; this represented close to one quarter (22.6 %) of all the permits issued for education-related reasons in the EU-27 and 31.7 % of the total number of permits issued in France. In relative terms, education-related reasons accounted for the highest share of the total number of permits issued in Ireland (58.6 %; data with reduced reliability ). Ireland and Denmark were the only EU Member States where the most common reason for granting a residence permit was education-related.
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 close to half of the total number of permits issued in Austria (45.7 %) and Greece (43.8 %), while they were the most common reason for granting a permit in Bulgaria and Austria. This category covers also some specific statuses that only exist under national legislation — for example, in Poland holders of the Pole’s card are registered in this category (for more information, please see the national metadata file).
An analysis based on the results available for 25 of the EU Member States  reveals some differences between the sexes as regards their principal reasons for obtaining a residence permit (see Figure 4). In 2019, based on available data, the primary reason for issuing a first residence permit to men was for employment-related reasons (27.8 % of the total), while the corresponding share for women was lower and accounted for 13.1 %. By contrast, 16.9 % of all permits issued were accounted for by women who were granted residence permits for family-related reasons; this share was higher than the corresponding proportion recorded among men (11.5 %). 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 (7.0 % of the total number of permits issued were granted to women and 6.9 % to men).
First residence permits by citizenship
In 2019, citizens of Ukraine (757 000 beneficiaries, or 25.6 % of the total number of first residence permits issued in the EU-27) received the highest number of first residence permits (see Figure 5), ahead of citizens of Morocco (133 000, or 4.5 %), India (131 000, or 4.4 %), China (110 000, or 3.7 %; note all data presented for China include Hong Kong) and Brazil (101 000, or 3.4 %). Citizens from Syria, Russia, Turkey, the United States and Belarus, all less than 100 000 permits issued, followed. More than half (54.9 %) of all first residence permits issued in the EU-27 in 2019 were issued to citizens of these 10 countries.
Figure 5 also shows the development of the number of first residence permits that were issued between 2017 and 2019 for the 10 most popular citizenships. Between 2018 and 2019, there was rapid growth in absolute terms in the number of residence permits issued to citizens of Ukraine (up 122 000 between 2018 and 2019). The next highest increases were recorded for citizens of Brazil (up 22 000) and India (up 12 000). In relative terms, the number of first residence permits issued in the EU-27 to citizens of Brazil increased by 27.9 % between 2018 and 2019, while there were also double-digit growth rates for citizens of Ukraine (19.3 %), Russia (13.3 %), Belarus (10.8 %) and India (10.2 %). By contrast, there was a fall in the number of first residence permits issued in the EU-27 to citizens of Syria and the United States between 2018 and 2019. This was particularly the case for citizens of Syria, for whom there were 76 000 fewer permits issued in 2019 (equivalent to a reduction of 44.5 %).
Some of the factors that may influence the destination chosen by citizens of non-EU countries granted residence permit include: geographical proximity (for example, a high number of Ukrainians sought residence in Poland and a high number of Moroccans sought residence in Spain); historical and linguistic links (for example, a high number of Venezuelans, Colombians and Peruvians sought residence in Spain, a high number of Moroccans, Algerians and Tunisians sought residence in France, and a high number of Brazilians, Angolans and Cape Verdeans sought residence in Portugal); or established migrant networks (for example, a high number of Turkish citizens sought residence in Germany) — see Table 2.
Poland was the principal destination for Ukrainian citizens, as 79.2 % of all resident permits issued to Ukrainians in the EU-27 in 2019 were issued in this country (see Table 3). In a similar vein, the principal destination for citizens of Belarus was also Poland (77.2 % of all resident permits issued to citizens of Belarus in the EU-27).
Figure 6 looks in more detail at the reasons for granting permits to citizens of particular countries. Almost nine tenths (87.2 %; 660 000) of all Ukrainians who were granted a residence permit in the EU-27 in 2019 received their permit for employment-related reasons. Alongside citizens of Ukraine, employment was also the principal reason for granting residence permits in the EU-27 to citizens of Belarus (58.2 %) and India (38.3 %), while education was the primary reason for granting permits to citizens of China (39.6 %) and the United States (36.6 %). Family-related reasons were predominant among Moroccans (59.3 %), Brazilians (38.0 %), Turkish citizens (37.8 %) and Russians (33.1 %) who were granted residence permits in the EU-27, while most Syrian citizens (65.4 %) were granted a permit for other reasons.
In 2019, Ukrainians were granted the largest number of residence permit in the EU-27 for employment-related reasons (660 000), of which the vast majority (83.6 %) were granted in Poland. They were followed by Indians (50 000) and citizens of the Belarus (41 000). On the other hand, Moroccan (79 000), Indian (41 000) and Ukrainian (40 000) citizens were the largest groups receiving residence permits for family-related reasons, and Chinese (44 000), Indian (31 000) and American citizens (27 000) were the largest groups receiving residence permits for education-related reasons (see Table 4).
Source data for tables and graphs
The statistics used for this article are provided to Eurostat by the responsible authorities in each of the EU Member States, the United Kingdom 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 — has 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 are noted below.
- Data for Ireland have reduced reliability for educational reasons breakdowns. According to Irish authorities, it is due to the technical nature of manually linking data sources and the existence of blank fields within key variables between these data sources.
- Data for France relate to permits which were issued after at least 12 months since the expiry of any previous permit.
- Data for Poland were recently revised after detecting an error in the compilation of statistics provided previously by national authorities.
Migration policies within the EU are built upon solidarity and responsibility, taking account of the contribution that immigrants make to the EU. 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 a New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which sets out the European Commission’s plans to develop a fairer, more European approach to managed migration.
All relevant legal acts and information regarding the EU’s immigration policy can be accessed on the European Commission’s website.
- Statistics on residence permits for the United Kingdom are provided from a different data source when compared with the EU Member States and are not fully comparable. 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 United Kingdom did not provide data covering the 2019 reference period.
- According to Irish authorities, it is due to the technical nature of manually linking data sources and the existence of blank fields within key variables between these data sources for reporting residence permit statistics. For more information, please see the section: data sources.
- In the EU context, this concerns national procedures by which illegally-staying nationals of non-member countries are awarded a legal status.
- Residence permits statistics analysed by sex are collected on a voluntary basis. Data for 2019 were not provided by the following Member States: Malta and Slovakia. Additionally, partial data for 2019 are available for Latvia (missing results for the employment-related reason) and Poland (missing results for the category ‘other reasons’).
- Asylum statistics
- Dublin statistics on countries responsible for asylum application
- Enforcement of immigration legislation statistics
- Migrant integration statistics
- Migration and migrant population statistics
- Residence permits — a methodological and analytical overview
- Residence permits — statistics on stock of valid permits at the end of the year
- 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 (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 (ESMS metadata file — migr_res_esms)