Residence permits - statistics on first permits issued during the year
Data extracted in 3 August 2022.
Planned article update: 4 August 2023.
Almost 3 million first residence permits were issued in the EU to non-EU citizens in 2021.
Ukrainians topped the ranking of first residence permits issued in 2021, accounting for 30 % of all permits issued in the EU.
In 2021, the number of first-residence permits issued for employment-related reasons hit a record high (1.3 million).
Number of first residence permits issued by reason, EU, 2009-2021
This article presents European Union (EU) statistics on first residence permits issued to non-EU citizens during each reference year. Data are based on the regulatory framework provided by Article 6 of Regulation (EC) No 862/2007 on migration and international protection statistics.
A residence permit is an authorisation issued by the competent national authority 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 together 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 change in the number of residence permits issued 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.
First residence permits — an overview
In 2021, there was an upturn in the number of first residence permits despite the continued coronavirus situation. Almost 3 million (2 952 300) first residence permits were issued in the EU to non-EU citizens. The number increased by 31 % (or +693 700) compared with 2020, reaching the pre-pandemic level observed in 2019 (2 955 300).
The year-on-year increase in the total number of first residence permits was mainly driven by the increasing number of first permits issued for employment reasons and education reasons. Compared with 2020, there was a 47 % increase (+429 100) in residence permits issued for employment-related reasons and a 42 % increase in residence permits for education-related reasons (+105 000). There was also a 14 % increase for family reasons (+88 600) and a 15 % increase for other reasons, including international protection (+71 000).
In 2021, 1.3 million first-residence permits were issued for employment-related reasons, which was the highest number since the beginning of the time series. In fact, employment-related reasons accounted for 45 % of all first residence permits issued. Family reasons accounted for 24 %, education reasons for 12 %, while other reasons, including international protection, accounted for 19 %.
Among the EU Member States, Poland topped the list of first residence permits granted in the EU to non-EU citizens, issuing almost one million permits (967 300, or 33 % of total permits issued in the EU). It was followed by Spain (371 800, or 13 %), France (285 200, or 10 %), Italy (274 100, or 9 %), Germany (185 200, or 6 %) and the Netherlands (103 600, or 4 %). These six Member States together accounted for almost three-quarters (74 %) of all first residence permits issued in the EU in 2021. No other Member State recorded more than 100 000 first residence permits issued.
The largest relative increase in the total number of permits issued in 2021 when compared with 2020 was recorded in Italy: +159 % (from 105 700 in 2020 to 274 100 in 2021). Italy was followed by Finland (+132 %; from 24 800 to 57 300) and Poland (+62 %; from 598 000 to 967 300). On the other hand, the only decreases in the total number of permits issued in 2021 when compared with 2020 were recorded in Germany (-41 %; from 312 700 in 2020 to 185 200 in 2021), Lithuania (-7 %; from 22 500 to 21 000) and Croatia (-4 %; from 35 100 to 33 600).
Compared with the population of each Member State (2021 average population), the highest ratios of first residence permits per 1 000 inhabitants in 2021 were recorded in Malta (27.7 permits issued per 1 000 population), Poland (25.6) and Cyprus (24.6). The lowest ratios were observed in Romania (1.5), Bulgaria (1.7), Greece and Germany (both 2.2). In total in the EU as a whole, there were 6.6 first residence permits issued per 1 000 population in 2021.
First residence permits by reason
First residence permits issued for employment-related reasons represented more than half the total number of permits issued in nine of the EU Member States, with the highest shares recorded in Croatia (90 %), Poland (82 %), Lithuania (76 %) and Slovakia (75 %), (see Table 1). Poland with 790 100 first permits was the top destination for non-EU citizens entering the EU for work reasons. This was mainly due to agreements with Ukraine, from where 666 300 citizens came to Poland in 2021 with a work residence permit (87 % of Ukranians' first residence permits for employment reasons in 2021 in the EU). The next most common destinations for work were Spain (88 100 permits) and Italy (50 600 permits).
Family formation and reunification
Family-related reasons were the most common reasons for issuing residence permits in 10 of the Member States and in three of these (Belgium, Greece and Luxembourg), family-related reasons accounted for more than half of all the permits issued at a national level. Spain (159 200), Italy (120 500), France (93 300) and Germany (70 800), were the EU Member States with the highest number of first residence permits issued in 2021 for family-related reasons; these four countries accounted for 63 % of the EU total.
Education and study
Ireland was the only EU Member States where the most common reason for granting a residence permit was education-related. However, France was by far the most common destination in the EU for students from non-EU countries. In 2021, there were 90 600 first residence permits issued in France for education-related reasons; this represented 26 % of all the permits issued for education-related reasons in the EU and 32 % of the total number of permits issued in France.
Table 1 also shows the number of first residence permits issued for other reasons, such as international protection, residence without the right to work (e.g. pensioners). A cross-country comparison based on this miscellaneous category is hampered by the differences that exist in the national administrative and legislative systems. This category also covers 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). The other reasons accounted for somewhat over half of the total number of permits issued in Austria (52 %). In fact they were also the most common reason for granting a permit in Germany (40 %). See some details in the Table 4 also.
First residence permits by citizenship
In 2021, citizens of Ukraine (875 800 beneficiaries, or 30 % of the total number of first residence permits issued in the EU) received the highest number of first residence permits (see Figure 4), ahead of citizens of Morocco (150 100, or 5 %) and Belarus (149 000, or 5 %). More than half (57 %) of all first residence permits issued in the EU in 2021 were issued to citizens of the top 10 countries.
Figure 4 also shows the development of the number of first residence permits that were issued between 2019 and 2021 for the 10 most popular citizenships. Interestingly the ranking in top 10 citizenships that were awarded first residence permits remained almost unchanged between 2020 and 2021. The only significant change in the ranking is the drop in ranking of citizens of Venezuela and the inclusion of citizens of the United States.
In 2021 compared with 2020, among the 10 most popular citizenships, the highest relative increases were observed for Belarus (up 135 %), Ukraine (up 46 %) and Russia (up 42 %). Only in the case of Syria and Brazil, the number of first residence permits issued shrank, down by 14 % and 2 %, respectively.
There are several factors that influence the destination chosen by citizens of non-EU countries granted residence permits, these include: geographical proximity (for example, a high number of Ukrainians sought residence in Poland, Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania. A high number of Moroccans sought residence in Spain); historical and linguistic links (for example, a high number of Venezuelans, Colombians and Hondurans 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 an 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 83 % of all resident permits issued to Ukrainians in the EU in 2021 were issued in this country (see Table 3). In a similar vein, the principal destination for citizens of Belarus was also Poland (88 % of all resident permits issued to citizens of Belarus in the EU). Portugal was the most popular destination for citizens of Brazil, while Spain was for citizens of Morocco, accounting for 56 % and 50 %, respectively, of all the resident permits issued to citizens of those countries by the EU.
Figure 5 looks in more detail at the reasons for granting permits to citizens of particular countries. Almost 9 out of 10 Ukrainians who were granted a residence permit in the EU in 2021 received their permit for employment-related reasons. As with citizens of Ukraine, employment was also the principal reason for granting residence permits in the EU to Belarusians (47 %), Indians (41 %) and Russians (35 %). Family was the prevailing reason for permits granted to Moroccans (59 %), Brazilians (41 %) and Turks (33 %) and permits for education were primarily issued to Chinese (43 %) and Americans (32 %). Other reasons were predominant for Syrians (74 %).
Table 4 focuses on the top five countries whose citizens received first residence permits in the EU by reason and by leading Member States issuing a permit. In 2021, Ukrainians and Belarusians were granted the largest number of residence permits in the EU for employment-related reasons, of which the vast majority were granted in Poland. On the other hand, Moroccans were the largest group to receive residence permits for family-related reasons (mostly in Spain), and Chinese were the largest group receiving residence permits for education-related reasons, about a fifth of which were issued in France. Belarusians also topped the list of permits issued for other reasons, 98 % of which were granted in Poland.
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 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 implementing Regulation (EC) No 862/2007 presents the definitions of the reasons for the residence permits statistics.
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, becoming mandatory data collection for 2021 reference period onwards.
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 main 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 after the expiration of any previous permit.
Starting with the 2021 reference period, there were several improvements in the data collection, including the methodological aspects. These changes were introduced through the implementation of Regulation 851/2020 amending Regulation 862/2007. More details are available in the following document: 2021 Residence Permits Technical Guidelines.
Migration policies within the EU are built upon solidarity and responsibility, taking into account 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. In September 2020, the European Commission presented the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. This pact provides a comprehensive approach, bringing together policy in the areas of migration, asylum, integration and border management, recognising that the overall effectiveness depends on progress on all fronts. It creates faster, seamless migration processes and stronger governance of migration and borders policies, supported by modern IT systems and more effective agencies. It aims to reduce unsafe and irregular routes and promote sustainable and safe legal pathways for those in need of protection. It reflects the reality that most migrants come to the EU through legal channels, which should be better matched to EU labour market needs. All relevant legal acts and information regarding the EU’s immigration policy can be accessed on the European Commission’s website.
Regulation 2020/851 amending Regulation (EU) No 862/2007 was recently implemented. The amendments made several changes to the legal framework of producing statistics on Asylum and Managed Migration. In this context, some data collections become mandatory starting with the 2021 reference period, while several new categories are the subject of pilot studies for further assessing the feasibility of improving these statistics (possible new data collections will follow based on this procedure). See also the following documents:
- Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of Regulation (EC) No 862/2007 on Community statistics on migration and international protection
- Commission Staff Working Document on the progress made regarding the pilot studies referred in Article 9a of Regulation (EC) No 862/2007 on Community statistics on migration and international protection
- ↑ As a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic, several lockdowns were put into place in Germany in 2020, forcing all foreigner authority/registration offices to close for certain time periods. With offices being closed to any visitors no new titles could be registered during these time periods, creating a push back in titles still to be registered. As an interim solution, fictional certificates were most likely being registered in most cases as a person’s current title expired. These fictional certificates are left in the register even as a person reapplies for their title, and the new title will be registered with the date it is actually approved. The titles that could not be registered in 2020, but instead in 2021, will not be added back to the year 2020 as a result.
Direct access to
- Residence permits — a methodological and analytical overview
- Residence permits - statistics on stock of valid permits at the end of the year
- Children in migration - residence permits for family reasons
- Annual asylum statistics
- Statistics on countries responsible for asylum applications (Dublin Regulation)
- Enforcement of immigration legislation statistics
- Migrant integration statistics
- Migration and migrant population statistics
- 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 for intra-corporate transfer (migr_resictra)
- Intra-corporate transferee permits issued, renewed and withdrawn by type of permit, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resict1_1)
- Intra-corporate transferee permits issued by type of permit, economic sector and citizenship (migr_resict1_2)
- Intra-corporate transferee permits issued by type of permit, length of validity, transferee position and citizenship (migr_resict1_3)
- Authorisation for the purpose of the seasonal work (migr_resseaw)
- Authorisations for the purpose of seasonal work by status, length of validity, economic sector and citizenship (migr_ressw1_1)
- Authorisations issued for the purpose of seasonal work by economic sector, sex and citizenship (migr_ressw2)
- Residence permits - Students and Researchers (migr_ressr)
- Authorisations for study and research by reason, type of decision, citizenship and length of validity (migr_ressrath)
- Residence permits by reason, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resval)
- Residence permits (migr_res)
- Residence permits (ESMS metadata file — migr_res_esms)
- European Commission — a New Pact on Migration and Asylum
- European Commission — DG Migration and Home Affairs — Policies
- European Commission — EU Immigration Portal (EUIP) (also available in Arabic, Spanish, French and Portuguese)
- European Commission — European Migration Network (EMN)
- European Commission — website on migrant integration (also available in German and French)
- OECD — Migration (also available in French)
- OECD — International Migration Outlook (also available in French)