Residence permits - statistics on first permits issued during the year
Data extracted in September 2019.
Planned article update: October 2020.
In 2018, some 3.2 million residence permits were issued across the EU to people from non-member countries.
In 2018, the main reason for a first residence permit being issued in the EU was for family reasons (915 000 first residence permits).
There were 527 000 first residence permits issued across the EU to citizens of Ukraine in 2018; this was 2.6 times as high as the number to citizens of China (206 000; the second highest value).
Number of first residence permits issued by reason, EU-28, 2008-2018
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 and ‘other reasons’.
The development of the number 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 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, with the exception of the United Kingdom .
First residence permits — an overview
In 2018, 3.2 million first residence permits were issued in the EU-28 to nationals of non-member countries, the highest value since the beginning of the time series (2008). The number increased by 0.4 % (or 13 094) compared with 2017, continuing the upward trend observed in each of the three previous years (see Figure 1).
Among the EU Member States, Poland issued the highest number (635 000) of first residence permits in 2018, followed by Germany (544 000) and the United Kingdom (451 000) . There was a notable gap to France (265 000), Spain (260 000) and Italy (239 000), while Sweden (125 000) also recorded more than 100 000 permits issued. These seven Member States together accounted for nearly four fifths (78 %) of all first residence permits issued in the EU-28 in 2018 (see Table 1).
In 2018, the highest number of first residence permits in the EU-28 was issued for family-related reasons (915 000, or 28.4 % of all first permits issued), followed by employment-related reasons (886 000, or 27.5 %), other reasons (781 000, or 24.2 %) and education-related reasons (644 000, or 20.0 %).
The increase in the total number of first residence permits in 2018 in comparison with 2017 was due to the higher number of first permits issued for education reasons (up 111 000, or 20.7 %) and family reasons (up 83 000, or 9.9 %), whereas the number of first permits issued decreased for employment (down 124 000, or 12.3 %) and other reasons (down 56 000, or 7 %) — see Figure 2.
Compared with the size of the resident population, there were an estimated 6.3 first residence permits issued in the EU-28 per 1 000 members of the population in 2018; this was one third (34.9 %) higher than the equivalent ratio for 2013 when there were 4.7 permits issued per 1 000 members of the population (see Figure 3).
Across the EU Member States, the highest ratios of first residence permits to the size of the population in 2018 were recorded in Malta (35.4 permits issued per 1 000 members of the population), Cyprus (24.1), Poland (16.7), Slovenia (14.3), Luxembourg (12.7), Sweden (12.2) and Ireland (10.3). By contrast, fewer than 2.0 permits were issued per 1 000 members of the population in Bulgaria and Romania, where the lowest ratios were recorded, at respectively 1.7 and 0.8 first residence permits issued per 1 000 members of the population.
First residence permits by reason
Poland with 328 000 permits was by far the leading destination in the EU-28 for those seeking to obtain a residence permit for employment-related reasons. The next most common destination was the United Kingdom (108 000 permits issued for employment-related reasons), followed by Germany (68 000) and Spain (58 000). First residence permits issued for employment-related reasons represented more than half of the total number of permits issued in Croatia (90.3%), Lithuania (77.5 %), Slovenia (71.0 %), Slovakia (66.5 %), Malta (59.3 %), Hungary (56.6%) and Poland (51.6 %), while employment-related reasons also accounted for the highest shares (but not an absolute majority) of the total number of permits issued in Czechia, Cyprus, Latvia, Romania, Estonia and Denmark (see Table 1).
Germany (191 000), Spain (134 000), Italy (122 000), the United Kingdom (101 000) and France (97 000) were the EU Member States with the highest number of first residence permits issued in 2018 for family-related reasons. These five countries accounted for 70% of all residence permits issued in the EU-28. Family-related reasons were the most common reasons for issuing residence permits in 10 of the Member States and in three of these — Belgium, Spain and Italy — family-related reasons accounted for more than half of all the permits issued at national level. Family-related reasons also accounted for the highest share of permits issued in each of the EFTA countries.
The United Kingdom was by far the most common destination in the EU-28 for students from non-member countries. In 2018, there were 190 000 first residence permits issued in the United Kingdom for education-related reasons; this represented three tenths (29.6 %) 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. In relative terms, education-related reasons accounted for the highest share of the total number of permits issued in Ireland (60.5 %). The United Kingdom and Ireland were the only EU Member States where the most common reason for granting a residence permit was education-related. However, data for Ireland have reduced reliability. 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.
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 Austria (54.4 %), while they were also the most common reason for granting a permit in Bulgaria and Germany. This category covers also some specific status existing only under national legislation - for example, holders of Pole's Card are registered in this very category. For more information, please see National Metadata file.
An analysis based on the results available for 23 of the EU Member States  reveals some differences between the sexes as regards their principal reasons for seeking to be granted a residence permit (see Figure 4). In 2018 first residence permits issued in the EU-28 were granted for employment-related reasons, 23.0 % to men, while the corresponding share for women was 8.7 % of the total. By contrast, 15.6 % 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 (12.0 %). Lower shares of the total number of permits issued among the 23 Member States were granted to men and women for the category of other reasons, some 12.8 % and 10.6 % respectively. Finally, there was less difference between the sexes in terms of their relative shares of the total number of permits issued for education-related reasons (8.5 % of the total number of permits issued were granted to women and 8.8 % to men for these reasons). Note that these shares could be under-reported insofar as Germany and the United Kingdom (which are not included in the data in Figure 4) are among the leading destinations in the EU for non-EU students.
First residence permits by citizenship
In 2018, citizens of Ukraine (527 000 beneficiaries, or 16.3 % 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 China (206 000, or 6.4 %; note all data presented for China include Hong Kong), India (197 000, or 6.1 %), Syria (174 000, or 5.4 %), Belarus (138 000, or 4.3 %), Morocco (127 000, or 3.9 %) and the United States (120 000, or 3.7 %). Citizens from Brazil, Turkey and Russia, all three below 100 000, followed. Above half (54 %) of all first residence permits issued in the EU in 2018 were issued to citizens of these ten countries.
Between 2017 and 2018 there was rapid growth in relative terms in the number of residence permits in the EU-28 issued to citizens of Belarus, as their number more than doubled (up 166 %), while there was also an increase of 33.6 % in the number of permits issued to citizens of Brazil. In absolute terms, the number of citizens of Belarus issued with residence permit rose by almost 86 000 between 2017 and 2018, while there was an increase by 34 000 in the number of permits issued to Indians, and a growing number of permits was also observed for citizens of Brazil (22 000 more), Morocco (18 000 more), China (13 000 more), Turkey (12 000 more) and Russia ( almost 9 000 more). Concluding the overview on the data development, it is worth mentioning that less citizens of Ukraine were registered (136 000) in comparison with the previous year. The significant last year developments are linked to the changes in the European and national frameworks regarding the issuance of residence permits for employment reason. For example, the drop in residence permits issued for working permits to the Ukrainians is related to the change in national framework of Poland, including the implementation of the Seasonal Workers Directive 2014/36/EU entered into force - this new legislation was one of the reasons for marking Polish data with the break in the time series. For more information, please see the section: Data sources.
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 the United States or Australia 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 Moroccans, Algerians and Tunisians seeking residence in France, and a high number of Brazilians, Angolans and Cape Verdeans 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.
Poland was the principal destination for Ukrainian citizens, as 78.5 % of all resident permits issued to Ukrainians in the EU-28 in 2018 were issued in this country (see Table 3). Equally, for 91.9 % of all Belarus citizens, Poland was the main destination country.
Looking in more detail (see Figure 6), nearly two thirds (64.7 %; 341 000) of all Ukrainians who were granted a residence permit in the EU-28 in 2018 received their permit for employment-related reasons. Alongside citizens of Ukraine, employment was also the principal reason for granting residence permits in the EU-28 to citizens of the United States (37.0 %) and India (36.0 %), while education was the primary reason for granting permits to citizens of China (67.0 %). Family-related reasons were predominant among Moroccans (60.9 %), Brazilians (38.8 %), Turkish citizens (37.7 %) and Russians (35.1 %) who were granted residence permits in the EU-28, while most Belarus citizens (73.5 %) and Syrians (68.3 %) were granted a permit for other reasons (see Figure 6).
In 2018, Ukrainians represented the largest number of citizens who were granted a residence permit in the EU-28 for employment-related reasons (341 000), of which the vast majority (80.4 %) were granted in Poland. They were followed by Indians (71 000) and citizens of the United States (44 000). On the other hand, Moroccan (77 000), Indian (66 000) and Syrian (52 000) citizens were the largest groups receiving residence permits for family-related reasons, and Chinese (138 000), Ukrainian (63 000) and Indian citizens (47 000) 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 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 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).
- Data for Ireland have reduced reliability for educational, employment and other 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 for reporting 2016-2018 residence permit statistics.
- Data for Poland 2018 for employment and other reason are marked as break in series for following reasons:
(I) free travel-visas for Ukrainian, Georgian and Moldavian citizens, (II) enter into force of the Seasonal Workers Directive 2014/36/EU and (III) the increase of the number of Pole's card holders granted residence permit. Pole's Card is a document confirming belonging to the Polish nation, which may be given to individuals who cannot obtain dual citizenship in their own countries while belonging to the Polish nation according to conditions defined by law. In practice, the Card can be granted to people who do not have Polish citizenship or permission to reside in Poland and who are citizens of the former Soviet Union states. It shall be pointed out that card holders are granted several rights including access to (all level) education and exemption from the obligation to obtain a work permit for foreigners.
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.
- Statistics on residence permits for the United Kingdom are provided from a different data source when compared with the other EU Member States. As such, statistics for the United Kingdom presented in this article are not fully comparable with those for the remaining 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.
- As noted in footnote (1), statistics for the United Kingdom are not fully comparable with those presented for other EU Member States.
- 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 are not provided by the following Member States: Germany, Malta, Slovakia, Finland and the United Kingdom.
- Asylum statistics
- Dublin statistics on countries responsible for asylum application
- Migrant integration statistics
- Migration and migrant population statistics
- Enforcement of immigration legislation 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)