Residence permits - statistics on stock of valid permits at the end of the year


Data extracted in January 2019.

Planned article update: October 2019.

Highlights

There were 20.3 million valid residence permits granted to non-EU citizens in the EU at the end of 2017.

Family reunification accounted for almost two fifths (38 %) of the residence permits granted to non-EU citizens in the EU at the end of 2017.

Turkish (1.9 million) and Moroccan (also 1.9 million) were the two main groups of citizenship holding valid residence permit in the EU in 2017, followed by citizens of Ukraine (1.2 million) and China (also 1.2 million).

Stock of valid residence permits in the top five EU Member States, 2013-2017

This article presents European Union (EU) statistics on the stock of valid residence permits granted to non-EU citizens.[1]

Residence permit represents an authorisation valid for at least 3 months issued by a competent authority allowing non-EU citizens[2], also known as third country nationals, to stay legally on its territory. Data on residence permits are collected by reason for issuing the permit. The main reasons are: family, employment, education, other reasons including refugee status and subsidiary protection.

The analysis presented in the article seeks to provide an overview of the stock of residence permits granted to non-EU citizens at the end of 2017 as well as developments of the stock of residence permits during the period 2013-2017 broken down by reasons for issuing permit, by duration of the permit issued and by citizenship.

Note a complementary article that details the number of first residence permits issued during the year.


Full article

Non-EU citizens with a valid residence permit

At the end of 2017, there were 20.3 million valid residence permits granted to non-EU citizens permitting them to reside in the EU[3]. Germany (22.8 %), Italy (17.7 %), France (13.8 %), Spain (13.1 %) and the United Kingdom (7.5 %) together accounted for three quarters of the valid residence permits granted to non-EU citizens (see Map 1).

Map 1: Stock of valid residence permits granted to non-EU citizens, 2017
(number of permits)
Source: Eurostat (migr_resvalid)

Stock of residence permits granted to non-EU citizens at the end of 2017

The stock of valid residence permits granted to non-EU citizens for residing in the EU rose by 5.2 % between the end of 2016 and the end of 2017 (see Figure 1). The majority (21) of EU Member States reported increasing stock of permits: the highest rate of increase was recorded in Hungary (where the stock of permits granted to non-EU citizens more than doubled), followed by Bulgaria (41.4 %), Malta (25.2 %) and Slovakia (20.6 %). Among the five Member States with the largest stocks of resident permits, Germany recorded the highest increase, as the number of valid permits rose by 14.3 % between the end of 2016 and the end of 2017. Positive rates of change were also recorded in France, Spain and the United Kingdom. By contrast, there was a reduction in the stock of valid permits in Italy (-2.8 %), which was one of six Member States to report a decline. These reductions were generally quite small, ranging between -1.0 % in Estonia and -3.4 % in Greece, with Romania the only exception, as its stock of valid permits declined by -14.1 %.

Figure 1: Change in the stock of valid residence permits granted to non-EU citizens, 2016-2017
(%)
Source: Eurostat (migr_resvalid)

Figure 2 provides an analysis of the reasons for which residence permits are granted. At the end of 2017, almost two fifths (38.2 %) of all residence permits granted to non-EU citizens for residing in the EU were family-related, with lower shares for employment reasons (15.8 %), refugee status and subsidiary protection (7.3 %) or education reasons (6.0 %). Residence permits classified under the heading ‘other reasons’ accounted for 32.7 % of all valid permits; note that this includes the stock of permits granted for residence only (for example, a pensioner) and the stock of permits granted for humanitarian reasons under national law (outside of those covered by the heading of ‘refugee status and subsidiary protection’ under international law), including permits for unaccompanied minors or victims of human trafficking, long-term, permanent residents.

A more detailed analysis of the situation in each EU Member State at the end of 2017 reveals that more than a half of all the valid residence permits granted to non-EU citizens in Belgium (57.9 %), Luxembourg (53.5 %) and Italy (51.2 %) were family-related. Italy and Germany recorded the highest absolute numbers of permits issued for this reason (both about 1.8 million).

In relative terms, Poland was the only EU Member State to report at the end of 2017 that more than half (67.7 %) of its stock of valid residence permits for non-EU citizens had been granted for employment reasons (due to increase of permits issued for Ukrainians), with Malta (49.6 %) and Cyprus (45.4 %) recording the next highest shares. In absolute terms, Italy registered the highest number of valid residence permits for employment reasons (1.5 million), greater than in either Poland (418 thousand) or the United Kingdom (327 thousand).

In Sweden, refugee status and subsidiary protection accounted for more than one third (37.0 %) of all valid residence permits granted to non-EU citizens at the end of 2017, with Germany (17.1 %), Belgium (15.4 %) and the Netherlands (11.7 %) the only other EU Member States to record double-digit shares. In absolute terms, Germany granted the highest number of valid residence permits to non-EU citizens for refugee status and subsidiary protection (794 thousand), followed by Sweden and France (both 200 thousand).

Figure 2: Distribution by reason of the number of valid residence permits granted to non-EU citizens, 2017
(% share of total number of permits)
Source: Eurostat (migr_resvalid)

At the end of 2017, more than 9 out of 10 (93.7 %) valid residence permits were valid for 12 months or more, compared with 4.6 % that were valid for 6-11 months and 1.7 % that were valid for 3-5 months (see Figure 3). This pattern was observed across all but one of the EU Member States, with the share of residence permits valid for 12 months or over ranging from 67.4 % in Ireland to 100 % in Greece. The only exception was Poland where a higher proportion of residence permits granted to non-EU citizens were valid for 6-11 months (42.9 %), compared with permits that were valid for 12 months or over (40.9 %).

Figure 3: Distribution by duration of the number of valid residence permits granted to non-EU citizens, 2017
(% share of total number of permits)
Source: Eurostat (migr_resvalid)

Trends in the stock of residence permits

Across the EU there was an increase in the stock of residence permits during the period 2013-2017: the total stock increased by an average of 2.7 % per annum. Looking in more detail, the most rapid gains in the stock were recorded for residence permits granted for refugee and subsidiary protection status, up by an average of 29.3 % per annum during the period under consideration (see Figure 4). The increase in the stock of permits related to refugee and subsidiary protection status was particularly high in 2016 and to a lesser extent 2017 and is directly linked to events in Syria and an increasing numbers of asylum seekers from this country, and first instance and final positive decisions on applications issued to Syrian citizens in recent years[4]. Each of the remaining reasons for granting permits had more modest expansions, with the lowest increase recorded for the stock of permits granted for employment reasons (up by an average by 0.7 % per annum during the period 2013-2017) and the highest for the stock of permits granted for education reasons (2.4 % per annum).

Figure 4: Stock of valid residence permits granted to non-EU citizens, by reason, EU, 2013-2017
(million permits)
Source: Eurostat (migr_resvalid)

While the stock of residence permits in the EU rose, on average, by 2.7 % per annum during the period 2013-2017, there were varying developments among the five EU Member States that granted the largest number of permits (see Figure 5). In Germany, the stock of valid residence permits rose from 3.5 million to 4.6 million (equivalent to an average increase of 7.0 % per annum), while there was more modest growth in France (up from 2.5 million to 2.8 million). On the other hand, the stock of residence permits that had been granted to non-EU citizens in 2017 was similar to that in 2013 in Spain (2.7 million) and the United Kingdom (1.5 million), while there was a decrease in Italy (down from 3.9 million to 3.6 million).

Figure 5: Stock of valid residence permits in the top five EU Member States, 2013-2017
(million permits)
Source: Eurostat (migr_resvalid)

Between 2013 and 2017, the increase in the stock of residence permits was largely attributed, as noted above, to a rapid rise in the number of permits granted for refugee status and subsidiary protection. A more detailed analysis is provided in Figure 6: it underlines that the majority of this change resulted from permits granted to refugees, their stock rising from 0.3 million as of 31 December 2013 to 1.0 million by 31 December 2017 (equivalent to an average increase of 32.0 % per annum).

Figure 6: Stock of valid residence permits granted to non-EU citizens for refugee status and subsidiary protection, EU, 2013-2017
(million permits)
Source: Eurostat (migr_resvalid)

Citizenship of the permit holders

Map 2 provides an overview of the countries of citizenship of the holders of valid residence permits in the EU at the end of 2017. Turkish (1.9 million) and Moroccan (also 1.9 million) citizens were the two main groups of citizenship holding valid residence permit in the EU, followed by citizens of Ukraine (1.2 million) and China[5] (also 1.2 million). These were the only countries with more than one million residence permits. The next highest numbers were recorded for Syrians (880 thousand), Albanians (867 thousand), Russians (696 thousand), Algerians (693 thousand), Indians (653 thousand) and Serbs (483 thousand). By the end of 2017, these 10 countries accounted for more than half (51.5 %) of the total stock of permits among non-EU citizens residing in the EU.

Map 2: Distribution of valid residence permits in the EU by country of citizenship, 2017
(number of permits)
Source: Eurostat (migr_resvalid)

Table 1 provides a more detailed analysis for the top 10 countries of citizenship with the highest stock of permits (as identified above). It shows that more than four fifths (84.1 %) of all valid residence permits granted to Algerian citizens were reported by France, while Germany reported almost three quarters (72.2 %) of all Turkish citizens and just less than two thirds (65.3 %) of all Syrian citizens in the EU. The next highest shares of valid residence permits had been granted to Albanian citizens in Italy (49.6 %) and in Greece (44.2 %), to Serbian citizens in Germany (47.8 %), to Moroccan citizens in Spain (40.9 %), to Ukrainian citizens in Poland (38.3 %) and to Indian citizens in the United Kingdom (32.1 %).

Table 1: Distribution of valid residence permits by main issuing EU Member States, 2017
Source: Eurostat (migr_resfirst)

Developments for residence permits by citizenship and by reason

For most of the citizenships, between the end of 2013 and the end of 2017, there was little change in the stock of valid residence permits granted to citizens of the top 10 non-EU countries (see Figure 7). The main exception to this rule concerned Syrian citizens, as their stock of valid residence permits rose from 104 thousand to 880 thousand during this four-year interval, equivalent to an average increase of 70.6 % per annum. The most rapid growth in any individual year was witnessed between the end of 2015 and the end of 2016 when the stock of permits granted to Syrian citizens more than doubled (up 107.7 %).

The next fastest increase in the stock of valid residence permits among these top 10 countries was recorded for Ukrainian citizens, as their stock of permits increased, on average, by 8.7 % per annum from the end of 2013 to reach 1.2 million by the end of 2017. This was followed by Chinese citizens[6] (their stock of permits increased, on average, by 4.0 % per annum), Indian citizens (2.8 % per annum) and Russian citizens (2.5 % per annum). On the other hand, there was a modest reduction between the end of 2013 and the end of 2017 in the number of Turkish, Albanian and Moroccan citizens that had a valid residence permit for residing in the EU.
Figure 7: Stock of valid residence permits granted in the EU for the top ten non-EU citizenships, 2013-2017
(million permits)
Source: Eurostat (migr_resvalid)

Figure 8 provides a more detailed analysis for the five non-EU countries whose citizens were granted the highest numbers of residence permits for residing in the EU, according to the reason for which the permit was granted. This analysis reinforces many of the developments already noted above: for example, that there was a rapid increase between the end of 2013 and the end of 2017 in the stock of residence permits granted to Syrian citizens for reasons of refugee status and subsidiary protection, and family reunification, while there was also a noticeable increase in the stock of permits granted to Ukrainian citizens for employment reasons.

Figure 8: Non-EU citizens with the largest number of valid residence permits by reason, EU, 2013-2017
(million permits)
Source: Eurostat (migr_resvalid)

Data sources

The data — based entirely on administrative sources — are supplied to Eurostat as part of an annual residence permits data collection exercise according to the requirements 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 residence permits being issued.

From reference year 2008 onwards, Eurostat has collected data on residence permits granted to nationals of non-member countries for living in the EU. Data on residence permits may be analysed by: reporting country (the EU Member State granting the residence permit), citizenship of the permit holder, reason for the permit being issued (family formation and reunification; education and study; remunerated activities (employment); refugee status; subsidiary protection; other reasons), and length of validity for the permit (for at least three months but less than six months; for at least six months but less than 12 months; for 12 months and more).

Statistics on residence permits are available as both stocks and flows. Data on stocks relate to all valid residence permits at the end of the reference year, in other words, the total stock of residence permits including renewed permits.

It should be noted that certain methodological aspects are not fully harmonised between the reporting countries due to different legal and/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.

Context

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. The Single Permit Directive (2011/98/EU) establishes rules for a single application/permit and equal treatment provisions for non-EU citizens. The legislation does not apply to certain categories of non-EU nationals, such as highly qualified workers subject to the ‘EU Blue Card Directive’, some students, or various persons working temporarily (for example, as seasonal workers or au pairs), or to migrants who have lived in the EU for at least five years and have applied and been granted long-term residence status, as defined in Council Directive 2003/109/EC concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents. Equally, the legislation concerning the Single Permit Directive does not apply in Denmark, Ireland or the United Kingdom (each of which has special arrangements for immigration and asylum policy). For more information: see Towards a European agenda on migration.

All relevant legal acts and information regarding the EU’s immigration policy can be accessed on the European Commission’s website.

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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)

Notes

  1. Data are based on the Article 6 of Regulation (EC) No 862/2007 on migration and international protection statistics. National administrative registers and databases are the main sources for these statistics, with the exception of the United Kingdom which provides data from a different source. As such, the data for the United Kingdom as presented in this article are not fully comparable with those for the remaining EU Member States. The United Kingdom does not operate a system of residence permits. Its data relate to the numbers of non-EU citizens arriving in the United Kingdom who are permitted to enter the country under selected immigration categories, with the final statistics estimated by combining information from the Home Office immigration statistics with unpublished data.
  2. Non-EU citizens: defined as persons without citizenship of an EU Member State.
  3. Note that all of the statistics presented in this article for the EU aggregate exclude Denmark (no data available).
  4. Number of first-time asylum applicants from Syria received in the EU during the period 2013-2017: 46 thousand in 2013, 119 thousand in 2014, 363 thousand in 2015, 335 thousand in 2016 and 102 thousand in 2017. Please see the data source here.
    Number of first instance and final positive decisions on applications granted to Syrian citizens during the period 2013-2017: 35 thousand in 2013, 72 thousand in 2014, 166 thousand in 2015, 406 thousand in 2016 and 173 thousand in 2017. Please see the data sources here (first instance decisions) and here (final decisions).
  5. Including Hong Kong.
  6. Including Hong Kong.