ICAEW chart of the week: International migration 2022

As the ONS reports that just over 600,000 more people came to live in the UK in 2022 than left to live elsewhere, this week’s chart looks at the numbers behind the comings and goings.

Step chart showing immigration of +1,163,000 in 2022 (first column) less emigration of -557,000 (second column) = net migration +606,000 (third column).

The first column is broken down into +248,000 settlement and asylum, +316,000 workers and dependents, +404,000 students and dependents, +64,000 to join family and +131,000 other reasons.

Net inward migration of 606,000 in the year ended 31 December 2022 was boosted by a quarter of a million Ukrainians, Hong Kongers and asylum seekers according to ONS experimental statistics on international migration to and from the UK.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released provisional numbers for international migration on 25 May 2023, providing its estimate of long-term arrivals and departures from the UK for the 2022 calendar year, with 1,163,000 immigrants arriving in the UK and 557,000 emigrants, a net migration number of 606,000.

These numbers exclude tourists and other travellers planning to stay for less than a year, as well as UK residents going abroad on holiday or likewise planning to be away for less than a year. However, the numbers include students and others coming for more than a year who don’t plan to stay in the UK after they finish their courses or their work visas expire.

Traditionally these statistics have been prepared using arrival and departure surveys completed by a sample of travellers when they arrive or depart from UK airports and ports, but these have been found to be inaccurate in recent years. The ONS has started to address this by using other administrative sources to improve the quality of their analysis, in the meantime slapping this dataset with ‘experimental’ and ‘provisional’ labels to emphasise how less than definitive it is.

As our chart of the week illustrates, 248,000 immigrants arrived through settlement schemes or to claim asylum, 316,000 came for work reasons, 404,000 for study, 64,000 to join family, and 131,000 for other reasons. 

All of the 248,000 immigrants who arrived through settlement schemes or to claim asylum came from outside the EU. They comprised 114,000 Ukrainian refugees, 52,000 British Overseas Nationals from Hong Kong, 6,000 through other resettlement schemes (principally Afghanistan), and 76,000 asylum seekers. Some 3,000 asylum seekers were believed to have left the country in 2022, but the ONS does not have sufficient data to identify the number of Ukrainian refugees or other settlers who may have returned or moved elsewhere.

Of the 316,000 who came for work reasons, 235,000 were from outside the EU (of which 127,000 came to work and 108,000 were dependents), 62,000 came from EU countries, and 19,000 were UK citizens. Unfortunately, the ONS has not been able to analyse the number of EU or UK citizens who left for work reasons (either to start a new job elsewhere or because their UK-based job came to an end), but they have estimated that 56,000 non-EU non-UK workers and dependents left the UK in 2022 (29,000 workers and 27,000 dependents).

Study was the biggest immigration category in 2022, as the higher education sector continued to recruit international students as part of a big export drive. 404,000 people arriving during 2022. This comprised 361,000 from outside the EU (of which 276,000 came to study and 85,000 were dependents), 39,000 students from the EU and 4,000 being UK citizens who lived elsewhere before coming to the UK to study. The ONS reports that 153,000 non-EU citizens left the UK in 2022 after courses were completed (136,000 students and 17,000 dependents), but doesn’t report equivalent numbers for EU and UK citizens. 

The number of non-EU students and dependents arriving has risen quite significantly over the last couple of years (from 121,000 in 2019 and 113,000 in 2020 to 301,000 in 2021) and so the net impact should reduce significantly in 2024 and thereafter as courses complete. The net number could turn negative if the recently announced restrictions on masters students bringing dependents (masters courses often being the first step towards PhD study) causes incoming numbers to fall below the level of departures.

The majority of the 64,000 arriving to join family came from outside the EU, with 51,000 arriving from non-EU countries, 8,000 from the EU, and 5,000 being UK citizens. Again, the ONS does not have data on EU and UK citizens leaving to join family or returning after a long-term stay with family, but it does report 42,000 non-EU citizens in this category left the UK in 2022.

‘Other’ arrivals comprise a combination of genuine other reasons for people choosing to settle in the UK as well as data collection issues, with the ONS finding it difficult to identify the reasons why many EU and UK citizens arrive or leave the UK. Of the 131,000 immigrants classified as other, 29,000 came from outside the EU, 42,000 came from EU countries and around 60,000 were returning UK nationals.

While the headlines about the migration numbers have not necessarily been that favourable to the government, the Chancellor may be more cheerful than many of his colleagues given the recent improvement in the IMF’s short-term economic outlook for the UK, partly as a consequence of migrants arriving to fill domestic labour shortages, as well as the contribution to the economy of a growing number of fee-paying students.

This chart was originally published by ICAEW.

ICAEW chart of the week: Migration

The latest migration statistics for the year to June 2022 come with a health warning from the ONS that its ‘experimental and provisional’ numbers for people movements during a pandemic may not be representative of long-term trends.

Column chart showing migration flows for the year to June 2022:

Non-EU inflows: Work +151,000, Study +277,000, Settlement schemes +138,000, Other reasons +138,000

Non-EU outflows: -195,000, Net = +509,000

EU inflows: Work +88,000, Study +71,000, Other reasons +65,000.

EU outflows: -275,000, Net = -51,000

UK inflows: Work +47,000, Study +8,000, Other reasons +81,000

UK outflows: -90,000, Net = +46,000.

On 24 November 2022 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published its latest ‘experimental’ statistics on net migration, provisionally reporting that net long-term migration to the UK amounted to 504,000 in the year to June 2022. This compares with estimates for net inward migration of 173,000 in the year to June 2021 and 88,000 in the year to June 2020. 

This is equivalent to approximately 0.7% of the UK’s total population and is more than double the net inward migration assumption of 237,000 for the same period used by the ONS in its most recent principal long-term projection for the UK population.

The ONS cautions that the middle of a pandemic may not be representative of long-term trends, given possible pent up demand following restrictions in movements in the previous two years.

The ONS also points out the large jump in the number of non-EU students coming to study in the UK, which boosts immigration numbers in the current year. This should in theory reverse in three to four years’ time when many (but not all) of these students return to their home countries or move elsewhere.


As the chart illustrates, immigration from countries outside the EU in the year to June 2022 comprised 151,000 people coming to work in the UK, 277,000 coming to study, 138,000 under settlement schemes and a further 138,000 coming for other reasons. Around 195,000 people from outside the EU were estimated to have left during the year, giving a net inward migration number for non-EU citizens of 509,000. This compares with 157,000 during the year ended 30 June 2021 and 51,000 in the year before that.

The numbers from outside the EU coming to work has increased from 92,000 in the year to June 2021 and 81,000 in the year to June 2020, offsetting some of the reduction in those coming from the EU to work. Those coming to study have increased by an even greater proportion (from 143,000 and 136,000 in the preceding two years respectively), although this may represent pent-up demand from the pandemic when it was much more difficult for students wishing to start courses in the UK. However, the ONS does comment that the new graduate visa that permits students to stay and work in the UK for up to three years after completing their studies may have encouraged more students to come. 

The 138,000 arriving under settlement schemes in the year to June 2022 included an estimated 89,000 Ukrainians who were resettled in the UK under the Ukrainian scheme, approximately 21,000 Afghans under the Afghan resettlement scheme and an estimated 28,000 of the 76,000 Hong Kong residents granted British national overseas (BNO) visas during the year. 

The ONS does not give a full breakdown of the other reasons why people are coming to the UK, which principally relate to those joining family, those planning to stay temporarily but for longer than a year, refugees granted asylum during the year and any other reason not classified by the ONS. The numbers exclude 35,000 people that arrived by small boats during the period, although those who are granted asylum will show up in the statistics in subsequent periods.


Inward migration from the EU has gone into reverse since the ending of free movement on 31 December 2020, with net outward migration of 51,000 for the year to June 2022 compared with net inward migration of 12,000 and 26,000 in the two preceding years. 

As the chart illustrates, the 88,000 people coming from the EU to work, 71,000 to study and 65,000 coming for other reasons – a total of 224,000 people – were more than offset by the 275,000 who left the UK. Those coming to the UK include Irish citizens who do not need visas to live and work in the UK, in addition those coming from other EU countries who now need to apply for visas before they can come to live and work in the UK. 


There was a net inflow of 46,000 UK citizens, as an estimated 136,000 who returned home exceeded the estimate of 90,000 who emigrated from the UK. Of those coming back to the UK, 47,000 came to work, 8,000 to join family and 81,000 for other reasons. This compares with net inflows of 4,000 and 11,000 in the two preceding years.

Health warnings

The ONS provides a range of health warnings for this data set, labelling the numbers as ‘experimental and provisional’, as well as relating to an unusual year for international migration. The numbers were affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the settlement schemes for Ukrainians, Afghans and Hong Kong residents, and by the ending in the preceding year of free movement for EU citizens wishing to come to the UK and for UK citizens to live and work in the EU.

From an economic perspective, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will no doubt be pleased at the additional workers that have arrived in the UK at a time of labour shortages, as well as the success of the university sector in attracting international students, some of whom are likely to stay at the end of their courses to work. Many of those arriving to join family or for other reasons will also join the workforce, further helping to grow economic activity.

With a national workforce that would shrink otherwise and many businesses calling for more freedom to recruit from overseas, the Chancellor may well be hoping for higher levels of migration to continue – even if some of his ministerial colleagues are likely to be less than positive about this possibility.

This chart was originally published by ICAEW.