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Increase in permanent residence grants after the referendum is just the tip of the iceberg

01 Dec 2016

Grants of permanent residence to EEA citizens and their family members have doubled over the past year, new data released by the ONS showed today. However, with more than 3.5 million EU residents in the UK, this number can be expected to increase much more in the coming months and years, the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said today.

There were 37,600 grants of permanent residence in the year ending September 2016, compared to 18,700 the previous year. Grants in the third quarter alone totalled 14,500, up from 4,000 in the same quarter of 2015.

Despite the increase, overall grants of permanent residence were still a small share of all EEA nationals living in the UK, which was more than 3.5 million by the beginning of 2016. This highlights the logistical challenge facing the government, which may have to provide documents to all EEA citizens already living in the UK when the UK leaves the EU.

The government has committed to protecting the residence rights of EEA citizens already resident in the UK, assuming that other countries do the same for British nationals. The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford showed earlier this year that at pre-referendum rates of processing, giving residence documents to all potentially eligible applicants would be equivalent to more than 140 years’ worth of work.

Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said: “The increase in permanent residence grants suggests that EU citizens are increasingly keen to nail down a secure legal status in the wake of the referendum vote. But these figures are really just the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of EU citizens living in the UK have not yet applied. Finding a process that will allow EU citizens to receive residence documents quickly and efficiently will be one of the major challenges the Home Office faces as it prepares for Brexit.”

Other migration data released today included National Insurance Number (NiNo) allocations to EU nationals after the referendum. They showed 150,500 NiNo allocations to EU citizens from July to September 2016, almost unchanged compared to 152,000 in the same quarter of 2015. These data do not imply any dramatic change in migration levels following the June vote.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data showed that net migration remained close to the record levels, at 335,000 in the year to June 2016 – which included the period leading up to the referendum.

Sumption added: “Quarterly net migration statistics have become rather irrelevant in the current migration debate. Brexit could mean a wholesale revision of UK migration policy, so current rules are little more than placeholder policies. Assuming it takes at least two years to leave the EU, we wouldn’t see any new policies towards EU citizens reflected in the statistics this side of a 2020 election.”

A guide to interpreting migration statistics after the EU referendum was published by the Migration Observatory yesterday and is available here.


For further information contact:
Rob McNeil, Head of Media and Communications, The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.
e: robert.mcneil@compas.ox.ac.uk; Tel: 01865 274568; Mob: 07500 970081

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