Home / press /

ONS revises last year’s net migration figure up to 745,000 but estimates that it fell to just over 670,000 in most recent figures

23 Nov 2023

New official estimates suggest that net migration added 672,000 to the UK population in the year ending June 2023—down 10% from a new record high of 745,000 in the year ending December 2022—following Office for National Statistics (ONS) revisions to the previous data.  

ONS now believes that net migration—the number of people immigrating minus the number emigrating—was 745,000 in the calendar year 2022, rather than the 606,000 it reported in provisional figures earlier this year. This unusually high level was driven by a combination of humanitarian schemes for Ukrainians and Hong Kongers, plus increases in international students and work visas.  

The data suggest net migration has started to decrease following its 2022 peak, with 1,180,000 people immigrating and 508,000 emigrating in the year ending June—with net migration at 672,000. This most recent figure is lower than the figure for calendar year 2022, but up from the previous full year ending June 2022.  

In the year ending June 2023, fewer humanitarian migrants arrived from Ukraine and more international students emigrated, compared to the previous year. However, this was offset by an increase in work-related migration, which followed the opening of the immigration system to care workers in early 2022 and continued high demand for health professionals.  

Overall, the largest contributors to long-term immigration in the year ending June 2023 were non-EU workers and their family members (322,000) and non-EU international students and their family members (378,000). Net migration of EU citizens was estimated to be negative, at –87,000 

Dr Ben Brindle, Researcher at the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said: “While humanitarian visas for Ukrainians and Hong Kongers played a major role in net migration last year, their numbers have fallen more recently. Work and international study are now the leading factors contributing to net migration we’re currently seeing. Predicting what will happen next in these two categories is a challenge. We may see study migration start to decline once new restrictions on students’ family members come into force—but this won’t be visible in the data for some time.” 

Earlier this year, the government announced restrictions on visas for partners and children of international students on taught postgraduate courses, which come into force in January 2024. Separate Home Office data, also released today, show that the number of student visas issued increased by 8%, with 639,000 visas (of whom 153,000 are partners or children) issued in the year ending September 2023. This was up from 590,000 and 115,000 respectively in the year ending September 2022. A large majority of the family members would no longer be eligible under the new rules. 

Work visa grants also continued to increase in the year ending September 2023, reaching 586,000. This followed a decision to open the Skilled Worker Route to care workers in February 2022. In the year ending September 2023, care and senior care workers received 101,000 long-term work visas, up from 22,000 in the year ending September 2022. The number of care worker visas continued to accelerate, with over 34,000 in Q3 2023 alone. 

Dr Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said: “The data provide an initial indication that net migration may have started a downward trajectory from the unusually high peak in 2022.  

“If past trends are any guide, net migration will continue to fall in coming years due mainly to more international students leaving. But there are factors that could throw the projected declines in net migration off course. For example, if health and care visas continued to increase this could have a significant impact, because most are expected to stay in the UK permanently.  

“And while most students are expected to be in the UK only temporarily, there is evidence that recent cohorts are more likely to extend their stays, perhaps due to the graduate route and the opening of the care visa. Given that the UK attracts so many international students, even a small change in the share who remain permanently can have an impact on net migration in the long term.” 

Modelling by the Migration Observatory and the London School of Economics published in October suggested that if immigration remained around 2022 levels, net migration would fall substantially in the coming years because of lower immigration from Ukraine and higher emigration among international students. However, it also showed that there are plausible scenarios in which net migration remains high due to increased work-related migration or larger shares of students getting sponsored for long-term work visas. 


Today’s Home Office data also show that the total number of people seeking asylum in the UK remained stable in the year ending 2023, despite a 25% fall in small boat arrivals.  

In 2023 to the end of September, around 25,000 people reached the UK by small boat, compared with around 33,000 arrivals in the same period last year – a fall of around 8,200. But Albanian small boat arrivals fell by 10,610 in the year ending 2023 compared with YE Sep 2022 (from around 11,500 in Q1-Q3 2022, to 860 in Q1-Q3 2023). This means that excluding Albanians, small boat migration increased in the first nine months of 2023.  

Dr Peter Walsh, senior researcher at the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said: 

“It’s still unclear what has driven the sharp fall in the number of Albanian arrivals – just as it is unclear why the number of Albanian arrivals spiked in mid-2022. Cooperation with the Albanian government may well have had some impact, though it’s not clear how much. Other factors could also have played a role, such as a change in how Albanians perceive their opportunities in the UK.” 


Press Contact

If you would like to make a press enquiry, please contact:

Rob McNeil

+ 44 (0)7500 970081

 Contact Us 


This Migration Observatory is kindly supported by the following organisations.

  • University of Oxford logo
  • COMPAS logo
  • Esmee Fairbairn logo
  • Barrow Cadbury Trust logo
  • Paul Hamlyn Foundation logo