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Commonwealth citizens arriving before 1971

04 May 2018


Census 2011 data released on 4th May 2018 now provide additional information on passports held by people born in Commonwealth countries. This is consistent with earlier Migration Observatory analysis of the Labour Force Survey for YE June 2017 but also includes figures for people who hold no passport.

Commonwealth migrants arriving before 1971, England and Wales, 2011 Census

Passport heldNumberPercent
Holds UK passport541,61690%
Does not hold UK passport, of which:57,46210%
- Commonwealth passport34,4476%
- No passport21,0534%
- Other non-UK passport1,9620.3%
Source: Office of National Statistics, table CT0801_2011

Note: Figures are for England and Wales only. The Census 2011 figures differ from analysis based on the Labour Force Survey (see below) in various ways. First, Census collected information on passports held (i.e. the physical document) rather than self-reported nationality. This enables a distinction between people with a UK or non-UK passport vs. those with no passport at all. People with no passport could be either UK or non-UK citizens.

Note that the figures do not directly indicate the number of people who cannot document their legal status in the UK. People without passports may have other proof such as immigration status documents or certificates of naturalisation.

Census figures are a count of the population rather than an estimate based on survey data, and so are more accurate. They also include people who are excluded from the LFS, such as people living in communal establishments.




Our initial analysis of Labour Force Survey data for YE June 2017 is as follows

Commonwealth migrants arriving before 1971, year ending June 2017

People born in Commonwealth countries by self-reported nationality
Non-UK national
UK national
Breakdown of pre-1971 non-UK nationals by nationality
Source: Migration Observatory analysis of Labour Force Survey, Q3 2016 to Q2 2017.

Note: These data are a response to user requests about the number of people who arrived in the UK from Commonwealth countries before 1971. They show an estimate of the number of people born in Commonwealth countries who have lived in the UK since 1970 or earlier, as well as whether these people report that they are UK citizens. The figures include all Commonwealth countries, and not just Caribbean ‘Windrush’ migrants.

These figures do not represent an estimate of the number of people who are now likely to have difficulty demonstrating their legal status in the UK. The key question in this regard is how many people have documentation that demonstrates their legal status, e.g. an Indefinite Leave to Remain document. People who do have such documentation should not face any problems related to immigration enforcement.

Note that the nationality data used here are self-reported, which means that any people who mistakenly believe that they are UK citizens will not be included in the ‘non-UK nationals’ estimate. Data also exclude Malta and Cyprus (which are EU members), and exclude residents of communal establishments such as care homes. They are subject to sampling variability.

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