How many migrants live in the UK? By Charlotte Rubin

In 2019, the population of the whole of the UK was estimated to be 66,796,807. This is an estimate, because unlike some other countries, the UK does not have a population registry.

In countries with a population registry, the government collects data on all its residents. Residents are usually obliged to notify the government of any changes in their status such as changes of address, residency, or marital status. These countries usually also have a compulsory ID card for each resident, to keep the register up to date. Contrastingly, the UK government has no such database or register. General public opinion is against the introduction of such a system, as it is considered too intrusive and infringing on the right to liberty. Instead, the Office of National Statistics in the UK assumes a number for the current population, based on what is known about births, deaths and population ageing combined with expectations based on historical data about levels of immigration.

As a consequence, it is quite hard to estimate how many migrants come and go. This is the case both for regular migrants, especially those from the EU or other visa-free countries, but even more so for undocumented migrants.

Overall, the ONS reports that international migration in the year to mid-2019 was 16% lower than in the previous year. This was a result of 17,000 fewer immigrants (a 3% decrease) arriving than in 2018, and 28,000 (or 8%) more people emigrating. This downward change is estimated to have continued throughout 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the finalisation of Brexit. Some have said that the compound effect of COVID and Brexit have led to an “exodus” of foreign-born people from the UK, with some estimates reporting that 1.3 million people have left the UK since the end of 2019 (https://www.escoe.ac.uk/estimating-the-uk-population-during-the-pandemic/). But the numbers are not known, and impossible to confirm.

One illustration of how imprecise the numbers are exactly is the estimated amount of irregular or undocumented migrants in the UK. Preliminarily, it is important to know that until 30 June 2021, these statistics comprise only non-EU citizens, as immigration rules will not be enforced against EU citizens until after that date. Focusing on non-EU migrants in the UK, then, there are no accurate data on the number of lawfully resident non-EU citizens. The Home Office is required to report yearly estimates of the number of non-EU citizens holding a valid residence permit. They do this based on the number of temporary residence permits issued that year that remain valid. It includes for example, visas for entry and extensions where these have been granted. However, the estimate does not include migrants who have been granted permanent residence in the UK (i.e. indefinite leave to remain, or settled status). To make things worse, the government also has no way of knowing if those who were previously granted indefinite leave to remain still live in the UK now, or whether they are even alive. Any estimate of the migrant population, therefore, requires numerous assumptions to be made based on average yearly ILR grants, birth rates, death rates, etc. It is likely to have a significant margin of error for migrants with lawful residence, let alone for those without it.

Another recent example of how difficult it is to estimate population numbers is the Home Office failure to estimate the number of EU citizens living in the UK. Since 1 January 2021, free movement for EU citizens has ended, meaning they can no longer move to work and live in the UK as they please. EU citizens who lived in the UK before that date can apply to retain their residency rights under the EU Settlement Scheme. When the Home Office launched the EU Settlement Scheme in 2018, they estimated that three million EU citizens were living in the UK, and that this was about the number of applications they would receive. With over five months left to apply, over four million people have applied to the Scheme. In the five months to come before the Scheme closes on 30 June 2021, thousands if not a million more are expected.

In short, the government does not know exactly how many migrants there are in the UK, and has no real way of finding out unless it introduces a formal registration system like in the Netherlands or Belgium.

If you need assistance with your immigration status you can contact us here, call us on 020 8142 8211, or send us a question on WhatsApp.

Vacancy: Senior Immigration Advisor/Solicitor

Seraphus is a leading law firm in the area of European citizens rights and immigration law. We are seeking to recruit a Senior Caseworker who can join, enhance and contribute to our excellent team. This vacancy will involve an interesting mix of legal advice, representation, policy and lobbying work, diplomacy and engagement, as well as pro-bono support to the not-for-profit sector.

Location: The vacancy is full-time, five days per week, in London. We support flexible working hours with home-working. While this role will delivered remotely while public health necessitates it, there is opportunity for this role to be delivered remotely on a permanent basis. Therefore we encourage applications from anywhere in the UK.

Deadline for receipt of applications: Monday, 08 February 2020 at 11:59 PM

Salary: Minimum £36,000 per annum – maximum dependent on experience

Contact about the role: Christopher Desira, Director, 07708 941 932

About the role and how to apply:

The candidate will support our services delivered to the Delegation to the European Union to the United Kingdom for the purposes of protecting the interests and rights of EU citizens and their family members currently living in the UK or moving to the UK in the future. This includes legal and policy advice relating to Brexit, the EU Settlement Scheme and the future immigration system, as well as outreach, monitoring, lobbying, stakeholder engagement and coordination work. We will provide training and mentoring in these areas. This is an exciting opportunity to be at the centre of Brexit and the discussions on the future of European migration, to work with high level diplomats and public servants, and to improve the lives of EU citizens.

The candidate will also assist us in the delivery of complex casework on EU citizens rights as well as range of other immigration matters. This work will be delivered remotely and via a range of online legal services delivered in partnership with www.freemovement.org.uk. The candidate will have strong casework experience and knowledge of UK immigration and EU law.

In all the work that we do our overarching goal is to pursue a human and rights based approach to law, to support those who need our help, and to further the understanding that migration is a benefit and a right for everyone.

We require the successful candidate to start as soon as possible.

To apply, please download and read our Job Description and Personal Specification here, and email to recruitment@seraphus.co.uk the following:

- A one page CV, and
- a cover letter expressing your interest, explaining how your experience and skills match the role, and your availability

The deadline is: Monday, 08 February 2021 at 11:59 PM. Interviews will be scheduled to take place online from Wednesday, 10 February 2021.

Seraphus is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applications from all sections of the community.

If you wish to discuss this opportunity please contact Christopher Desira in confidence by email at cdesira@seraphus.co.uk.


7 immigration changes you need to be aware of by Charlotte Rubin

Since 1 January, free movement of people, goods and services has officially ended between the EU and the UK. After months of uncertainty and negotiations, the EU and the UK finally came to agreement on a last-minute trade deal just a week before the end of the transition period. As for the movement of people, freedom of movement ended on 1 January and the new immigration rules, applicable to all non-British citizens (except people with Irish citizenship) have come into full effect. Here are 7 things which changed overnight, and which affect how people live, work and travel in the EU and the UK:

1. The new UK immigration system

On 1 January 2021, the all new, all different, points-based immigration system came into force. All foreign nationals (except Irish nationals) wanting to move to the UK will have to apply and pay for a visa under this system. The government has stated that the new system aims to attract people who will contribute to the UK economy. The basics of the new system include a minimum income threshold (requiring a minimum salary of £25,600 for skilled workers and £20,480 for those with job offers in a shortage occupation or in possession of a PhD relevant to the job), a preference for skilled over unskilled workers (“skilled” meaning people with a certain level of education or training), and an increased cost of visa applications. All applicants also have to pay a health surcharge of £624 per person per year, unless they are healthcare workers.

For a summary of how the points-based system works, check out our blogpost on the topic.

2. UK citizens traveling to the EU

UK nationals can still travel to countries within the Schengen area (which comprises most EU countries as well as Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Norway) without a visa, but no longer for unlimited periods of time, and with additional requirements.

Regarding time limits, UK citizens can spend up to 90 days out of any 180-day period in the Schengen area. In order to be able to cross the border, they will have to have at least six months before their passport expires, and have travel insurance with health coverage. Obviously, UK citizens will no longer be able to use the EU priority lanes at airports or other border crossings.

EU agreements which previously ensured things like no roaming or COVID-19 related arrangements such as travel corridors/exemptions during the pandemic will stop applying. This is a significant change; travellers from the UK are not able to visit the EU at the moment except for specific essential reasons.

3. UK citizens living in the EU

The rights of UK citizens who lived lawfully in the EU before 31 December 2020 were already protected to a certain extent under the Withdrawal Agreement. However, to enjoy those protections, UK citizens living in EU countries should check their country of residence’s specific rules and processes to ensure they can retain those rights. They may need to register or apply for residency, or apply for new documents evidencing their right to stay, or adhere to certain other requirements such as having a job, for example.

4. UK citizens moving to the EU

UK citizens looking to move to the EU now, after 1 January 2021, will no longer have an automatic right to live, work and study or retire there. They will need to apply for a visa if they are traveling for any other reason than tourism, and especially if it is on a more permanent basis. The rules and eligibility for visas will vary country by country.

The one significant exception is for UK citizens planning to move to Ireland. Thanks to the Common Travel Area, special rules apply to the Irish border.

5. EU citizens living in the UK

The rights of EU citizens living lawfully in the UK were already protected under the Withdrawal Agreement. Until 30 June 2021, EU citizens living lawfully in the UK will retain all their rights automatically. If they want to retain their rights further, they will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme by that deadline of 30 June 2021, or else they will be unlawful residents and potentially liable for deportation.

Again, because of the Common Travel Area, rights of Irish citizens will not be affected.

If you need any help or advice with your EU Settlement Scheme application, check out our blog posts on the topic, as well as our seminars, and resources.

6. EU citizens moving to the UK

EU citizens moving to the UK after 1 January 2021 no longer have the automatic right to live, work and study here. They instead have to apply under one of the routes available under the points-based system. For more information on the points-based system, check out our resources and summaries.

7. The exception of Northern Ireland

The recent trade agreement includes a section on Northern Ireland, where the EU and the UK have agreed to keep an invisible border (without checkpoints) between the Republic of Ireland (which remains an EU Member State) and Northern Ireland (which is no longer in the EU). There will also be no tariffs (extra charges on goods) for most trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In exchange for this soft border, Northern Ireland will have to continue complying with many of the EU’s rules such as product standards and safety.

If you need assistance you can contact us here, call us on 020 8142 8211 or send us a question on WhatsApp.

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