Immigration Statistics: October - December 2017

With Brexit on the horizon, immigration has become a huge talking point for Britain. We've pulled out the key facts and figures, with a particular focus on business immigration and migration from Europe and the EEA.

Key Facts & EU/EEA Migration

During the entirety of 2017, there were 135.2 million passenger arrivals, including UK residents. This was an increase of 5.3 million compared to 2016 – a record number of people coming into the UK.

  • 2.4 million more arrivals by British, other EEA and Swiss nationals (up 2% to 116.0 million)
  • 2.9 million more non-EEA nationals (up 18% to 19.2 million)

There were over 2.7 million visas granted in 2017 - 2.1 million (77%) were to visit and 8% were for study.In 2017, 168,913 documents certifying permanent residence and permanent residence cards were issued to EEA nationals and non-EEA family members. At more than twice the figure for 2016 (65,068), this is the highest ever recorded annual figure. Total applications for British citizenship also rose to 141,302 (up 8%), with applications by EU nationals rising from 15,460 to 38,528; more than double last year.

Business Immigration - non-EU nationals coming to the UK to work

There were 165,131 work-related visas granted in 2017, an increase of 1% on 2016. These included:

  • 5,127 high-value (Tier 1) visas - up 13%
  • 94,247 skilled (Tier 2) visas - up 1%
  • 40,864 youth mobility and temporary workers (Tier 5) - down 3
  • 24,893 non-points-based system (PBS)/other Work visas - up 3%

According to estimates from Labour Force Survey, UK and non-UK people in the labour market: February 2018, the number of people employed in the UK increased in the last quarter of 2017 by 328,000, when compared to the last quarter of 2016. This is the highest increase since the series began in 1981.

Sponsored visa applications for skilled (Tier 2) work

Since 2013, the number of work-related visas granted has gradually increased, with some fluctuations. The nationalities that were granted the largest number of skilled work visas in 2017 were:

  • Indian, accounting for 56% of all grants - down 2%
  • American, accounting for 10% of all grants - up 1%
  • Japanese, accounting for 4% of all grants - down 3%

Sector specific changes in the recruitment of skilled workers in Tier 2 include:

  • A 24% increase (1,264 more visas) in the human health and social work activities sector
  • A 7% fall in the information and communication sector - down 1,584
  • A 14% decrease in the professional, scientific and technical activities sector - down 1,430

There were 21,782 applications in the information and communication sector in 2017. This sector alone accounted for 40% of all skilled work-sponsored visa applications. The large rise in the health sector is probably due to the addition of nurses to the government’s shortage occupation list.

Long-term immigration for work

During 2017, there was also a 12% increase in long-term immigration for work. This relates to the estimated number of non-EU nationals intending to change their residence to the UK for at least 12 months. However, when compared with trends over time, this estimated 8,000 increase is not statistically different.Read the full immigration statistics for October to December at

Freeths' Business Immigration team

Emma Brooksbank, one of our specialist business immigration partners at Freeths, comments:

“The increase in EEA permanent residence card applications comes as no surprise. Many European nationals living in the United Kingdom have been taking steps to secure their future residence in the UK. At Freeths, we anticipate that this trend will continue but with permanent residence applications being replaced with settled status application towards the end of 2018.

The increase in Tier 2 visas is likely to continue. Many of our business immigration, employment and corporate clients tell us that they are struggling to meet their recruitment needs at the moment, as recruitment from Europe has slowed. They are looking to the global market to fill their workforce requirements. This results in more applications for sponsored skilled workers under the Tier 2 visa regime.

The Tier 2 cap was reached at the end of 2017, making it very difficult for businesses to secure visas to fill vital roles. We trust the government will listen to UK businesses and to the public sector, particularly the NHS, who need a lifting of the cap to enable them to recruit successfully.

”Freeths can help you overcome the hurdles of Brexit, whether you’re an employer or an entrepreneur. We have worked with some of the largest global brands, offering innovative solutions to issues. From bespoke training courses to helping businesses support their EU staff, we cover all aspects of immigration law.

Click here to discover how Freeths’ Business Immigration team can help you


The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.