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Migration, country of birth and citizenship

Policy details

Metadata item Details
Publication date:17 April 2019
Author:Callum Allison
Approver:Claire Pini
Who this is for:Users and producers of statistics
Type:Harmonisation guidance and principles
Contact:

gsshelp@statistics.gov.uk

Introduction

Statistics on migration are collected and published by several different government departments, including the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Home Office, and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). These statistics rely on data collected from both surveys and administrative sources.

There are many sources of official statistics that measure different aspects of international migration to and from the UK, as well as the number and characteristics of migrants who have settled in the UK. It is important that users understand the definitional, timing and coverage differences between each department’s statistics before making comparisons. Information on how to use different migration statistics and the differences between the various sources can be found in the ONS article, ‘Comparing sources of international migration statistics’.

ONS has set out a cross-Government Statistical Service (GSS) transformation programme, working with the Home Office (the lead policy department), the devolved administrations and other government departments who have a strong interest in improving the migration evidence base. As part of this, statistical concepts and definitions (what it is we are trying to measure) used in migration statistics are being reviewed. Further information on concepts and definitions aspect of the transformation programme can be found on the ONS international migration webpage.

We are always interested in hearing from users so we can develop our work. If you use or produce statistics on migration, and are interested in their coherence and comparability, please get in touch: gsshelp@statistics.gov.uk.

Definitions of key terms

This page identifies key terms used within the migration topic, grouped into three themes: international migration, internal migration and overarching concepts. Definitions of key terms and their source are provided.

Asylum applicant

An asylum applicant is a person who either: (a) makes a request to be recognised as a refugee under the Refugee Convention on the basis that it would be contrary to the UK’s obligations under the Convention for him to be removed from or required to leave the UK, or (b) otherwise makes a request for international protection.

[Source: Home Office: User Guide to Home Office Immigration Statistics]

Country of usual residence

Based on the UN definition, the country in which a person has a place to live, where he or she normally spends the daily period of rest. Temporary travel abroad for purposes of recreation, holiday, visits to friends and relatives, business, medical treatment or religious pilgrimages does not change a person’s country of usual residence.

[Source: ONS, International migration – terms, definitions and frequently asked questions]

Intended length of stay

Length of stay for UK residents covers the time spent in a destination country, including the journey outside the UK, whilst for overseas residents it refers to the time spent within the UK.

[Source: ONS, Long-Term International Migration estimates methodology]

Long-term international migration (LTIM)

A person who moves to a country other than that of his or her usual residence for a period of at least a year (12 months), so that the country of destination effectively becomes his or her new country of usual residence. From the perspective of the country of departure the person will be a long-term emigrant and from that of the country of arrival the person will be a long-term immigrant.

[Source: ONS (United Nations definition), International migration – terms, definitions and frequently asked questions]

Migration switchers

Migrant switchers are people who intend to stay in or out of the UK for 12 months or more but actually stay for less than 12 months.

[Source: ONS, Report on international migration data sources: July 2018]

Reason for visit

This is the main reason given by someone for their journey to a country.

[Source: ONS. International migration – terms, definitions and frequently asked questions]

Refugee

A refugee is defined, by the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and 1967 Protocol (the ‘Refugee Convention’), as being a person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality (or habitual residence, where stateless) and who is unable or, owing to such a fear, is unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country. Recognition of refugee status is a pre-requisite to the grant of refugee leave in the UK.

[Source: Home Office, User Guide to Home Office Immigration Statistics]

Short-term international migration (STIM)

There is no single harmonised definition of a short-term migrant.

Short-Term International Migration (STIM) estimates for England and Wales produced by ONS are based on three definitions:

  • United Nations (UN) definition of a short-term migrant – “a person who moves to a country other than that of his or her usual residence for a period of at least three months but less than a year (12 months), except in cases where the movement to that country is for the purposes of recreation, holiday, visits to friends or relatives, business, medical treatment or religious pilgrimage”.
  • 3 to 12 months – all reasons for migration, this includes the UN definition and the categories business, holiday, visiting friends or relatives, and other.
  • 1 to 12 months – all reasons for migration, this includes the categories in the 3 to 12 months definition, but for 1 to 12 months; as such, this definition captures more visits made for holidays and to visit friends or relatives.

To be included as a short-term international immigrant to England and Wales under any of these definitions, a person must have been usually resident outside the UK for 12 months or more (these tend to be foreign citizens but can include British citizens). Similarly, a short-term international emigrant from England and Wales must have been usually resident in the UK for 12 months or more prior to leaving (these tend to be British citizens, but can include foreign citizens).

[Source: ONS, Short-Term International Migration for England and Wales: year ending June 2017]

Visitor switchers

Visitor switchers are people who intend to stay in or out of the UK for less than 12 months but actually stay for 12 months or more.

[Source: ONS, Report on international migration data sources: July 2018]

Visitors

For the purposes of population and migration statistics an overseas visitor means a person who, being permanently resident in a country outside the United Kingdom, visits the UK for a period of less than 12 months. UK citizens resident overseas for 12 months or more coming home on leave are included in this category. Visits abroad are visits for a period of less than 12 months by people permanently resident in the UK (who may be of foreign nationality).

[Sources: ONS, Travel Trends 2018]

Year and month of arrival in the UK

The year of arrival in the UK is derived from the date that a person last (or first) arrived to live in the UK.

Short visits away from the UK are not counted in determining the date that a person arrived.

(In the 2011 Census, year of arrival was only applicable to usual residents who were not born in the UK. It did not include usual residents born in the UK who have emigrated and since returned; these are recorded in the category ‘born in the UK’.)

[Source: ONS, 2011 Census Variable and Classification Information: Part 4]

Cross-border migrant

A cross-border migrant is someone who makes a migration movement from one country in the UK to another country in the UK.

[Source: ONS, Population estimates for the UK, mid-2018: methods guide]

Internal migrant

An internal migrant is someone who has an address of usual residence in the UK who changes their usual residence to another address within the UK. Internal migration includes both cross-border moves between the other countries of the UK, and moves between local areas within each part of the UK.

[Source: ONS, Population estimates for the UK, mid-2018: methods guide]

Address one year ago

For most people, the address one year ago will be the permanent or family home that they were living in one year ago. However, if an individual did not have a usual address one year ago, for example those sleeping rough, then the name of the town in which they were staying should be recorded. For babies/children under one year ago the information is not collected. The address one year ago information is also used in identifying both internal and international migration.

[Source: ONS, 2011 Census Variable and Classification Information: Part 3]

Citizenship

When measured at the point of migration to/from UK, country of citizenship is normally measured based on the country for which a migrant is a passport holder. This refers specifically to the passport being used to enter / leave the UK. There may be exceptions for example where individuals are dual nationals or where individuals are using alternative documentation for travel purposes.

Individuals can obtain UK citizenship via a range of routes. Details are provided in the User Guide to Home Office Immigration Statistics.

“This is the term used in the International Passenger Survey (IPS) to define the country for which a migrant is a passport holder. This refers specifically to the passport being used to enter or leave the UK at the time of interview. It does not refer to any other passport(s) which migrants of multiple nationalities may hold. More generally a British citizen as described in IPS statistics includes those with UK nationality usually through a connection with the UK: birth, adoption, descent, registration, or naturalisation. British nationals have the right of abode in the UK.”

[Source: ONS, International Migration – terms, definitions and frequently asked questions]

Country of birth

Country of birth is the country in which a person was born. Where country name has changed, current name of the country should be used.

[Source: ONS, 2011 Census Variable and Classification Information – Part 3]

Nationality

Nationality is often used interchangeably with citizenship, and some datasets, refer to ‘nationals’ of a country rather than ‘citizens’. Different datasets have different ways of establishing someone’s nationality. The Annual Population Survey, which underlies the population estimates by nationality, simply asks people ‘what is your nationality?’ However, the IPS, National Insurance numbers (NINos) (from Department for Work and Pensions data) and entry clearance visa data are based on people’s passports. For asylum statistics, the nationality is as stated on the ‘Case Information Database’. This will usually be based on documentary evidence, but sometimes asylum seekers arrive in the UK without any such documentation.

[Source: Home Office, User Guide to Home Office Immigration Statistics]

Passports held

Classifies whether a person holds a passport(s) regardless of the issuing country.

[Source: ONS, 2011 Census Variable and Classification Information – Part 3]

The GSS Migration Statistics Transformation Programme

In January 2019, ONS published a research engagement report which shows the progress they are making towards a new approach for producing population stocks and flows using administrative data, by bringing more sources together to fill gaps in coverage. A key strand of this work is focused on developing a core set of concepts and definitions – user feedback received to date on the population and migration statistics transformation programme was published in June 2019 and includes a section on concepts and definitions. The GSS Harmonisation Team will update this webpage with the results of this work as required. Please send any feedback on the Migration Statistics Transformation Programme to pop.info@ons.gov.uk.

Further links

International migration – terms, definitions and frequently asked questions: published on the ONS website, it introduces the main concepts that underpin international migration statistics, including answers to frequently asked questions.

International migration: contains all data published by the Centre for International Migration at ONS, including updates on the transformation of the population and migration statistics system, and the migration statistics quarterly report.

Review frequency:

This page will be reviewed annually.

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