Migration and migrant population statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from May 2014. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: April 2015.
Table 1: Immigration by citizenship, 2012 - Source: Eurostat (migr_imm1ctz) and (migr_imm5prv)
Figure 1: Immigrants, 2012 (1)
(per 1 000 inhabitants) - Source: Eurostat (migr_imm1ctz) and (migr_pop1ctz)
Figure 2: Return migrants in terms of citizenship, 2012
(% of all immigrants) - Source: Eurostat (migr_imm2ctz)
Table 2: Immigration by country of birth, 2012 - Source: Eurostat (migr_imm3ctb) and (migr_imm5prv)
Table 3: Immigration by previous country of residence, 2012 - Source: Eurostat (migr_imm5prv)
Figure 3: Immigrants by sex, 2012
(% of all immigrants) - Source: Eurostat (migr_imm2ctz)
Figure 4: Age structure of national and non-national immigrants, EU-27, 2012
(%) - Source: Eurostat (migr_imm2ctz)
Table 4: Non-national population by group of citizenship and foreign-born population by country of birth, 1 January 2013 - Source: Eurostat (migr_pop1ctz) and (migr_pop3ctb)
Figure 5: Share of non-nationals in the resident population, 1 January 2013
(%) - Source: Eurostat (migr_pop1ctz)
Table 5: Main countries of citizenship and birth of the foreign / foreign-born population, 1 January 2013 (1)
(in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the total foreign / foreign-born population) - Source: Eurostat (migr_pop1ctz) and (migr_pop3ctb)
Figure 6: Age structure of the national and non-national populations, EU-27, 1 January 2013
(%) - Source: Eurostat (migr_pop2ctz)
Figure 7: Number of persons having acquired the citizenship of an EU Member State, EU-27, 2002–12
(1 000) - Source: Eurostat (migr_acq)
Table 6: Persons having acquired the citizenship of the reporting country, 2012
(1 000) - Source: Eurostat (migr_acq)
Figure 8: Naturalisation rate, 2012 (1)
(per 100 non-national residents) - Source: Eurostat (migr_acq) and (migr_pop1ctz)
Table 7: Post-2011 census population and migration revisions transmitted to Eurostat, situation as of the middle of March 2014

This article presents European Union (EU) statistics on international migration, population stocks of national and foreign (non-national) citizens and data relating to the acquisition of citizenship. Migration is influenced by a combination of economic, political and social factors: either in a migrant’s country of origin (push factors) or in the country of destination (pull factors). Historically, the relative economic prosperity and political stability of the EU are thought to have exerted a considerable pull effect on immigrants.

In destination countries, international migration may be used as a tool to solve specific labour market shortages. However, migration alone will almost certainly not reverse the ongoing trend of population ageing experienced in many parts of the EU.

Main statistical findings

Migration flows

Immigration to the EU-27 was 1.7 million in 2012

During 2012, there were an estimated 1.7 million immigrants to the EU-27 from countries outside the EU-27. In addition, 1.7 million people previously residing in one of the EU Member States migrated to another Member State.

Thus, about 3.4 million people immigrated to one of the EU-27 Member States, while at least 2.7 million emigrants were reported to have left an EU-27 Member State. It should be noted that the two figures above do not represent the migration flows to / from the EU as a whole, since they also include flows between different EU Member States.

Germany reported the largest number of immigrants (592 200) in 2012, followed by the United Kingdom (498 000), Italy (350 800), France (327 400) and Spain (304 100). Spain reported the highest number of emigrants in 2012 (446 600), followed by the United Kingdom (321 200), France (288 300) and Poland (275 600). A total of 14 of the EU-27 Member States reported more immigration than emigration in 2012. However, in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Poland, Portugal, Romania and the three Baltic Member States, emigrants outnumbered immigrants, as they did in Croatia.

Relative to the size of the resident population, Luxembourg recorded the highest number of immigrants in 2012 (38 immigrants per 1 000 persons), followed by Cyprus (20) and Malta (17) — see Figure 1. The highest rates of emigration in 2012 were reported for Cyprus (21 emigrants per 1 000 persons) and Luxembourg (20 emigrants per 1 000 persons).

In 2012, the relative share of national immigrants, in other words immigrants with the citizenship of the Member State to which they are migrating, within the total number of immigrants was highest in Romania (93 % of all immigrants), Lithuania (88 %), Latvia (72 %), Portugal (64 %), Poland (63 %) and Estonia (58 %). These were the only EU-27 Member States to report that return migration in terms of citizenship accounted for a share that was higher than 50%. By contrast, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Italy and Austria reported relatively low shares, as return migration in terms of citizenship in 2012 accounted for less than 10 % of all immigration.

Information on citizenship has often been used to study immigrants with a foreign background. However, since citizenship can change over time, it is also useful to present information by country of birth. The relative share of native-born immigrants within the total number of immigrants was highest in Romania and Lithuania (both 79 % of all immigrants), followed by Latvia (72 %), Portugal (64 %) and Poland (55 %) — see Table 2. By contrast, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Spain, Italy and Austria reported relatively low shares with return migration in terms of the country of birth accounting for less than 10 % of total immigration in 2012.

In 2012, Luxembourg reported the largest share of immigrants coming from another EU Member State (92 % of all immigrants), followed by Slovakia (82 %) and Romania (81 %); relatively low shares were reported by Sweden (34 % of all immigrants), Italy (33 %) and Slovenia (24 %) — see Table 3.

Regarding the gender distribution of immigrants to the EU-27 in 2012, there were slightly more men than women (52 % compared with 48 %). The country reporting the highest share of male immigrants was Slovenia (61 %); by contrast, the highest share of female immigrants was reported in Cyprus (67 %).

Immigrants into EU-27 Member States in 2012 were, on average, much younger than the population already resident in their destination. On 1 January 2013, the median age of the EU-27 population was 42 years, while the median age of immigrants in 2012 ranged from 26 years (in the United Kingdom) to 40 years (in Bulgaria).

Foreign and foreign-born population

On 1 January 2013 the foreign population of the EU-27 was 20.4 million while the foreign-born population was 33.5 million

The EU-27 foreign population (people residing in an EU-27 Member State with citizenship of a non-member country) on 1 January 2013 was 20.4 million, representing 4.1 % of the EU-27 population. In addition, there were 13.7 million persons living in an EU-27 Member State on 1 January 2013 with the citizenship of another EU-27 Member State.

There were 33.5 million people born outside of the EU-27 living in an EU-27 Member State on 1 January 2013, while there were 17.3 million persons who had been born in a different EU-27 Member State from their country of residence. Only in Ireland, Hungary, Luxembourg, Slovakia and Cyprus was the number of persons born in other EU-27 Member States higher than the number born outside of the EU-27 (in other words in non-member countries). People born abroad outnumbered foreign citizens in all of the EU-27 Member States, except Latvia, the Czech Republic and Luxembourg.

In absolute terms, the largest numbers of non-nationals living in the EU on 1 January 2013 were found in Germany (7.7 million persons), Spain (5.1 million), the United Kingdom (4.9 million), Italy (4.4 million) and France (4.1 million). Non-nationals in these five EU Member States collectively represented 77 % of the total number of non-nationals living in the EU-27, while the same five Member States had a 63 % share of the EU’s population. In relative terms, the EU-27 Member State with the highest share of non-nationals was Luxembourg, as they accounted for 44 % of the total population. A high proportion of non-nationals (10 % or more of the resident population) was also observed in Cyprus, Latvia, Estonia, Ireland, Austria, Belgium and Spain.

In most EU Member States, the majority of non-nationals are citizens of non-member countries (see Table 4). The opposite is true only for Luxembourg, Slovakia, Ireland, Cyprus, Belgium, Malta, Hungary and the Netherlands. In the case of Latvia and Estonia, the proportion of citizens from non-member countries is particularly large due to the high number of recognised non-citizens (mainly former Soviet Union citizens, who are permanently resident in these countries but have not acquired any other citizenship). Table 5 presents a summary of the five main citizenships and countries of birth for the EU-27 and EFTA Member States for which detailed data are available.

An analysis of the age structure of the population shows that, for the EU-27 as a whole, the foreign population was younger than the national population. The distribution by age for foreigners shows, compared with that for nationals, a greater proportion of relatively young working age adults. In 2012, the median age of the national population in the EU-27 was 43 years, while the median age of foreigners living in the EU was 35 years.

Acquisition of citizenship

Acquisition of citizenship was up by 4.3 % in 2012

The number of people acquiring the citizenship of an EU-27 Member State in 2012 was 817 000, corresponding to a 4.3 % increase with respect to 2011. In 2012, more people had acquired the citizenship of an EU Member State than in any other year during the period from 2002 to 2011.

The United Kingdom had the highest number of persons acquiring citizenship in 2012, at 193 900 (or 24 % of the EU-27 total). The next highest levels of acquisition of citizenship were in Germany (114 600), France (96 100) and Spain (94 100).

In absolute terms, the highest increases were observed in the United Kingdom (16 300 more persons were granted British citizenship compared with 2011), followed by Ireland (14 300), Sweden (13 500) and Italy (9 200). By contrast, the largest decreases in absolute terms were observed in Spain (20 500 less persons were granted Spanish citizenship compared with 2011) and France (18 500 less).

One indicator commonly used to measure the effect of national policies on citizenship is the ‘naturalisation rate’, defined as the ratio between the total number of citizenships granted and the stock of foreign residents in a country at the beginning of the year. The EU-27 Member State with the highest naturalisation rate in 2012 was Hungary (12.8 acquisitions per 100 foreign residents), followed at some distance by Sweden (7.8), and then Poland, Malta, Finland and Portugal (with rates between 6.6 and 5.0 acquisitions per 100 foreign residents).

Some 709 100 citizens of non-member countries residing in an EU-27 Member State acquired EU citizenship in 2012, corresponding to a 4.3 % increase with respect to 2011. As such, citizens of non-member countries accounted for 86.8 % of all persons who acquired citizenship of an EU-27 Member State in 2012. These new EU-27 citizens were mainly from Africa (25 % of the total number of citizenships acquired), Asia (25 %), Europe (outside of the EU-27, 20 %) and North and South America (15 %). Citizens of EU-27 Member States who acquired citizenship of another EU-27 Member State amounted to some 90 000 persons, thus accounting for 11 % of the total. In absolute terms, the main groups of EU-27 citizens acquiring citizenship of another EU-27 Member State were Romanians becoming citizens of Hungary (14 400 persons) or Italy (3 300 persons), Poles becoming citizens of Germany (4 500 persons) or the United Kingdom (3 000 persons), Italians becoming citizens of Belgium (3 200 persons) and Germany (2 200 persons), Greeks becoming citizens of Germany (4 200 persons) and Portuguese becoming citizens of France(3 300 persons)

In Luxembourg and Hungary the majority of new citizenships granted were to citizens of another EU Member State. In the case of Luxembourg, Belgian and Portuguese citizens accounted for the largest shares, while in the case of Hungary those acquiring citizenship were almost exclusively Romanians (97 % of Hungarian citizenships granted to citizens of another EU Member State).

As in previous years, the largest groups of new citizens in the EU-27 Member States in 2012 were citizens of Morocco (59 300, corresponding to 7.3 % of all citizenships granted) and Turkey (53 800, or 6.6 %). Compared with 2011, the number of Moroccan citizens acquiring citizenship of an EU Member State decreased by 7.7 %, while the corresponding share for Turkish citizens increased by 9.4 %. The largest share of Moroccans acquired their new citizenship in France (28 %), Italy (25 %) or Spain (16 %), while the highest proportion of Turkish citizens acquired their new citizenship in Germany (62 %).

Data sources and availability

Emigration is particularly difficult to measure; it is harder to count people leaving a country than those arriving. An analysis comparing 2008 immigration and emigration data from the EU Member States (mirror statistics) confirmed that this was true in many countries. As a result, this article focuses mainly on immigration data.

Eurostat produces statistics on a range of issues related to international migration flows, non-national (foreigner) population stocks and the acquisition of citizenship. Data are collected on an annual basis and are supplied to Eurostat by the national statistical authorities of the EU Member States.

Basis for data collection

Since 2008 the collection of migration and citizenship data has been based on Regulation 862/2007; the analysis and composition of the EU, EFTA and candidate countries groups as at 1 January of the reference year are given in the implementing Regulation 351/2010. This defines a core set of statistics on international migration flows, population stocks of foreigners, the acquisition of citizenship, residence permits, asylum and measures against illegal entry and stay. Although EU Member States may continue to use any appropriate data according to national availability and practice, the statistics collected under the Regulation must be based on common definitions and concepts. Most EU Member States base their statistics on administrative data: sources such as population registers, registers of foreigners, registers of residence or work permits. Some countries use sample surveys or estimation methods to produce migration statistics. The data on the acquisition of citizenship are normally produced from administrative systems. The implementation of the Regulation is expected to result in increased availability and comparability of migration and citizenship statistics.

As stated in Article 2.1(a), (b), (c) of Regulation 862/2007, immigrants who have been residing (or who are expected to reside) in the territory of an EU Member State for a period of at least 12 months are enumerated, as are emigrants living abroad for more than 12 months. Therefore, data collected by Eurostat concern migration for a period of 12 months or longer: migrants therefore include people who have migrated for a period of one year or more as well as persons who have migrated on a permanent basis.

Data on acquisitions of citizenship are collected by Eurostat under the provisions of Article 3.1.(d) of Regulation 862/2007, which states that: ’Member States shall supply to the Commission (Eurostat) statistics on the numbers of (…) persons having their usual residence in the territory of the Member State and having acquired during the reference year the citizenship of the Member State (…) disaggregated by (…) the former citizenship of the persons concerned and by whether the person was formerly stateless’.

Previously, statistics on migration flows, foreigner population stocks and the acquisition of citizenship were sent to Eurostat on a voluntary basis, as part of a joint migration data collection organised by Eurostat in cooperation with a series of international organisations, for example the United Nations Statistical Division (UNSD), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The recent changes in methodology, definitions and data sources used to produce migration and citizenship statistics may result, for some EU Member States, in a lack of comparability over time for their respective series.

Main data availability notes

Croatia, which joined the EU on 1 July 2013, is not included in the EU-27 aggregate.

The EU-27 aggregates of acquisitions of citizenship data for 2010, 2011 and 2012 include Romanian data for 2009.

Post-census revisions

Countries revising the population series after the 2011 census round were expected to send revised post-census results by age, sex and citizenship or country of birth to Eurostat for the whole intercensal period or shorter by the end of 2013, taking into account Eurostat’s recommendation. The left-hand half of Table 7 summarises the extent to which post-2011 census population revisions had been transmitted to Eurostat, analysed by age, sex and citizenship or country of birth. The right-hand half of Table 7 summarises the extent to which post-2011 Census revisions of migration flows had been transmitted to Eurostat. Eurostat has been informed of difficulties from the following countries to meet the deadline of 31 December 2013 for post-2011 census data transmission together with the following planned deadlines: Germany, first half 2015; Italy and Poland, last quarter of 2014; Romania and the United Kingdom, autumn 2014. These revisions of data will probably have an impact on the figures presented.


Citizens of EU Member States have freedom to travel and freedom of movement within the EU’s internal borders. Migration policies within the EU in relation to citizens of non-member countries are increasingly concerned with attracting a particular migrant profile, often in an attempt to alleviate specific skills shortages. Selection can be carried out on the basis of language proficiency, work experience, education and age. Alternatively, employers can make the selection so that migrants already have a job upon their arrival.

Besides policies to encourage labour recruitment, immigration policy is often focused on two areas: preventing unauthorised migration and the illegal employment of migrants who are not permitted to work, and promoting the integration of immigrants into society. Significant resources have been mobilised to fight people smuggling and trafficking networks in the EU.

Some of the most important legal texts adopted in the area of immigration include:

Within the European Commission, the Directorate-General for Home Affairs is responsible for immigration policy. In 2005, the European Commission relaunched the debate on the need for a common set of rules for the admission of economic migrants with a Green paper on an EU approach to managing economic migration (COM(2004) 811 final) which led to the adoption of a policy plan on legal migration (COM(2005) 669 final) at the end of 2005. In July 2006, the European Commission adopted a Communication on policy priorities in the fight against illegal immigration of third-country nationals (COM(2006) 402 final), which aims to strike a balance between security and an individuals’ basic rights during all stages of the illegal immigration process. In September 2007, the European Commission presented its third annual report on migration and integration (COM(2007) 512 final). A European Commission Communication adopted in October 2008 emphasised the importance of strengthening the global approach to migration: increasing coordination, coherence and synergies (COM(2008) 611 final) as an aspect of external and development policy. The Stockholm programme, adopted by EU heads of state and government in December 2009, set a framework and series of principles for the ongoing development of European policies on justice and home affairs for the period 2010 to 2014; migration-related issues are a central part of this programme. In order to bring about the changes agreed upon, the European Commission enacted an action plan implementing the Stockholm programme – delivering an area of freedom, security and justice for Europe’s citizens (COM(2010) 171 final) in 2010.

In May 2013, the European Commission published the ‘EU Citizenship Report 2013’ (COM(2013) 269 final). The report noted that EU citizenship brings new rights and opportunities. Moving and living freely within the EU is the right most closely associated with EU citizenship. Given modern technology and the fact that it is now easier to travel, freedom of movement allows Europeans to expand their horizons beyond national borders, to leave their country for shorter or longer periods, to come and go between EU countries to work, study and train, to travel for business or for leisure, or to shop across borders. Free movement potentially increases social and cultural interactions within the EU and closer bonds between EU citizens. In addition, it may generate mutual economic benefits for businesses and consumers, including those who remain at home, as internal obstacles are steadily removed.

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

International Migration and Asylum (t_migr)
Acquisition of citizenship
Immigration (tps00176)
Emigration (tps00177)
Population by citizenship - Foreigners (tps00157)
Population by country of birth - Foreign-born (tps00178)


International Migration and Asylum (migr)
International migration flows (migr_flow)
Immigration (migr_immi)
Immigration by sex, age group and citizenship (migr_imm1ctz)
Immigration by sex, age and broad group of citizenship (migr_imm2ctz)
Immigration by sex, age group and country of birth (migr_imm3ctb)
Immigration by sex, age and broad group of country of birth (migr_imm4ctb)
Immigration by sex, age group and country of previous residence (migr_imm5prv)
Immigration by sex, citizenship and broad group of country of birth (migr_imm6ctz)
Immigration by sex, country of birth and broad group of citizenship (migr_imm7ctb)
Emigration (migr_emi)
Emigration by sex and age (migr_emi2)
Emigration by sex, age group and citizenship (migr_emi1ctz)
Emigration by sex, age group and country of birth (migr_emi4ctb)
Emigration by sex, age group and country of next usual residence (migr_emi3nxt)
Population by citizenship and by country of birth (migr_stock)
Population by sex, age group and citizenship (migr_pop1ctz)
Population by sex, age and broad group of citizenship (migr_pop2ctz)
Population by sex, age group and country of birth (migr_pop3ctb)
Population by sex, age and broad group of country of birth (migr_pop4ctb)
Population by sex, citizenship and broad group of country of birth (migr_pop5ctz)
Population by sex, country of birth and broad group of citizenship (migr_pop6ctb)
Acquisition and loss of citizenship (migr_acqn)
Acquisition of citizenship by sex, age group and former citizenship (migr_acq)
Loss of citizenship by sex and new citizenship (migr_lct)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

External links