Cabinet Office written question – answered am ar 9 Mehefin 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Viscount Thurso Viscount Thurso Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

To ask His Majesty's Government whether the latest net migration figures include UK citizens who have moved abroad for study or work and then returned; and what is their current estimate of those numbers.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

The information requested falls under the remit of the UK Statistics Authority.

Please see the letter attached from the National Statistician and Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority.

The Rt Hon. the Viscount Thurso

House of Lords



05 June 2023

Dear Lord Thurso,

As National Statistician and Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority, I am responding to your Parliamentary Question asking whether the latest net migration figures include UK citizens who have moved abroad for study or work and then returned; and what is the current estimate of those numbers (HL8171).

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) publish estimates for British nationals migrating from and to the UK for a period of 12 months or more.

On 25 May the ONS published its latest long-term international migration estimates [1]. Experimental and provisional estimates for the long-term migration of British nationals in 2022 are provided in Table 1.

The immigration estimate includes all British nationals who came into the UK in 2022 and stayed (or intended to stay) for 12 months or longer. The emigration estimate includes all British nationals who left the UK in 2022 and were out (or intended to be out) of the UK for 12 months or longer. Both estimates will include some returning migrants but exclude any whose time abroad or back in the UK was for less than 12 months.

The ONS is unable to quantify net migration by their reason for migration or whether they are returning migrants. This is because the International Passenger Survey (IPS), does not track an individual person’s journeys, only that the person interviewed has exited or entered the country and their reason along with demographic data. The ONS derive estimates from these data. Peoples’ identities are not tracked, so if a person had moved abroad for work or study, the ONS can not say if that same person has returned or not.

The ONS does not produce net migration by the reason for migration due to the lack of data available to monitor a person's specific migrant journey, in particular students who are typically more fluid in their behaviour. Migrants may change their reason for migration between immigration and emigration, making any net migration estimates by reason an over or under estimation of population change. Research is ongoing into this subject, but there are currently no intentions to include net migration by reason in future publications for these reasons.

The ONS is asking for feedback from users, to support the forthcoming consultation on population and migration statistics that is being launched in late June 2023. We would welcome any feedback from yourself in regards to this subject and how population and migration statistics could be improved.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Sir Ian Diamond

[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/internationalmigration/bulletins/longterminternationalmigrationprovisional/yearendingdecember2022#population-change

Table 1, Long-term international migration estimates for British nationals, year ending December 2022, UK [2], [3]





Net Migration


Source: Office for National Statistics

[2] British nationals figures are based on the International Passenger Survey (IPS).

[3] Because of the experimental and provisional nature of these statistics, numbers have been rounded to the nearest thousand.

UK Statistics Authority (pdf, 102.8KB)

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