United Kingdom



  • Rank: 15 out of 38
  • MIPEX Score: 57
  • HEALTH 64

Key Findings

Changes in context

  • Foreign-born population (12.5% in 2014) similar to other Western European countries (e.g. FR, DE, NL)
  • Mostly work and study in UK (like IE, CH, CY, MT): Slight majority (≈60% in 2013) of non-EU newcomers come with permits to work or study 
  • Along with IE, UK benefits from one of most high-educated non-EU citizen populations in the EU (from 1/4 to 1/2 from 2006 to 2014), similar to immigrants in AU/CA/NZ 
  • Labour government replaced by conservative-liberal democrat coalition in 2010 elections and now conservative majority in 2015 elections
  • Beyond the debates on net migration, the majority of people in the UK are just as positive about immigrants and integration as others in Northern Europe

Key Common Statistics

Country of net migration since:% Non-EU citizens% Foreign-born% Non-EU of foreign-born% Non-EU university-educated % from low or medium-developed (HDI) country
UN 2010 data in 2013Eurostat 2013Eurostat 2013Eurostat 2013Note: Adults aged 18-64, Eurostat 2013Eurostat 2013

Changes in policy

  • From 2011 to 2014, regular changes to the rules significantly restricted the opportunities for families to reunite and the path to settlement and UK citizenship 
  • The UK’s integration policies dropped 6 points, the 2nd largest restrictions in recent years (alongside GR and NL)
  • Separated families now face the least 'family-friendly' immigration policies in the developed world: the longest delays and highest income, language and fee levels, one of the few countries with language test abroad and restricted access to benefits
  • One of the most restrictive and expensive paths to settle permanently and become UK citizens, with few free EN and citizenship courses for immigrants to succeed
  • UK stopping its weak targeted measures for labour market integration at the very time when most in Northern Europe and settlement countries are expanding their support
  • Following the comprehensive 2010 Equality Act, UK's commitment to equality slipped since 2011/2 with 55% budget cuts for EHRC and end of mandatory equality impact assessments
  • After mainstreaming Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant, schools are no longer required to spend and report on the needs of bilingual and underachieving ethnic minority pupils
  • The NHS is well-prepared to deal with diversity but government is now restricting migrants’ eligibility and access more so than the large majority of countries (including AU and NZ) 

Conclusions and recommendations

These major restrictions were mostly motivated by the government's pledge to cap migration at the tens of thousands and to pursue austerity and localism. Now non-EU residents in the UK who want to invest in their integration will face greater hardship and costs than almost anywhere else in the developed world to reunite with their spouses and children, settle permanently or become citizens. Cuts to funding and monitoring may be undermining the UK’s traditional international strengths on anti-discrimination and equality laws and education support for minority pupils, with the UK falling behind other EN-speaking countries. These cuts and restrictions rarely subject to the types of pilots and evaluation that would evaluate their reach and impact on local communities and various integration outcomes.

The government's February 2012 integration strategy assigns greater responsibility for integration to society and local authorities. The national policies and funding to support this process focus on five key factors: common values, mutal commitments and obligations, social mobility, local civic participation and tackling intolerance and extremism. While local and regional authorities are taking a lead in certain issues and parts of the UK (e.g. London, Scotland, Northern Ireland), they may not have the data (apart from the census), guidance, resources, migrant forums or willingness to respond effectively to newcomers and reverse inequalities for long-settled communities. Other countries better support local and regional authorities by adopting a comprehensive national integration strategy, where these authorities come together with civil society and immigrant communities to make their own commitments and agree on common measurable targets (e.g. AU, DE, NO, PT, SE, recently US). 

Policy Recommendations from the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS)

  • Measure the impact of restricting the right to family reunion
  • Provide areas of new migration with targeted support for migrant children’s education
  • Assess the impact of scaling back the enforcement of equality law, in particular on migrant and minority employment
  • Ensure that access to English language support is at the centre of the integration debate, with clarity about the costs and benefits of strengthening support
  • Encourage local government and city governments to consider the local impact of new migrations and prepare strategies to facilitate migrant integration


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Labour Market Mobility

Key Findings

Non-EU immigrants have generally equal access to the UK’s inequitable labour market and end up in a similar position as high- and low-educated UK-born citizens; the specific challenges faced by immigrant communities, especially low-educated men and women, go unaddressed by the UK’s even weaker targeted measures under austerity, at a time when most other similar countries are expanding their support

Potential Beneficiaries

How many immigrants could be employed?

An estimated 1/4 of working-age non-EU citizens are not in employment, education or training in UK, according to 2011/2 estimates. This level is lower than in most European countries and similar to the levels in Nordic countries (DK, NO, SE). This low level belies inequalities emerge between the high vs. low-educated and especially between men and women. NEET levels are higher among high-educated women (27%) than among men (just 7%) and much higher among low-educated women (60%) than among men (28%). In contrast, in the Nordic countries, non-EU men and women tend to be equally participating in the labour market, education and training. 

Policy Indicators

Do immigrants have equal rights and opportunities to access jobs and improve their skills?

With policies halfway favourable, the UK opens access to jobs, mainstream services and procedures to recognise foreign qualifications and skills, but expects them to pursue jobs and training without study grants and many social benefits.

The UK's weak targeted support is now even weaker since 2011/2 austerity measures (-3 points on labour market mobility). Immigrants are unlikely to benefit from any special support (see SE, DE, DK). 

Non-EU citizens enjoy generally equal access, except to public benefits and study grants; Over time, they are relatively well-integrated into the UK's inequitable labour market; the high numbers of university-educated are working and pursuing training like their educated UK-born peers; both low-educated UK- and non-EU-born are more likely to be out of work, especially low-educated non-EU women; male non-EU workers suffer greater in-work poverty without sufficient wages or benefits; the UK's few targeted measures focus more on high-educated (e.g. recognition and bridging) than on low-educated (e.g. limited/fragmented ESOL funding).

Dimension 1: Access to labour market

  • Non-EU residents' basic access to the labour market is favourable, as in most countries attracting migrant workers
  • Non-EU residents are generally treated the same as UK citizens, as the UK does not close off sectors of the economy to immigrants
  • The major gaps are the delays for non-EU labour migrants to change jobs and sectors or open their own businesses, which is restricted in the UK and most other countries

Dimension 2: Access to general support

  • Non-EU newcomers can access the same general support as for UK citizens, but often without study grants 
  • Immigrants can access public employment offices, higher education and vocational training, as in nearly all other countries
  • Newcomers in the UK must wait several years to access study/training grants e.g. for long-term job-seekers
  • Skilled immigrants with foreign qualifications and skills can get them recognised by NARIC, the UK's long-established one-stop-shop since 1984

Dimension 3: Targeted support

  • Weaker targeted support was made even weaker under austerity measures in 2011/2
  • Immigrants will not find ESOL courses at the Workplace and Skills for Life since funding cuts; only generic courses are available in Scotland for low-income adults and in England for active unemployed adults
  • Hardly any bridging programmes for skilled immigrants (e.g. no more overseas trained teachers programme after 10 years' work)
  • Only UK and NL cut help for immigrants to develop language and specific vocational skills for their labour markets, unlike most Western European countries who are strengthening their support (e.g. AT, BE, DE)

Dimension 4: Workers' rights

  • Non-EU workers are entitled to the same working conditions and access to trade unions as UK citizens, but not to the same benefits and support from the state
  • These workers, who pay taxes, are nevertheless excluded from parts of the social security system, including housing benefits and social housing
  • Their entitlements are more restricted than in 25 of the 38 countries (similar to AU/NZ, see instead Nordics, CA, FR, DE, NL, ES)

Real beneficiaries

Are immigrants acquiring new skills?

Working-age non-EU citizens are more likely to participate in education and training in the UK and the Nordics than in most European countries. Around 30% of non-EU citizen men and women reported that they were recently enrolled in education or training in 2011/2, although these numbers have slightly declined from 2010 to 2014. Investing in their skills, networks and a UK-degree can significantly boost their labour market integration and contribution to UK economy. Those pursuing these education opportunities are largely the university-educated. Low-educated non-EU men and women are much less likely to access education and training in the UK (around 16%). 

While non-EU citizens are more likely to take up education and training in the UK than elsewhere in Europe, unemployed non-EU citizens seem much less likely in the UK to receive any unemployment benefits to help them find a job. According to very rough 2011/2 estimates, <20% of unemployed non-EU citizen men and women reportedly received any unemployment benefit when unemployed in the previous year. This level is one of the lowest in Europe, similar to DE and far below the levels of inclusion in countries such as FI, AT, CH (>2/3) or even IE (42%).

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants find skilled and well-paid jobs?

  • One of the highest employment rates (≥75% in 2012/3) and slow return to employment/GDP growth, as in Nordics and other EN-speaking countries
  • Most flexible employment protection legislation in UK, like Nordics and EN-speaking countries
  • Majority of recent migrants coming with temporary work or study permits in UK and other EN-speaking countries
  • Minority of EU or non-EU-born have their degree from the UK, as in most countries
  • Large numbers of non-EU citizens coming with some exposure to EN in UK and other EN-speaking countries

Outcome indicators

Are immigrants employed in qualified and well-paid jobs?

Labour market integration happens over time in UK as in most European countries, according to 2011/2 estimates. Employment rates are more or less equal for the UK-born and the long-settled non-EU-born (10+ years' stay). Employment rates are high and rather equitable for the high-educated (85% among UK-born and 80% among long-settled non-EU-born). The vast majority are working in jobs at the level of their qualification. The long-settled non-EU-born are only 20% more likely to be over-qualified for their job, with high-educated UK-born and non-EU-born on a more equal level than those in most other European countries (see also IE, PT). 

The UK labour market leaves behind large numbers of low-educated UK and non-EU born. Overall employment rates are also rather equitable for the low-educated (45% for UK-born and 41% for long-settled non-EU-born). Labour markets also appear to be underperforming for native/non-EU-born in IE, DE and Southern/Central Europe (see instead NL, CH, Nordics). In the UK, long-settled non-EU immigrant men and women face different challenges on the labour market. Long-settled non-EU-born men are more likely to receive below-poverty-level wages and benefits for their work, while low-educated women are less likely to work at all. Among low-educated male workers, in-work poverty is 5 times higher for long-settled non-EU-born (nearly 50%) than for their UK-born colleagues (just 10%). This gap is just as high in other Northwest European countries (Nordics, NL). The major gap in employment rates is for low-educated non-EU-born women, whose likelihood to be employed in 30% lower than low-educated UK-born women. This is one of the largest gaps in Europe, comparable only to BE and EE. 

The UK's labour market integration outcomes clearly reflect the strengths and weakness of its current context. The UK is well-placed internationally to attract global talent in competition with other EN-speaking countries. These employment outcomes are influenced by the flexible & growing labour markets in certain parts of the UK and by the beneficial composition of its immigration flows, with large numbers coming to work and study, with university degrees and English skills. However general and targeted policies leave many low-educated behind, with disparate impacts on non-EU-born men and women. 

Evidence base

What do we learn from robust studies?

Evaluations from other countries (Bilgili 2015) suggest that UK's general and targeted employment policies could improve these employment outcomes. Generally effective measures include facilitating the recognition of foreign degrees and work experience, supporting degree programmes for low-educated adults, expanding work-related ESOL and work placement schemes through public/private partnerships and providing a clear path to permanent residence and citizenship.

Family Reunion

Key Findings

UK now has the least 'family-friendly' immigration policy in the developed world, with restrictive definitions, requirements and rights causing delays and potentially major negative effects on the integration of reuniting children and spouses; Separated non-EU families are now slightly less likely to reunite in the UK than on average in Western Europe since their numbers fell by 20% in 2012, after the UK imposed one of the highest income requirements for family reunion that 50% of working people in the UK could not afford

Potential Beneficiaries

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants reunite with family?

For years, separated couples and families have already had to live with more restrictive definitions and rights to reunite in the UK than on average in Europe or the traditional countries of immigration (AU, CA, NZ, UK, US). Since 2008, they have seen regular restrictions of the definitions, requirements and rights to the point that they now face the most restrictive policy in the developed world (-2 points from 2007-2011 and -12 points from 2012-2014). Scoring just 33/100, the policy gives separated families fewer chances to reunite and participate in society in the UK than anywhere else, even in IE, which does not have a set policy, or in CY, which does not let most migrants settle permanently.

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • UK delays and restricts eligibility for family reunion more than nearly all other countries (-16 since 2007, now ranked 36th out of the 38, on par with DK, DE, CY, MT)
  • Non-EU citizens face such long delays in only DK and UK (5+ years) as they usually cannot reunite with family until they are permanently settled there 
  • Spouses/partners 18+ are again treated as adults when the Supreme Court's October 2011 'Quila' judgement overturned the 21-year-age limit as disproportionate for genuine couple's right to family life (now age limits exists in only 8 countries)
  • Hardly any non-EU and UK citizens can exceptionally be reunited with their dependent adult children or, since 2012, dependent parents/grandparents (greater entitlements in 25 out of the 38 countries)

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • The requirements to reunite with family in the UK, once average compared to most countries, are now the most restrictive internationally (-41 since 2009, even more restrictive than AT, FR, CH)
  • EN language courses abroad may be too expensive, inaccessible or poor-quality for spouses/partners in certain countries and circumstances to pass the new required pre-entry language test imposed by UK since 2010 and by only 7 of the 37 other countries 
  • Families renewing permits and applying to settle must be able to reach high B1-level EN fluency and show their knowledge about life in the UK, all without enough guaranteed courses to succeed
  • Only sponsors able to pay the developed world's highest fees (£956) can reunite their family (fees potentially as high in only AU, NZ, CH, most average around £100-160)
  • Potential sponsors now face the highest and tightest income requirement in the developed world (only as high in oil-rich Norway)
  • Around half of working people in the UK would be denied the right to live with their spouse and children under 2012 income rules (£18,600 per year for spouse/partner, £22,400 including one child and extra £2,400 per additional child); recent challenge (MM & Ors Appeals Court decision in July 2014) requires that individual exemptions be made in exceptional circumstances for reasons of family life 
  • High income requirements for sponsors have limited benefits for spouses’ labour market integration and disproportionate effects on delaying family reunion (see box)

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • Families applying to reunite can only be halfway certain about their chances to reunite, with discretionary procedures slightly below average for Western Europe
  • They may have to wait longer for a decision than elsewhere and face typically discretionary grounds
  • The procedure should generally be based on the facts and the rule of law, as in the majority of countries
  • Reuniting families remain on probationary renewable permits until they are eligible to settle (ILR)

Dimension 4: Rights associated

  • Reuniting families must wait longer to receive the same rights and residence security as their sponsor (-16 points since 2012)
  • These delays may keep families personally and financially dependent on their sponsor and discourage them from working or developing their EN and professional skills
  • Equal access to public benefits is denied in the UK (except for pension, maternity leave, NHS) and delayed in only 13 other countries (all EN-speaking except CA and then mostly Central European countries)
  • 2012 changes extended the wait for spouses/partners to settle permanently (ILR) from 0/2-to-5 years, in order to 'test the genuineness of the relationship', and 2013 changes added B1-English and 'Life in the UK' test

Real beneficiaries

Are families reuniting?

In 2013, 71,813 non-EU family members were reunited with their non-EU citizen sponsor in the UK. The number of non-EU family members reuniting every year was constantly between 90,000-110,000 from 2008 until 2012, when the new requirements caused a 20% drop in family reunifications (to 73,644). Estimates using national data has calculated that at least 50% or more of working people in the UK have earnings below the required income threshold. Outside the UK, a similar drop in family reunifications was also observed in BE in 2012 following the ratcheting up of its income requirement.  

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants reunite with family?

  • Many newcomers recently settling down with family in Nordics and Southern Europe
  • An estimated 50% of all working people in UK receive earnings lower than level now demanded to reunite with families
  • Large numbers of temporary residents with <1-year-permits (students and workers)
  • 3/4 of non-EU citizens from low-to-medium developed countries and thus less likely to reunite in UK

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants reunite with family?

Non-EU separated families are more likely to remain separated since the new income requirement took effect 2012. Generally in Western Europe, newly arrived family members make up just 3 out of every 100 non-EU residents in the country. In the UK, the non-family reunion rate was slightly higher. For example from 2009-2011, the rate was around 4 out of every 100, similar to rates in countries with relatively 'family-friendly' procedures like BE and FI. The UK's non-EU family reunion rate dropped by 20% from 3.8 in 2011 to 3.0 in 2012 and 2013. While a family's choice to reunite is also driven by other individual and contextual factors, making policies more restrictive, selective or discretionary can significantly delay or deter both family's reunion and their integration in the country (see the MIPEX policy page on family reunion).

Evidence base

What do we learn from robust studies?

Existing studies and government evaluations in DK, NL and NO do not find that a higher income threshold effectively promotes labour market integration. The gains are limited and short-term, as families scramble to meet these unrealistic requirements in any way possible (e.g. short-term work without long-term prospects, undesirable work, overtime). There is hardly any data to suggest that income requirements promote education, language learning, or the fight against forced marriage. Instead, the clear effect of a high income requirement is to reduce the number of family reunions, especially for vulnerable groups in the population, such as young adults, the elderly, lower-educated, people from specific countries of origin and people coming from armed conflict zones. These delays have negative long-term effects on integration by reducing the time and ability of spouses and children to catch up on learning EN and adjust to life in the UK (for more, see Huddleston and Pedersen 2011 and MIPEX blog 'Can't buy me love').


Key Findings

Targeted and general policies seem to be reaching many low-literacy pupils from both the 1st and 2nd generation and help close the gap for the 2nd; Recent cuts may undermine these outcomes as individual communities and schools may be slow to respond to new needs and opportunities

Potential Beneficiaries

How many pupils have immigrant parents?

An estimated 7.3% of 15-year-olds in the UK are 1st generation pupils born abroad, while 5.7% are 2nd generation born in the UK to immigrant parents. These shares of 1st and 2nd generation pupils are similar to other long-established countries of immigration in Western Europe (e.g. AT, BE, FR, SE) and much lower than the traditional EN-speaking countries of immigration, AU/CA/NZ/US. Around half of 1st/2nd generation 15-year-olds do not speak EN at home with parents, similar to IE, CA, NZ and the OECD average.

Policy Indicators

Is the education system responsive to the needs of the children of immigrants?

Migrant pupils receive better support in schools across Britain than they do across most of the continent, while all pupils receive the best citizenship education on how to live together in a diverse society. Still, its targeted education policies rank 11th below AU, CA, NO, SE and with similar strengths and weaknesses as the Benelux countries. Austerity cuts have undermined the UK's well-established funding (EMAG) and requirements for schools to respond to the new needs and opportunities that newcomers and diversity bring to schools (-11 points on education). The UK's current approach to mainstreaming overlooks these opportunities to use schools for multilingualism, social integration and local community engagement. 

Dimension 1: Access

  • Like most countries, the UK lacks a coherent response to guarantee equal access for immigrant pupils to all types of schools (see AU, CA, US, Nordics)
  • Newcomer and ethnic minority pupils may benefit from targeted measures to fight early school leaving 
  • All non-EU citizen children have the same implicit right to a free compulsory education though additional fees and obstacles emerge UK-schooled non-EU-citizen pupils pursuing vocational or higher education
  • Moreover, these pupils are less likely to benefit from targeted measures to access vocational and higher education besides ad hoc voluntary programmes 

Dimension 2: Targeting needs

  • Generally across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, newcomers benefit from slightly favourable targeted support (see also Nordics and traditional countries of immigration)
  • Data is collected on migrant pupils’ achievements and possible school segregation
  • But much depends on whether schools and municipalities use available extra funding, support and training 
  • Newcomer pupils have hardly any special entitlements; for example, to introduction or high quality EAL programmes
  • Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (EMAG) was mainstreamed away in 2011 (-27 points in 2011) but partly revived in 2013 through 'EAL' factor in funding formula (+14 in 2013) in order to meet needs of bilingual pupils (see box)
  • Immigrant pupils and parents may expect cuts to come in reduced orientation/language support and fewer qualified support staff

Dimension 3: New opportunities

  • Cuts undermined the UK's initial efforts to reach out to immigrant parents and teachers (-30 on new opportunities)
  • Authorities use innovative ways to enable immigrant and non-immigrant pupils to learn about immigrant languages and cultures in school (e.g. to get credit for these languages as GCSEs ) or outside school (e.g. through UK's 3,000-5,000 supplementary schools) 
  • End of EMAG may decrease attention to immigrant parents' involvement and language needs
  • Authorities closed in 2012 one of the world's few programmes for overseas trained teachers to retrain and enter the profession

Dimension 4: Intercultural education

  • All pupils are best able to learn about diversity the UK's strong intercultural approach through Citizenship Education
  • Minister agreed to maintain citizenship education in 2013
  • Since 2006, schools had legal duties to promote community cohesion, and Ofsted to inspect progress
  • Within the curriculum, Citizenship Education is a national subject, with ‘identity and diversity’ as a cross-curricular dimension
  • Schools must also accommodate different cultural, racial and religious needs under the 2010 Equality Act

Policy Box

The Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (EMAG) has, since 1999, been distributed to local authorities based on their number of EAL and underachieving ethnic minority learners in order for schools to design additional support to meet these pupils’ needs. In April 2011, the EMAG and other funds were combined into a single Dedicated School Grants, without any obligations to develop or report on their additional support for ethnic minority children. The impact of this type of mainstreaming, according to an April 2012 NASUWT (teachers’ union) report, was that schools reduced their additional support, even when the numbers were increasing of newcomer and underachieving ethnic minority pupils. In 2013, government asked local school forums to decide whether to again include a limited EAL funding factor focused on newcomers (pupils with ≤ 3 years in UK schools). 87% chose to include an EAL factor in 2014/5, though sometimes at low levels (£250 and £1,000 per pupil). 2015/6 funding set minimum EAL levels at £466 at primary and £1,130 at secondary school. Under the current system, schools are not required to use or report on this funding for bilingual pupils’ needs.

Real beneficiaries

Are pupils with limited literacy getting remedial courses?

Targeted literacy support does seem to reach a slight majority of the 1st and 2nd generation in need, though higher for the 2nd than for the 1st. According to the 2012 PISA study, an estimated 55% of 1st generation pupils with low-literacy scores are enrolled in some form of extra out-of-school literacy programme. The number rises to 62% of the 2nd generation.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether the children of immigrants excel at school?

  • >50% of immigrant pupils with low-educated mothers are concentrated in disadvantaged schools in UK as in most EN-speaking and Western European countries
  • Around half of 1st/2nd generation 15-year-olds do not speak EN at home with parents, similar to IE, CA, NZ and OECD average
  • >25% of foreign-born pupils arrive after age 12 in UK and most EN-speaking countries
  • Around 6% of GDP spent on education highest in Northwest Europe 
  • Student-teacher ratios relatively high in UK and EN-speaking countries

Outcome indicators

How well are the children of immigrants achieving at school?

40% of foreign-born pupils with low-educated mothers in the UK ended up as math low-achievers on the 2012 PISA test. This level is 60% higher than among UK-born pupils with low-educated UK-born mothers, which is around 1/4 and average compared to other developed countries). In international comparison, this gap between immigrant and non-immigrant pupils is not as large as in most developed countries. Moreover, the UK makes significant progress from one generation to the next. Around 1/3 are math low-achievers among 2nd generation 15-year-olds with low-educated mothers, meaning that levels are 30% higher than for pupils with low-educated UK-born mothers. While any immigrant disadvantage disappears by the 2nd generation in AU/CA/NZ/US and IE, the remaining gap in the UK is relatively small compared to most other European countries (similar to FR and SE).


Key Findings

UK is unique case where migrant patients have limited entitlements and access to some of the most responsive health services and policies in the developed world

Policy Indicators

Is the health system responsive to immigrants' needs?

Migrants can face slightly weak entitlements (ranking 30th out of 38) and access to the NHS (ranking 28th), whose services and policies are the most responsive to health inequalities for migrants and ethnic minorities. The UK's response to migrant health is a unique case of conflicting objectives on migration and integration. On the one hand, the UK's 2010 Equality Act is making health services and policies more responsive to reduce health inequalities for migrants and ethnic minorities, similar to services and policies in AU/NZ/US. On the other hand, the 2014 Immigration Law is restricting entitlements for many migrant patients, similar to CA/US. Overall, undocumented migrants face greater legal, administrative and reporting/sanction obstacles in the UK than in any other countries except HR and DE (both up for review in 2015) as well as GR. 

Click here to learn more about how MIPEX health was developed with IOM and EU’s COST/ADAPT network through ‘Equi-Health’ project and co-funded by European Commission’s DG SANTE. 

Dimension 1: Entitlements

  • Migrants have slightly weak entitlements to free NHS care due to legal restrictions and administrative obstacles in the UK (similar to CA, US, PT)
  • 2014 Immigration Law restricted migrants' access to free NHS hospital treatments and created problems of discretion and documentation for all migrants (see instead FR, CH, NL, SE)
  • NHS now only free for 'ordinary resident' legal migrants, with others paying for all but primary and emergency care
  • Asylum-seekers are 'ordinary residents' enjoying equal access
  • Undocumented migrants are only entitled to emergency care, with some exemptions, including refused asylum-seekers receiving government support and protected children
  • Overall, legal exemptions exist for citizens of 30 countries based on reciprocity and for several services, e.g. communicable diseases, STDs, mental health, family planning, certain child services

Dimension 2: Access policies

  • Migrants receive less help to access services in UK than in the majority of countries (see instead NZ, US, FR, CH)
  • Newcomers can learn about entitlements mostly through multilingual written materials destined for legal migrants
  • More information and methods (e.g. NHS Choices website) are provided to inform migrants and ethnic minority communities about major health issues 
  • 'Link workers’ and ‘Community-based facilitators’ are less often available, usually working with asylum-seekers and specific language groups on health promotion and mental health (see greater provision in 18 countries, e.g. BE, FR, CH, US)
  • Further demanded by the 2014 Immigration Law, undocumented migrants can and have been reported by healthcare professionals who face potential sanctions for treating them (see instead DK, FR, IT, NO, PT, ES, CH)

Dimension 3: Responsive services

  • Free interpretation is generally available but not required
  • Health services can be trained and inspected based on Equality Act and NHS standards, notably the 'Personal Fair and Diverse Toolkits' and Care Quality Commission guidelines for inspection
  • These standards have sometimes led to more diverse hiring and more specific partnerships with migrant and ethnic minority organisations 
  • Medical staff are adapting their methods to diagnose and treat health problems to meet any specific needs of migrant and ethnic minority patients (e.g. screening, health promotion, mental health and, as of 2015, FGM)

Dimension 4: Mechanisms for change

  • Authorities can use a wealth of data and research to design migrant and ethnic minority health policies
  • Attention to migrant health is increasing in action plans to reduce health inequalities, due to Equality Act's requirements for equality duties by all public agencies
  • Immigrant and ethnic minority organisations have been consulted on an ad hoc basis (e.g. NHS Equality and Diversity Council) and acting as a 'strategic partner' (i.e. Racial Equality Foundation, REF) 

Political Participation

Key Findings

Commonwealth citizens can vote in all elections as part of the UK's Commonwealth traditions, while immigrant civil society is finding new ways to bring their voice into the public debate in certain parts of the UK

Policy Indicators

Do immigrants have comparable rights and opportunities to participate in political life?

UK policies go halfway to include non-EU citizens in democratic life before they become UK citizens. The UK is one of the very few countries in the world opening the right to vote in all UK elections, though only to Commonwealth citizens (vs. all permanent residents in NZ). Immigrant civil society is supported and consulted in certain parts of the UK, such as London, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Overall, non-Commonwealth citizens in most parts of the UK have fewer opportunities to participate in the UK democracy until they naturalise as UK citizens.

Dimension 1: Electoral rights

  • As part of the Commonwealth, the UK's traditionally inclusive voting rights allow ordinary resident Commonwealth citizens to vote in all UK elections 
  • Other EN-speaking countries of immigration have their own tradition and divergences on noncitizen voting rights; NZ extended full national voting rights for Commonwealth citizens to all permanent residents, while local voting rights are extended to all IE residents after 1 year and to residents in AU states of SA and VC (total 21 out of 38 with some sort of voting rights) 

Dimension 2: Political liberties

  • All residents enjoy basic political liberties under the law (as across Western Europe and traditional countries of immigration)

Dimension 3: Consultative bodies

  • UK's many immigrant and ethnic minority communities are not organised together and consulted in a coherent way across the UK 
  • London's appointed Migrant and Refugee Advisory Panel advises the mayor without much of a mandate or outreach, while migrant and refugee forums in other areas do not receive core funding or consultative status
  • Parliamentary groups in Scotland and Northern Ireland provide a slightly favourable structure for immigrants and ethnic minorities to directly inform politicians on their own initiative and help to improve proposals for policies (All Party Group on Ethnic Minority Communities in Scotland since 2008 and NICEM in Northern Ireland since 1994)

Dimension 4: Implementation policies

  • Immigrant and ethnic minority communities receive less state support than in most Western European countries
  • UK Electoral Commission regularly informs immigrants in a variety of languages
  • Immigrant civil society is supported through targeted funding grants in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but not across the UK 

Real beneficiaries

How many non-EU immigrants are eligible to vote?

An estimated 53% of non-EU-born adults have become UK citizens with the right to vote in all UK elections. This degree of political inclusion is slightly higher than in most European countries. Commonwealth citizens also enjoy the right to vote in all UK elections. 1,102,769 Commonwealth citizens were granted permanent settlement from 2000-2013 (1.3 million since 1995). That constitutes about 50% of the grants of settlement during that period. 2011 analysis by the UK Electoral Commission found that voter registration rates were relatively high for all eligible nationalities. In 2010, at 89% of UK citizens were registered on the electoral register, as were 70% of Commonwealth citizens and 2/3 of EU citizens. 

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants become politically active?

  • Generally high levels of civic engagement in UK and other EN-speaking countries
  • 3/4 from low-and-medium developed countries 
  • Around half are university-educated in UK
  • Large numbers of non-EU citizens coming with EN language skills/exposure
  • Most long-settled in UK as across Northwest Europe

Outcome indicators

Are immigrants participating in political life?

Civic and political participation seems to happen over time in the UK, according to the European Social Survey over the 2000s. The long-settled non-EU-born adults just as likely to participate politically as the UK-born. 46% of these non-EU-born reported recently taking part in a political party, association, petition, demonstration or contacting a politician, compared to 47% for non-immigrants. Levels of political participation are nearly the same (59% vs. 61%). The gaps were also relatively small for low-educated (35% vs. 38%). 

Permanent Residence

Key Findings

Non-EU residents, especially Tier 2 labour migrants find it just as difficult to settle permanently as becoming a UK citizen, with a path to settlement more demanding and expensive than in nearly all other countries

Potential Beneficiaries

Who can become long-term residents?

Nearly 2/3 of non-EU citizen men and women are estimated to have lived in the UK for at least 5 years, according to 2011/2 data. This level is comparable to other countries with large numbers of newcomers (e.g. BE, DE, IE). 

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants become long-term residents?

Since 2012/3, temporary residents, especially many Tier 2 labour migrants, face new eligibility restrictions and more restrictive requirements than when applying for UK citizenship (-11 points). The options to settle are now only halfway favourable for non-EU citizens to invest in their integration in the UK, ranking 31st out of 38, as restrictive as FR, IE, MT, CH.

Traditionally, 'indefinite leave to remain' has been a regular part of the settlement of the UK's non-EU residents, who gain a more secure status and near-equal rights that can boost their integration outcomes. They faced requirements that were slightly more flexible than in most European countries but just as demanding. Since 2007, they had to prove that they were learning or fluent in EN, learnt all about life in the UK and maintained close ties there. 

These changes follow the precedent set by the scrapped 2009 'earned citizenship' law. In 2011, the incoming government had scrapped these plans for being too complicated and bureaucratic. These restrictions would have created the most insecure path to settlement in Europe or the traditional countries of immigration. Temporary residents would have either been excluded (e.g. students and some workers) or confronted with longer delays (8 years + 'probationary citizenship') and with the same demanding requirements for ILR as for UK citizenship.

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • The categories of temporary residents eligible to become permanent residents are regularly changing in the UK and slightly more restrictive than on average in Europe
  • Most could apply after 5 years with certain types of permits or 10 years with any type, including study ('long residence')
  • After 2012, the opportunity to settle was denied to all Tier 5 temporary workers (except for diplomats' servants) and most Tier 2 non-EU skilled workers (except shortage jobs, scientists & PhD researchers), who will be forced to leave after 6 years
  • Under changes to the 'Private Life route', the wait for any long-settled immigrant to call the UK home was lengthened from 14-to-20-years 
  • At least the tolerated absences outside the UK were clarified and applied to all (180 days every 12 months, with no longer a day-limit for each individual absence), as done in most countries

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • The new conditions for non-EU residents to settle permanently in the UK, once average for Western Europe, are now the 3rd most restrictive internationally, alongside countries trying to restrict to 'temporary migration' (e.g. CY, GR, MT)  
  • Since 2012, most Tier 2 general skilled workers cannot settle unless they can make £35,000-per-year
  • Residents can no longer demonstrate their willingness to learn EN and all about life in the UK, a route often used by the low-educated and socially vulnerable residents
  • As of October 2013, all must be able to pass the 'Life in the UK' test and prove high B1 EN-fluency, with few free courses available  
  • Hardly any countries set the benchmark for success so explicitly high (B1, i.e. AT, HR, EE, DE, GR)
  • Following AU and NZ, UK fees skyrocketed once introduced in 2003 from £155 to today £1,500, 10 times more costly than around one decade ago; that's the equivalent of 2 times the monthly net income of the average non-EU citizen in the UK
  • Most other countries just require residents to prove any basic legal income (26), basic language knowledge (8 A2, 2 A1 and 3 only course-attendance) without integration tests (23 with none) or such high fees (average fees in countries range from £200-350)

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • Immigrants applying to settle long-term are only halfway certain about their prospects in the UK
  • Their status is more stable but also more discretionary than on average
  • They may have to wait longer for a decision than elsewhere and face typically discretionary grounds and basic avenue for appeal, though with limited funds for legal aid  
  • Successful applicants in the UK obtain a permanent status, as in most countries, allowing 2-year-absences outside the UK
  • They can lose their status on similar discretionary grounds, e.g. for convicted criminals and with hardly any exceptions, even in human rights cases, based on 2007 Borders Act and June 2013 guidance

Dimension 4: Rights Associated

  • Residents with indefinite leave can work, study and live in the country with the same social and economic rights as UK citizens, as in 29 other countries
  • With these new rights, they can pursue jobs and training with the full protection and support of the social safety net, such as job-seekers allowances, Home Student study fees and social, family, housing benefits

Real beneficiaries

How many immigrants are long-term residents?

1,674,915 non-EU citizens had settlement in the UK with indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence) in 2013. These numbers are slightly lower than the other large European countries: DE (2.4m), IT (2.2m), FR (1.8m) and ES (1.8m).

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants become long-term residents?

  • Around 1/4 of newcomers are temporary residents with <1-year-permits (students and workers)
  • 2/3 have lived in the UK 5+ years, potentially long enough to apply
  • Residents with Indefinite Leave to Remain can quickly become UK citizens when meeting the requirements

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants become long-term residents?

Around 2/3 of all non-EU citizens in Europe had indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence), according to 2013 estimates. This 2/3 majority is common in most major destinations (FR, IT, ES, SE). These estimates imply that nearly all eligible non-EU citizens are able to become permanent residents with equal socio-economic opportunities to participate in UK society. 

The number of permanent residents strongly reflects countries' path to permanent residence and citizenship. Immigrants are more likely to become permanent residents under inclusive residence policies and over time, but also more likely to move on and become citizens under inclusive citizenship policies. In contrast, longstanding destinations that restrict the path to permanent residence eventually end up with high numbers of 'permanently temporary' foreigners unlikely to invest in integration given their limited opportunities and uncertain future (e.g. AT, DK, NL, CH). The UK's high levels of permanent residence may be expected to drop over the years, following the UK's restriction of immigrants' paths to permanent residence and citizenship.

Access to Nationality

Key Findings

The UK is divesting from its traditional path to common British citizenship, now the most expensive in the world

Potential Beneficiaries

Who can become a citizen?

Around 60% of non-EU citizens in the UK have lived there long enough to become UK citizens, according to 2011/2 estimates.

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants become citizens?

The UK's traditional path to citizenship served as a model for reform across Europe. In the mid-2000s, the UK adopted policies from traditional countries of immigration to encourage a shared sense of citizenship through ceremonies, courses, tests and positive debates about Britishness in today's UK. Then the Labour government passed a long and confusing path to 'earned citizenship' in 2009 as a response to public backlash against immigration and EU free movement. The conservatives and liberals did decide not to implement the 2009 Act, which they had criticised while in opposition. Even so, becoming a UK citizen has slowly become more expensive and bureaucratic than becoming a citizen of AU, CA, NZ, US or most other European countries. Many immigrants may still be eligible and able to meet the demanding requirements. But these new restrictions, in the name of fighting fraud and making immigrants pay, may actually undermine the integration of vulnerable permanent residents, such as women, the elderly and refugees.

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • Immigrants and their children still benefit from the traditional eligibility rules that the UK shares with most traditional countries of immigration and increasingly other Western European countries
  • 5 years' stay and permanent residence are the most common standards internationally
  • The majority of countries have also created citizenship entitlements for children born or raised in the country

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • In addition to the vague 'good character requirement', more bureaucratic and inflexible requirements since 2013 will likely discourage rather than encourage immigrants to better their English and learn more about the UK (see instead AU, DE, NO, NZ, UK)
  • Educated and financially secure residents can pay the £906 fee (the highest internationally, over 75% of non-EU citizens' average monthly income), study at home for the "Life in the UK" test, and pay for the new additional proof of their high-level (B1) English fluency; others do not have the money or the support to become a British citizen, especially since 2013 (see box)

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • The processing of naturalisation applications can be a long and discretionary process in the UK, as in traditional countries of immigration but unlike in most Northern European countries
  • Following 2002 and 2006 law changes, the government also increased the grounds for depriving British citizenship without time limits and, in a few cases, leading to statelessness

Dimension 4: Dual nationality

  • The UK has traditionally embraced dual nationality for immigrants and UK-born children, as have now a majority of destination and origin countries

Policy Box

Announced in April 2013 and enforced in October, government required greater proof of applicants' EN abilities and restricted the ways they can prove their knowledge of life in the UK. The alternative ESOL+citizenship course route was used by an estimated 20% of applicants (mostly vulnerable groups, such as women) to show their willingness to learn English and UK values. Now the 'Life in the UK' test must be passed by all adult applicants, except the elderly and mentally/physically ill. Although the test was actually designed to demonstrate proof of B1-level EN comprehension, the government now asks applicants to pay for and pass B1-level speaking and listening qualifications. The content of the ‘Life in the UK’ test was also edited to demand greater knowledge of UK history, culture and constitutional law. 

Real beneficiaries

How many immigrants are becoming citizens?

The number of new UK citizens has steadily increased since 1997 to around 150,000 per year from 2004-2007, down to 130,000 in 2008, and then around 200,000 between 2009-2013. For example, 183,417 non-EU citizens were naturalised as UK citizens in 2012. The number of naturalisations fell by 40% in 2014 down to 125,755, due to restricted access to permanent residence, the new requirements for naturalisation and a shifting of administrative resources.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain why non-EU immigrants become citizens?

  • Mostly permanent residents likely to stay
  • 3/4 from less developed countries and thus likely to naturalise
  • Most from countries allowing dual nationality

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants become citizens?

Around 1 in 2 non-EU-born adults have UK citizenship, according to 2011/2 estimates. The UK has maintained a relatively high and constant naturalisation rate, similar to most Nordic countries and the NL. For example, the annual naturalisation rate for non-EU citizens in 2012 was 7.6 naturalisations for every 100 non-EU residents. Interestingly, this rate was twice as high in IE than in the UK because of the IE government's new positive efforts to promote shared citizenship as a means of immigrant integration. The UK's citizenship policies are the strongest factor determining the naturalisation outcomes for immigrant men and women from developing countries. International studies also suggest that naturalisation leads to better employment outcomes and higher levels of political participation for certain naturalising immigrants.


Key Findings

Cuts to funding and monitoring may undermine residents' chances for equal treatment and access to justice under some of the world's strongest longstanding anti-discrimination laws and equality policies

Potential Beneficiaries

Who said they experienced racial/ethnic or religious discrimination last year?

According to the latest European-wide data (2012), 6.7% of people in the UK felt that in the previous year they had been discriminated against or harassed based on their ethnic origin (4.6%) and/or religion/beliefs (2.8%), which are relatively high rates for Europe. 

Policy Indicators

Is everyone effectively protected from racial/ethnic, religious, and nationality discrimination in all areas of life?

Cuts to funding and monitoring are undermining the UK’s traditional international strengths on anti-discrimination equality. Residents still enjoy some of the strongest and most comprehensive protections against discrimination in Europe, with the UK ranked 5th overall due to the 2010 Equality Act and equality duties. The 2010 Equality Act makes the law more coherent and easy to use, with the aim to ‘rationalise, simplify and harmonise existing equality law into a consistent, coherent and easy to understand manner.' 2012 saw cuts made to mandatory equality impact assessments and to 50% of the equality body's budget. These cuts reduce the capacity of equality actors and public sector to promote access to justice and equal treatment in practice. 

Dimension 1: Definitions

  • Residents benefit from the strongest longstanding definitions of discrimination in the developed world, tied with CA & US
  • Under some provisions dating back to the 1976 Racial Equality Act, wide range of actors cannot discriminate against a person on the grounds of race, ethnicity, religion, nationality and, since 2010, 'dual discrimination'  

Dimension 2: Fields of application

  • Discrimination is illegal on grounds of race, ethnicity, religion or nationality in all areas of life in the UK as in 15 other countries, including CA, IE, US but gaps in AU, NZ)

Dimension 3: Enforcement mechanisms

  • Despite the strong definitions in law, the mechanisms to enforce the law are rather average in the UK, all because equality NGOs cannot intervene on behalf of victims (16) and lead class actions or actio popularis (21, e.g. AU, CA, US, PT, ES)
  • These legal mechanisms were not incorporated into the 2010 Act

Dimension 4: Equality policies

  • Ranked 6th internationally, the UK's commitment to equality has slipped in recent years (-6 in 2012)
  • UK's longstanding equality body (Commission for Racial Equality since 1976) was merged into new single equality body (EHRC) as part of international reform trends (e.g. recently FI, FR, IE, NL, SE) 
  • The UK has committed to promote equality through the EHRC’s powers (See also strong bodies in AU, CA, FI, FR, NO, SE)
  • The gaps in EHRC's support to victims are quasi-judicial powers (as in 15 countries, e.g. AU, NZ, Nordics, IE) and the ability to engage in proceedings in court on behalf of victims (as in 8, e.g. BE, NL, NZ, SE) 
  • 2010 Equality duties created wider obligation for public sector to promote equality in their work, including hiring, services and public procurement ('supplier diversity') 
  • Without mandatory impact assessments, those designing, implementing and monitoring equality duties and general policies will know less about the needs and impacts of policy on diverse groups (see also rules in Scotland and Wales)

Real beneficiaries

How many racial/ethnic and religious discrimination complaints were made to equality bodies?

Statistics on discrimination cases are available but incomplete for all areas of life. In the area of employment, the employment tribunals received in 2011/2 4,700 claims of discrimination based on race and another 850 based on religion/belief. 

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether potential victims report discrimination cases

  • 1/2 of the UK public say that they know their rights as discrimination victims, the highest level of awareness in Europe after the Nordic countries
  • High levels of trust in police and justice system in the UK and others in Northern Europe
  • Large numbers of naturalised and long-settled immigrants more likely to report discrimination incidents

Outcome indicators

How many complaints were made last year for every person who said they experienced racial/ethnic and religious discrimination?

Few complaints are made compared to the large number of people reportedly experiencing incidents of racial/ethnic or religious discrimination. While data is missing from the UK, complaints seem to be more common in similar countries with stronger, longstanding and well-resourced anti-discrimination laws and bodies. For example, 1 complaint is received for approximately every 150-250 people experiencing ethnic or religious discrimination in FR, NL, IE and SE. 

Better data for more countries will confirm whether potential victims are more likely to report discrimination in the countries with stronger anti-discrimination laws, equality policies and bodies. What is clear is that most countries have not even taken the first steps to properly enforce and resource their anti-discrimination laws in order to guarantee the same access to justice for potential discrimination victims as they do for victims of other crimes and illegal acts.

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