Romanians in the UK: the latest statistics

The Romanian population living, working and studying in the British Isles at the end of 2012 is estimated to be over 300 thousand and it is expected to increase significantly in the next few years.

05 November 2012. Our estimate is made on the basis of official British records on the issue of work permits, registration certificates and national insurance numbers to Romanian citizens from 2007 (Romania's accession to EU) to 2011/2012, as well as on the number of students on vocational training and attending higher education courses, seasonal workers and unlawfully employed people.

As Romanian citizens enjoy free movement in the EU, there is a substantial number of Romanians who move to and from the UK and Romania during the year and do not settle officially in the country. This strong mobility has been confirmed in other EU countries with an significant Romanian immigration and justifies larger estimates of the Romanian population in the UK by other sources, which assert a figure of half a million.

Leaving fears of an invasion of Romanian nationals to the UK to science fiction and fear mongering media, let's give a detailed account of the data that makes up the basis of the estimation.


Statistical data

The Embassy of Romania does not hold an accurate record of Romanian citizens residing in the UK as Romanian citizens are free to exercise their right to free movement in the EU and are not required to register with the embassy of the country where they live temporarily or permanently. Consequently, the number of Romanians whose presence is "officially" notified to the Embassy – mainly through consular services or by participating in elections – represents only a fraction of the total number of Romanian citizens residing in the UK.

Likewise, according to British authorities there is no single data source that can accurately point to the exact number of Romanian citizens residing in the UK. Thus, it is necessary to consider a variety of administrative data sources in order to build a picture of the Romanian community. 

Starting with 1 January 2007, Romanian citizens can exercise their right to free movement in the UK. According to British legislation, Romanian citizens may apply for a registration certificate to confirm their purpose to stay in the UK without this requirement to be binding. For these reasons, it is difficult to estimate the number of Romanian citizens residing in UK.

The only official figures on the presence of Romanian nationals in the UK can be extracted from the British authorities’ statistics on work permits, registration certificates and national insurance numbers which were issued to Romanian citizens.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS)  which publishes data on population by country of birth and nationality living in the UK, the Romanian population resident in the United Kingdom in December 2011 was estimated at 94.000 (+/- 13.000).

The most recent data released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) , on the number of National Insurance Number allocations shows that starting with 2007 and up to March 2012, there were approximately 111.000 NINo allocated to Romanian nationals. Still, it is possible that some Romanian citizens who have applied for NINo may have left the UK.

Also, if we analyse the latest trends in terms of NINo allocations, the DWP statistical data show that in the first quarter of 2012, 4.360 numbers were allocated to Romanian citizens, a decrease compared to the first quarter of 2011, when they were 7.210. The National Insurance Number is granted to citizens who exercise their right to work as employees, self-employed or who apply for social benefits.

The Home Office  publishes Immigration statistics on a quarterly and annual basis. According to published statistics, in the interval 2007-2011, the UK Border Agency approved to Romanian nationals approximately 8.000 accession worker card applications, 900 sector based scheme applications, 32.000 seasonal agricultural worker scheme applications and 83.000 registration certificate applications. 

An increasing number of students (about 5.000) are also in the UK at present, attending university.

To these recent official figures, which refer to the period after Romania joined the European Union we may add an estimated 7,000 Romanian citizens from the post-war "old emigration" and a number – perhaps a thousand – of Romanians settled in the UK between 1990 and 2006.


Profile of Romanian nationals in the UK

Romanians working in the UK cover a broad range of occupations and trades.

Most of the estimated 500 thousand Romanians in the UK have come here to work in self-employed capacity in a variety of industries, often in construction and IT, or to set up their own business.

Romanians often take up employment in shortage occupations: mainly jobs in engineering and construction, in the health sector and care industry or in catering services. Many businesses in these fields recruit Romanian and other European workers, as the Government’s cap on migration, combined with newly imposed restrictions on Tier 2 and Tier 4 routes, have made it increasing difficult to recruit non-EU staff on work permits and student visas.

Many Romanians come in UK via study route and take vocational courses in Customer Service, IT, Catering, Hospitality, Construction or Health and Social Care, and during their training are allowed to work full time.

An increasing number of students attend higher education courses at universities around the UK, mainly in academic centres in London, Kent, Oxford, Coventry, Manchester and Edinburgh.


The anti-Romanian rhetoric

"Romanians are few compared to other European citizens who have emigrated to the UK at an earlier date", says Sorin Cehan, director of the main Romanian weekly in the UK Ziarul Romanesc (

"Despite this, media campaigns and anti-immigration policies often target Romanians as they are, along with a few Bulgarians, the only Europeans to have restricted access to the UK labour market, which should expire at the end of 2013.

"A few days ago, Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch UK, has called for an extension of these restrictions for a further 5 years, while there is insistent talk about a change in the rules of free movement of EU citizens in the UK.

"The rhetoric against the invasion of Romanians satisfies certain categories of voters and fails to elicit due reaction from the Romanian community, which as yet is loosely and poorly organized. And since Romanians are EU citizens, the rhetoric also provides grounds for the more conservative part of the Cameron government to demand renegotiation of national powers with Brussels."


by Federica F. Gaida

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