IN NUMBERS: How many non-EU citizens live in European Union countries?

What percentage of the European Union's population are non-EU residents and which countries have the highest numbers of residents from outside the EU? New figures reveal all.

IN NUMBERS: How many non-EU citizens live in European Union countries?
European Union flags are seen outside the European Council's building in Brussels on March 17, 2022. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

In 2021, 23.7 million non-EU citizens were living in EU countries, making up 5.3 percent of the total EU population, according to the European statistical office Eurostat.

This number now includes about a million UK citizens, which is no longer an EU member. In comparison, some 13.7 million EU citizens live in an EU state other than their own.

In relation to the national population, citizens from countries that are not part of the EU represent the majority of non-nationals in most EU states.

Eurostat reports that “in absolute terms, the largest numbers of non-nationals living in the EU Member States were found in Germany (10.6 million people), Spain (5.4 million), France and Italy (both 5.2 million). Non-nationals in these four Member States collectively represented 70.3 percent of the total number of non-nationals living in all EU Member States.”  

Only in Luxembourg, Cyprus, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands and Slovakia the majority of non-nationals are other EU citizens. In Luxembourg, 47 percent of the population is made of non-nationals)

How many non-EU nationals live in the EU? Source: Eurostat

In relative terms, the EU member states with the highest share of non-EU residents were Estonia (14%), Latvia (13%), Malta (12%), Luxembourg (9%), Austria, Cyprus and Spain (8%), Germany, Greece, Slovenia and Sweden (7%), France, Ireland, Italy and Sweden (6%).

In Switzerland the proportion is 9 percent and in Norway 4 percent, but in both these non-EU states, the majority of foreign residents are EU citizens (16% and 7% of the total population respectively).

Based on data provided by Eurostat, the most common non-EU nationalities in the countries covered by The Local are:

Austria: Serbia (1.4%)

Denmark: Syria (0.6%)

France: Algeria and Morocco (0.9%)

Germany: Turkey (1.6%)

Italy: Albania and Morocco (0.7%)

Norway: Syria (0.6%)

Spain: Morocco (1.6%)

Sweden: Syria (0.9%)

Switzerland: Turkey and North Macedonia (0.8%)

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Why Norwegian family residence applications take longer than other applications

Typically applications for family immigration to Norway take longer to process than other types of residence. So why is this? The Local reached out to the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration. 

Why Norwegian family residence applications take longer than other applications

Over the past twelve months, The Local has asked the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) to provide figures on average processing times for residence applications

The majority of those from outside the EEA are required to have a residence permit, such as for work, education, or to move to be with a partner or family member to live, work and study in Norway legally. 

Each time these figures have been provided to The Local, waiting times for a family immigration permit have been the longest. Although between March 2022 and December 31st 2022, waiting times have decreased. 

Between March and December 2022, the average waiting time for a family immigration permit fell from 174 days to 109 days. 

However, when concerned readers share their experiences of long-waiting times for residence, sometimes exceeding 18 months, they usually are, but not always, applying for a family immigration residence card. 

The UDI has explained to The Local that several factors contribute to family immigration cases taking longer than other residence types. 

“There are many reasons for the long processing times in family applications. It is mainly due to the long processing time, both in the UDI and the police. But it is also due to the submission of incomplete applications, shifts in responsibility between different agencies, a complicated set of regulations that change relatively often, and the unclear status of the reference person (the person one is applying to move to be with),” Maria Rosenblad, Assistant Director in the Managed Migration Department in the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, explained to The Local. 

Additionally, the UDI said that in some cases, it needs to pause applications if it may be relevant to revoke Norwegian citizenship from a reference person. 

She added that the best way to avoid excessive or unnecessary waiting times was to ensure that applications were fully complete when submitted. The UDI’s application portal often provides a documentation checklist that you can use. 

If you need an appointment with the police as part of your application, a document checklist should also be provided to ensure there aren’t any paperwork-related hold-ups. 

As explained by Rosenblad, applications aren’t solely handled by the UDI. Norway’s police also deal with some of the application processes, and readers of The Local have complained of either long waiting times for an appointment or a lack of communication or clarity between Norway’s immigration services.

Police stations aren’t the only other authority involved in the immigration process. In some cases, such as when applications are being completed abroad, applicants may also need to visit an embassy or VFS centre

While the waiting time between applying from abroad and from within Norway should roughly be the same, some factors mean that applications submitted outside of Norway take longer.

“For all cases that the UDI handles, the waiting time is approximately the same if you apply from Norway or from abroad, but some cases applied from Norway have a shorter waiting time. This is due to the fact that these cases are handled by the police,” Rosenblad said. 

One reason applications from abroad may also take longer is that these cases may need further investigation. Applicants from a number of countries are also required to be interviewed as part of the process to clarify key details of the application, such as the relationship with the person you are moving to be with. 

These added hurdles can slow down applications, especially compared to those that don’t require the same steps. 

Rosenblad finished by telling The Local that the UDI was continuously working on cutting down waiting times. In 2022 some applications saw their waiting times increase due to a change in processing intended to speed up the process in the long run. The UDI wrote that the applications forced to the back of the queue, apart from citizenship ones, due to the change would receive an answer by mid-2023.