Why do immigrants come to Europe

Emigration and immigration

Contrary to what is often perceived, Germany is a traditional country of immigration. There have always been migrants in the German Reich, the Weimar Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany. However, it was only after the Second World War that more people immigrated than emigrated. If one subtracts the number of emigrants from the immigrants, the following migration balance is obtained:


Migration figures 2015 - 2019

Figures for 2019: According to the Federal Statistical Office, more than 1.59 million people immigrated to Germany in 2019, 1.34 million of them had a foreign passport. About 1.23 million people have migrated. The "net immigration" was thus around 327,000 people and has thus fallen for the fourth year in a row. Source Federal Statistical Office (2020): "Migration 2019: 327,000 more people immigrated than emigrated"

Figures for 2018: According to the Federal Statistical Office, more than 1.58 million people immigrated to Germany in 2018. Around 1.38 million of them had a foreign passport. About 1.19 million people have migrated. This puts the "net immigration" at around 400,000 people. Source Statistisches Bundesamt (2019): "Immigration 2018: Germany grows by 400,000 people"

Figures for 2017: According to the migration report, around 1.55 million people moved to Germany in 2017, around 1.38 million of them were foreign nationals. Around 1.13 million have emigrated. The net immigration thus amounted to around 416,000 people in 2017.SourceBAMF (2019): Migration Report 2016/2017, p. 12 and p. 43 f.

Figures for 2016: According to information from the migration report, around 1.87 million people moved to Germany in 2016, of which 1.72 million had a foreign passport. Around 1.37 million people emigrated in 2016. This resulted in a net immigration of around 500,000 people. SourceBAMF (2019): Migration Report 2016/2017, p. 12 and p. 39

Figures for 2015: According to the migration report, around 2.14 million immigrants were registered in 2015, and around 998,000 people left Germany at the same time. The "migration surplus" was around 1.14 million. Of the 2.14 million newcomers, 2.02 million had a foreign passport. SourceBAMF (2016): Migration Report 2015, p. 9

It is unclear how many of the newcomers are really "immigrants" - that is, who only come to Germany temporarily - and how many are "immigrants" who remain permanently. The same applies to the emigration: Here, too, it is not known whether it is a temporary or a permanent emigration.

Where do immigrants come to Germany from?

Where did the immigrants come from?

The majority of immigrants moved to Germany from another European country in 2019 (around 66 percent). Around 51 percent immigrated from a country in the European Union. Almost 14 percent moved from Asia, around 5 percent from America, and around 4 percent from Africa. The information relates to the countries of origin, not to the nationality of the people who have moved in. Source: Federal Statistical Office at the request of the MEDIA SERVICE, own calculation

What is your nationality?

The half own calculation; Source: Federal Statistical Office (2020): "Migration statistics 2019" and "Migration 2019: 327,000 more people immigrated than emigrated" of all immigrants in 2019 were EU citizens. Immigrants most often had Romanian, Polish or Bulgarian citizenship - German citizens are not included. The overview:


How has immigration changed?

Escape, work, studies: people migrate to Germany for various reasons. The number of those who immigrate for humanitarian reasons has been falling again since 2015/2016. Instead, more people are migrating to work or study in Germany. An overview:

Refugee migration has declined in the past three years, after having risen sharply in 2015/2016. This can be seen in the number of asylum applications. According to the migration report, 142,509 first-time asylum applications were submitted in 2019. SourceBAMF (2020): Migration report 2019, page 8

This refers to the arrival of spouses and minor children. Unaccompanied underage refugees who are in Germany are in turn allowed to have their parents join them. fell slightly in recent years. In 2019, 96,633 corresponding residence permits were issued. SourceBAMF (2020): Migration Report 2019, page 9

The number of Bildungsauslaender Foreign students at German universities who did not acquire their higher education entrance qualification at a school in Germany or at a German school abroad who are starting their studies in Germany has increased in recent years. In 2019 it reached a new high with 110,974 freshmen students. That was 12 percent more than in 2015. QuelleBAMF (2020): Migration Report 2019, page 9

More people from non-EU countries also come to work in Germany. In 2019, 64,219 people who received a residence permit for gainful employment entered the country. Since 2015 the number has increased by 65.3 percent. SourceBAMF (2020): Migration Report 2019, page 10

Note: 51 percent of the people who migrated to Germany in 2019 immigrated from a country in the European Union. Since they do not have to give reasons for this and also do not need a residence permit, their motives are not systematically recorded in many areas, for example when taking up a job

How many visas are issued for Germany?

A visa is required if you come from a non-EU country and want to enter Germany. The Federal Republic of Germany issued around 562,000 visas in 2020. This is a significant decrease (minus 75 percent) compared to the previous year (2019: 2.29 million visas). The reasons were the travel restrictions and the restricted operation of the embassies in the wake of the corona pandemic. The decline was particularly strong for visas from China (minus 89 percent). The three most important countries of origin were:

  1. Turkey (around 83,000, 2019: 251,000),
  2. Russia (around 77,000 visas, 2019: 341,000)
  3. China (around 49,000 visas, 2019: 435,000 visas).

Around 92,000 applications were rejected. This corresponds to a rejection rate of around 14 percent (some applications were withdrawn by the applicants themselves). Source Foreign office: Visa statistics 2020, overview and own calculation; Table of Schengen visas and table of national visas and our own calculations

354.000 People got Short stay visas ("Schengen Visa"). The number of longer term visas ("National Visa") was included 191.000 and thus 41 percent lower than in the previous year (2019: 325,000). Of these, 61,000 were visas for employment, around half as many as in the previous year (2019: 119,000). The decline in family reunification was not quite as significant: 76,000 visas for family reunification Spouses, children and other family reunification to Germany were issued in 2020, 30 percent less than in the previous year (2019: 108,000) Table (Visa for 2020) and table (Visa for 2019) of the national visas, page 5, and our own calculation

When did most of the immigrants come to Germany?

Different phases and main motives for migration can be identified in the history of German immigration.

Most of the immigrants came

  • by means of recruitment agreements as so-called "guest workers" in the FRG (1955 to 1973) and as "contract workers" in the GDR (until 1990),
  • through family reunification of foreigners already living in Germany (especially between 1973 and 1985, but also to this day),
  • as repatriates and ethnic repatriates (especially between 1987 and 1999),
  • as refugees (late 80s and early 90s and increasingly again since 2014),
  • and as a citizen of the European Union in the course of free movement.

The MEDIENDIENST has presented the most important migration movements since the 18th century in an article. Another article gives an overview of migration to the GDR.

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