Immigration flows to France, measured essentially on the basis of the number of foreigners obtaining their first residence permit valid for one year or more, have increased since the late 1990s : the number admitted for legal residence rose from 145,000 in 1999 to 206,000 in 2002. Using the information in the records of residence permits issued by the Ministry of the Interior, the article describes the characteristics of the immigrants (sex, age, nationality, etc.). It also sheds light on the itineraries of the foreigners, reconstituting the stages prior to obtaining the first permit (notably the length of time between arriving in France and becoming legally resident) and those that followed (proportion of permits renewed). Among third-country nationals admitted for residence in the late 1990s, slightly over 10% had lived as illegal residents for at least one year before, and over 80% extended legally their stay after expiry of their first one-year permit.
Using unpublished data supplied by the UK Office for National Statistics, the article goes on to compare recent immigration flows in France and in the United Kingdom. The latter has higher immigration, but the characteristics of the immigrants are quite similar in both countries. Thus, as in France, work is the main motive for immigration into Great Britain (31%), followed by studies (28%) and then family reasons (21%).