6 Fast Facts about US Immigration

Ian Hawes

Ian Hawes

March 3rd, 2020

The United States has the largest immigrant population in the world with 13.7% of the country’s residents being foreign-born. As debates continue to rage over the country’s immigration policies, here is a quick look at what the numbers have to say. 

There are four main ways to obtain a green card or legal permanent residency in the U.S.

Most permanent residents in the U.S. obtain their green cards through one of these four ways - family relationship, employment sponsorship (self-sponsored and employer-sponsored), diversity visa lottery, and humanitarian protection (for refugees and people seeking asylum). In 2018, 44% of the more than one million immigrants who received green cards were immediate relatives of American citizens, and another 20% was related by family. Refugees and asylees accounted for 17% of the 2018 green cards, while employment sponsorship and diversity visas made up 13% and 4% respectively.

The majority of the U.S. immigrants are in the country legally

According to the Pew Research Center, 77% of the 45.6 million foreign-born residents in the U.S. are in the country legally while the remaining are unauthorized immigrants. The number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. has declined from 12.2 million in 2007 to 10.5 million in 2017. 

All legal immigrants do not apply for U.S. citizenship

While most immigrants eligible for naturalization apply for U.S. citizenship, not all do. In fact, only 45% of all immigrants were naturalized citizens as per 2017 data. The most common reasons for choosing not to apply for naturalization include financial and language barriers. 

These four U.S. states have the largest number of immigrants 

California, Texas, Florida, and New York together account for almost half of the total U.S. immigrant population. In 2018, California had a total immigration population of 10.6 million while Texas had 4.9 million, Florida had 4.5 million, and New York had 4.4 million immigrants. California also leads in having the highest immigrant share of the total population at 27%. 

Mexico is the top birthplace for most immigrants in the U.S.

In 2017, around 11.2 million immigrants living in the U.S. (25% of the total immigrant population) were originally from Mexico. China and India were in second and third place with 2.9 million and 2.6 million immigrants respectively. 

However, the top birthplace for new immigrants to the country is not Mexico but India. Since 2005, the number of Asians arriving in the U.S. has increased while immigration from Latin America has declined. Studies predict that Asians will be the largest immigrant group in the U.S. by 2055. 

How do immigrants to the U.S. fare in education?

At 31% and 32%, immigrants to the U.S. are just as likely as native-born Americans to have a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, educational attainment tends to vary by country of birth. Among all countries, India, United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia have a higher share of college-educated immigrants arriving in the U.S. 

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