Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States
By Emma Britz and Jeanne Batalova
Migration Policy Institute
Five hundred and twenty five people, coming from more than 75 countries, were sworn in as US citizens at the 27th annual naturalization ceremony at the Seattle Center in Washington on July 4, 2011. (Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mayor McGinn)
Throughout its history, the United States has been a popular destination for migrants from across the globe.
The immigrant population in 2011 — estimated at 40.4 million — is a historical numeric high for the country, and it is also the largest in the world. About 20 percent of all international migrants reside in the United States, which accounts for less than 5 percent of the world's population.
This article provides some of the most frequently sought-after current and historical facts and figures about immigrants and immigration in the United States. It answers such questions as:
Which countries are the main sources for immigration to the United States? How many immigrants enter each year? How many are already in the United States? How many became US citizens last year? How many children live with immigrant parents? How many unauthorized immigrants are in the United States? Do immigrants have health insurance? How many immigrants live in poverty? How many unauthorized youth received temporary reprieve from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process?
This article brings together resources from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI); the US Census Bureau's 2011 American Community Survey (ACS) and 2000 decennial census; the US Departments of Homeland Security and State; the Pew Hispanic Center; Mexico's National Population Council (CONAPO); and Mexico's National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI).
Click on the bullet points below for more information on each topic:
Current and Historical Numbers and Shares
According to the most recently available data, how many immigrants are in the United States?
According to estimates from the 2011 ACS, the US immigrant population stood at almost 40.4 million, or 13 percent of the total US population of 311.6 million.
Between 2010 and 2011, the foreign-born population increased by 422,000, or 1 percent. This increase is lower than year-to-year changes in the first half of the 2000s.
" and "immigrants
" are used interchangeably and refer to persons with no US citizenship at birth. This population includes naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylees, persons on certain temporary visas, and the unauthorized.
Geographical regions: MPI follows the definition of Latin America as put forth by the UN and US Census Bureau, which includes Central America (including Mexico), the Caribbean, and South America.
For more information about geographical regions, see the US Census Bureau site
and United Nations Statistics Division
What are the historical numbers and shares of immigrants in the United States?
Data on the nativity of the US population were first collected in the 1850 decennial census. That year, there were 2.2 million foreign born in the United States, or almost 10 percent of the total population.
Between 1860 and 1920, immigrants as a percentage of the total population fluctuated between 13 and 15 percent, peaking at nearly 15 percent in 1890 mainly due to European immigration. By 1930, immigrants' share of the US population had dropped to less than 12 percent (14.2 million).
The share of foreign born in the US population continued to decline between the 1930s and 1970s, reaching a record low of approximately 5 percent in 1970 (9.6 million). However, since 1970, the percentage has increased rapidly, mainly due to large-scale immigration from Latin America and Asia.
The foreign born represented 6 percent (14.1 million) of the total US population in 1980. By 1990, their share had risen to 8 percent (19.8 million), and by the 2000 census they comprised 11 percent (31.1 million) of the total US population. In 2011, immigrants comprised 13 percent (40.4 million) of the total US population.
How do the top source countries with the largest share of immigrants compare to those 50 years ago?
In 2011, Mexican-born immigrants accounted for approximately 29 percent of the nearly 40.4 million foreign born residing in the United States, making them by far the largest immigrant group in the country. China (including Hong Kong but not Taiwan) was the second largest at almost 5 percent of the foreign born, closely followed by India (also nearly 5 percent). Immigrants from the Philippines accounted for 4 percent of the total immigrant population. El Salvador, Vietnam, Cuba, and Korea (each 3 percent), as well as the Dominican Republic and Guatemala (2 percent each) also were among the top ten countries of origin. Together, immigrants from these ten countries made up close to 60 percent of all foreign born residing in the United States in 2011.
The predominance of immigrants from Latin American and Asian countries in the late 20th and early 21st centuries starkly contrasts with the trend seen in 1960 when immigrants tended to be from European countries. Italian-born immigrants made up 13 percent of all foreign born in 1960, followed by those born in Germany and Canada (accounting for about 10 percent each). In 1960s no single country accounted for more than 15 percent of the total immigrant population.
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are defined as adults 25 years and older with a bachelor's degree or higher.
The concept of race
as used by the Census Bureau reflects self-identification by people according to the race or races with which they most closely identify. Race categories include both racial and national-origin groups.
Hispanics or Latinos are not a racial category. They include those people who classified themselves in one of the specific Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino categories listed on the Census 2000 questionnaire — "Mexican, Mexican Am., Chicano," "Puerto Rican", or "Cuban" — as well as those who indicate that they are "other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino."
Persons who indicated that they are "other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino" include those whose origins are from Spain, the Spanish-speaking countries of Central or South America, the Dominican Republic, or people identifying themselves generally as Spanish, Spanish-American, Hispanic, Hispano, Latino, and so on.
Read more about Census Bureau definitions here
Demographic, Educational, and Linguistic Characteristics
Note: Some percentages do not add up to 100 due to rounding.
Are there equal shares of men and women in the US immigrant population?
In 2011, approximately 51 percent of the immigrant population was female. The share of women fluctuated slightly during the past three decades. Women accounted for 53 percent of the 14.1 million immigrants in 1980, 51 percent of the 19.8 million immigrants in 1990, and 50 percent of the 31.1 million immigrants in 2000.
- See the how the male-to-female ratio among immigrants changed between 1870 and 2011 here.
What is the age distribution of the immigrant population?
In 2011, less than 1 percent of the foreign-born population in the United States was under the age of 5 (compared to 7 percent of the native-born population); 6 percent were ages 5 to 17 (compared to 19 percent in the native-born population); 8 percent were ages 18 to 24 (10 percent for the native born); 72 percent were ages 25 to 64 (50 percent); and 13 percent were ages 65 or older (13 percent).
Overall, the immigrant population in 2011 was older than the US-born population: The median age of immigrants was 42.1 years, compared to 35.9 years among the native born.
- See the age-sex pyramids of the total, native-born, and immigrant populations (including the five largest immigrant groups) here and compare them to those of 2000 here.
How many immigrants have entered the United States since 2000?
Of the 40.4 million foreign born residing in the United States in 2011, 38 percent entered the country prior to 1990, 27 percent entered between 1990 and 1999, and almost 36 percent entered in 2000 or later.
How many immigrants are naturalized US citizens?
In 2011, 45 percent of immigrants (18.1 million) in the United States were naturalized US citizens. The remaining 55 percent (22.2 million) included lawful permanent residents, unauthorized immigrants, and legal residents on temporary visas, such as students and temporary workers.
Of the 18.1 million naturalized citizens in 2011, 47 percent have naturalized since 2000, 33 percent between 1985 and 1999, and 20 percent prior to 1985.
What is the racial composition of the immigrant population?
Of the foreign born in the United States in 2011, 48 percent reported their race as white alone, 8 percent as black, 25 percent as Asian alone, and 16 percent as some other race; more than 2 percent reported having two or more races.
How many immigrants in the United States are of Hispanic origin?
In 2011, 47 percent of the 40.4 million immigrants (18.8 million) reported having Hispanic or Latino origins.
How many Hispanics are immigrants?
The majority of Hispanics in the United States are native-born US citizens. Of the 52 million people in 2011 who identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino, 36 percent (18.8 million) were immigrants.
Which languages are the most frequently spoken at home by the US population?
In 2011, approximately 79 percent (230.3 million) of the US population* ages 5 and older stated that they speak only English at home. The remaining 21 percent (60.6 million) reported speaking a language other than English at home. Spanish was by far the most common foreign language spoken at home (62 percent), followed by Chinese (including Mandarin and Cantonese, almost 5 percent), Tagalog (almost 3 percent), Vietnamese (2 percent), French (including Cajun and Patois, 2 percent), Korean (almost 2 percent), German (almost 2 percent), Arabic (almost 2 percent), and Russian (1 percent).
Note: *Refers to the 291.5 million people ages 5 and older who resided in the United States at the time of the survey.
What is the size of the Limited English Proficient (LEP) population?
In 2011, there were 25.3 million LEP individuals ages 5 and older in the United States, accounting for 9 percent of the 291.5 million people ages 5 and older. Spanish-speaking LEP individuals accounted for 65 percent (16.4 million) of the total LEP population. The next two languages most commonly spoken by LEP individuals were Chinese, including Mandarin and Cantonese (1.6 million, or 6 percent) and Vietnamese (855,000, or 3 percent).
Note: The term "Limited English Proficient" refers to any person ages 5 and older who reported speaking English "not at all," "not well," or "well" on their survey questionnaire. Individuals who reported speaking only English or speaking English "very well" are considered proficient in English.
What percentage of the foreign born are LEP?
In 2011, nearly 51 percent (20.5 million) of the 40.1 million foreign-born persons ages 5 and older were LEP, closely resembling the share in 2000 (51 percent of the 30.7 million foreign-born persons ages 5 and older.
Note: The term "Limited English Proficient" refers to any person ages 5 and older who reported speaking English "not at all," "not well," or "well" on their survey questionnaire. Individuals who reported speaking only English or speaking English "very well" are considered proficient in English.
What percentage of the adult foreign-born population is college educated?
In 2011, there were 34.4 million immigrants ages 25 and older. Of those, more than 27 percent (9.3 million) had a bachelor's degree or higher, while nearly 32 percent (11.0 million) lacked a high school diploma. Among the 172.1 million native-born adults ages 25 and older, 29 percent (49.9 million) had a bachelor's degree or higher and 11 percent (18.9 million) did not have a high school diploma.
- Use our 2010-2011 ACS/Census Data Tool for more information on the characteristics of the foreign born in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia as well as nationally (to updated with 2011 ACS data in upcoming months).
- The 2010 data on the foreign born and native born are from the American FactFinder of the Census Bureau.
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How many Mexican immigrants are in the United States?
Nearly 11.7 million foreign born from Mexico reside in the United States, according to the 2011 ACS. Mexican immigrants accounted for 29 percent of all immigrants in the United States in 2011.
In which US states do the Mexican born live?
Mexican immigrants are primarily concentrated in the west and southwest regions of the United States and more than half of all Mexican immigrants live in California or Texas. In 2011, the top five states with the largest proportion of Mexican immigrants were California (37 percent), Texas (21 percent), Illinois (6 percent), Arizona (4 percent), and Florida (2 percent).
In 2011, the foreign born from Mexico accounted for over half of the immigrant population in New Mexico (71 percent), Texas (60 percent), Arizona (59 percent), Idaho (55 percent), and Wyoming (53 percent). By contrast, Mexican-born individuals accounted for 2 percent or less of the immigrant population in Hawaii (2 percent), Massachusetts (1 percent), and Maine (1 percent).
How many Mexican-born workers are in the US labor force?
Approximately 70 percent of the 11.7 million immigrants (8.2 million) from Mexico ages 16 and older were in the civilian labor force in 2011. This rate is slightly higher than the 67 percent of the total foreign-born population ages 16 and older (38.3 million immigrants) and 63 percent of the 207.9 million native born ages 16 and older in the civilian labor force.
How has the emigration rate from Mexico changed over time?
According to Mexico's National Survey of Occupations and Employment (Encuesta Nacional de Ocupación y Empleo or ENOE), the emigration rate from Mexico has remained relatively steady over the past three years after its initial drop in 2007. In fall 2009, 5.4 migrants per 1,000 residents of Mexico left for the United States while in fall 2010 that rate declined to 3.3 per 1,000. In fall 2011, it increased to 3.8 per 1,000 but decreased to its 2010 rate of 3.3 per 1,000 Mexico residents in fall 2012 (see Figure 1).
The immigration rate to Mexico (i.e., the number of people who move to Mexico from abroad, who are overwhelmingly return migrants) has entered a moderate decline, moving from 3.7 per 1,000 in fall 2008, to 2.1 per 1,000 in fall 2012.
Note: ENOE asks Mexican households to enumerate any members of the household are who living abroad at the time of the interview. Accordingly, it does not capture the emigration of entire families where no member of the household remains in Mexico.
Figure 1. Emigration and Return Migration Rate of Mexican Residents, 2006 to 2012
Source: Mexican National Institute of Statistics and Geography, National Survey of Occupations and Employment, 2006 to 2011.
Which areas/regions do most Mexican migrants in the United States come from?
According to the Survey of Migration on the Northern Border of Mexico* (Encuesta de Migración en la Frontera Norte de México, or EMIF), the flow of immigrants heading from Mexico to the United States in 2011 continued to follow the decreasing trends from recent years. In 2011, an estimated 317,000 immigrants crossed the country's northern border en route to the United States, a 36 percent decrease from 2010's estimate of 492,000 individuals.
In 2010, traditional sending states such as Michoacan (nearly 16 percent of the 492,000 Mexicans who went to the United States), Guanajuato (11 percent), and Jalisco (10 percent) accounted for the largest numbers of Mexican migrants who headed toward the United States (as a reference, see an overall map of Mexican states on the INEGI website). This is a shift from recent years when larger shares of migrants came from new sending states in southern and eastern Mexico. The most significant drops were recorded in the states of Chiapas and Veracruz. Between 2007 and 2010, migrants from Chiapas declined from 12 percent to 7 percent of the total outflow from Mexico. Similarly, migrants from Veracruz declined from nearly 8 percent to 3 percent of the total outflow over the same period
Note: *EMIF is an annual sample survey of migration flows along Mexico's northern border region conducted by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs (SRE) and Labor and Social Welfare (STPS), the National Migration Institute (INM), the National Population Council (CONAPO), and the College of the Northern Border (COLEF) in Tijuana. It excludes Mexicans entering the United States by air, migrants under the age of 15, and non-Mexican nationals crossing the southwest border. The category "migrants headed toward the United States" is restricted to those migrants who are traveling to the United States or a Mexican border city, are ages 15 and older, were not born in the United States, and do not have an immediate return itinerary.
- Read more about the characteristics of Mexicans migrating to the United States from Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática, INEGI (in Spanish).
- Also, more information is available at EMIF (in Spanish).
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Health Insurance Coverage
"Civilian labor force" — civilian persons ages 16 and older who were either employed or unemployed in the week prior to participation in the American Community Survey.
How many immigrants in the United States have health insurance?
According to the 2011 ACS, around one-third of immigrants (34 percent) are uninsured. In contrast, only 12 percent of the native-born population had no health insurance. Approximately 49 percent of the 40 million civilian immigrants residing in the United States had private health insurance (compared to 68 percent of the native born), and 23 percent had public health insurance coverage (compared to 32 percent of the native born).
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What is the foreign-born share of the total US civilian labor force?
Immigrants accounted for more than 16 percent (25.7 million) of the 156.6 million workers engaged in the US civilian labor force in 2011. Between 1970 and 2011, the percentage of foreign-born workers in the civilian labor force tripled, from 5 percent to 16 percent. Over the same period, the percent of foreign born in the total population grew from almost 5 percent to nearly 13 percent.
- For more information on national shares of immigrants in the civilian labor force over time, see Immigrants as a Percentage of the Total Population and of the Civilian Labor Force, 1970 to 2011.
What kinds of jobs do employed immigrants hold?
Of the 23.3 million employed foreign-born workers ages 16 and older in 2011, 29 percent worked in management, professional, and related occupations; 26 percent worked in service occupations; 18 percent worked in sales and office occupations; 15 percent worked in production, transportation, and material moving occupations; and 13 percent worked in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations.
Among the 117.1 million civilian employed native born ages 16 and older, 37 percent worked in management, professional, and related occupations; 17 percent worked in service occupations; 26 percent worked in sales and office occupations; 11 percent worked in production, transportation, and material moving occupations; and 8 percent worked in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations.
Note: The percentages do not add up to 100 due to rounding.
- For more information on national and state-level trends regarding foreign-born workers, see the "Workforce" data sheet of the ACS/Census data tool.
- The 2011 data on the foreign and native born are from the American FactFinder of the Census Bureau.
What were the top five states in terms of the number of immigrants, share of immigrants in the total state population, absolute growth, and percent growth between 1990 and 2000 and between 2000 and 2011?
In 2011, the top five US states by the number of immigrants were California (10.2 million), New York (4.3 million), Texas (4.2 million), Florida (3.7 million), and New Jersey (1.9 million).
When classified by the share of immigrants in the total state population, the top five states in 2011 were California (27 percent), New York (22 percent), New Jersey (21 percent), Florida (19 percent), and Nevada (19 percent).
Between 1990 and 2000, the five states with the largest absolute growth of the immigrant population were California (2.4 million), Texas (1.4 million), New York (1 million), Florida (1 million), and Illinois (577,000).
Between 2000 and 2011, the five states with the largest absolute growth of the immigrant population were California (1.3 million), Texas (1.3 million), Florida (1 million), New York (450,000), and New Jersey (416,000).
Between 1990 and 2000, the five states with the largest percent growth* of the immigrant population were North Carolina (about 274 percent), Georgia (233 percent), Nevada (202 percent), Arkansas (196 percent), and Utah (about 171 percent).
Between 2000 and 2011, the five states with the largest percent growth* of the immigrant population were Tennessee (93 percent), South Carolina (91 percent), Alabama (85 percent), Kentucky (75 percent), and Arkansas (75 percent).
Note: *In some states, the starting population of the foreign born was rather small. Thus, relatively small absolute increases in the immigrant population in these states have translated into high percent growth.
What were the top ten US counties in terms of number of immigrants, share of immigrants in the total county population, absolute growth, and percent growth between 2000 and 2011?
In 2011, the top ten counties by the number of immigrants were Los Angeles County, CA (3,475,000); Miami-Dade County, FL (1,319,000); Cook County, IL (1,104,000); Queens County, NY (1,089,000); Harris County, TX (1,036,000); Kings County, NY (947,000); Orange County, CA (935,000); San Diego County, CA (734,000); Santa Clara County, CA (668,000); and Maricopa County, AZ (581,000).
When classified by the share of immigrants in the total county population, the top ten counties in 2011 were Miami-Dade County, FL (52 percent); Queens County, NY (48 percent); Hudson County, NJ (40 percent); Kings County, NY (37 percent); San Francisco County, CA (37 percent); Santa Clara County, CA (37 percent)); Los Angeles County, CA (35 percent); Bronx County, NY (34 percent); San Mateo County, CA (33 percent); and Imperial County, CA (33 percent).
Between 2000 and 2011, the ten counties with the largest absolute growth of immigrants were Harris County, TX (280,000); Riverside County, CA (194,000); Clark County, NV (181,000); Miami-Dade County, FL (171,000); Broward County, FL (147,000); King County, WA (141,000); Maricopa County, AZ (140,000); San Diego County, CA (129,000); San Bernardino County, CA (112,000); and Orange County, FL (105,000).
Between 2000 and 2011, the ten counties with the largest absolute decline of immigrants were Arlington County, VA (-1,100); Richland County, OH (-870); Aroostook County, ME (-840); Citrus County, FL (-800), Columbiana County, OH (-800), Harrison County, WV (-700); Muskegon County, MI (-700); Penobscot County, ME (-660); Lincoln County, NC (-660), and Genesee County, MI (-590).
Between 2000 and 2011, the ten counties with the largest percent growth* of the immigrant population were Walton County, GA (567 percent); Newton County, Georgia (400 percent); Buchanan County, MO (398 percent); Wilson County, TN (355 percent); Sevier County, TN (339 percent); Kendall County, IL (322 percent); Hendricks County, IN (305 percent); St. Clair County, AL (297 percent); Loudoun County, VA (295 percent); and Forsyth County, Georgia (273 percent).
Note: The above estimates represent a more than a decade-long trend of growth or decline. Some states and counties have had experienced ups and downs in flows between 2000 and 2011 that might be masked if/when one examines the 2000-2011 differences. For example, while the number of immigrants declined in Arlington County, VA overall between 2000 and 2011 by more than 1,100 (from 52,700 to 51,500), the immigrant population in fact increased between 2010 and 2011 from 48,700 to 51,500.
Note: The above county-level data are from the 2011 ACS one-year estimates which, for confidentiality and sampling reasons, reports information only for 798 out of 3,143 US counties. It is likely that the county rankings would be different if information on all counties were available.
*In some counties, the starting population of the foreign born was rather small. Thus, relatively small absolute increases in the immigrant population in these counties have translated into high percent growth.
"Second-generation immigrant children" — any native-born child with at least one foreign-born parent.
"First-generation immigrant children" — any foreign-born child with foreign-born parents.
"Children with immigrant parents" — both first- and second-generation immigrant children.
Note: The estimates in this section include only children ages 17 and under who reside with at least one parent.
Children with Immigrant Parents
How many children in the United States live with immigrant parents?
In 2011, 17.1 million children ages 17 and under lived at home with at least one immigrant parent. They accounted for 24 percent of the 70.4 million children ages 17 and under in the United States.
The 14.9 million second-generation children — those who were born in the United States to at least one foreign-born parent — accounted for 87 percent of all children with immigrant parents. The remaining 13 percent (2.2 million) were children born outside the United States to foreign-born parents and lived in the United States in 2011.
- For more information on children living with immigrant parents, including both first- and second-generation children, by state,
see the MPI Data Hub's Children with Immigrant Parents table.
- Read more about second-generation immigrant children in this Source special issue.
How has the number of children living with immigrant parents changed?
Between 1990 and 2000, the number of children ages 17 and under with immigrant parents grew 60 percent from 8.2 million to 13.1 million. Between 2000 and 2011, the number grew 31 percent from 13.1 million to 17.1 million.
Between 1990 and 2000, the number of first-generation immigrant children grew by 43 percent (from 1.9 million to 2.7 million). In contrast, the number of first-generation immigrant children declined 18 percent between 2000 and 2011, from 2.7 million to 2.2 million.
The number of second-generation immigrant children has grown steadily since 1990. Between1990 and 2000, the number of second-generation immigrant children grew 65 percent from 6.3 million to 10.4 million. Between 2000 and 2011, the number of second-generation immigrant children grew by 43 percent from 10.4 million to 14.9 million.
In 1990, 13 percent of all children were living with immigrant parents, compared to 19 percent in 2000 and 24 percent in 2011. The share of second-generation children among all children with immigrant parents has grown from 77 percent in 1990 to 80 percent in 2000 and to 87 percent in 2011.
What are the top five states in terms of the number of children with living immigrant parents?
In 2011, the top five US states by the total number of children living with immigrant parents were California (4.4 million), Texas (2.3 million), New York (1.4 million), Florida (1.2 million), and Illinois (803,000). These five states accounted for 59 percent of all children with immigrant parents residing in the nation in 2011.
What are the top five states according to the share of children living with immigrant parents in the state's total child population?
In terms of the share of children with immigrant parents, the top five states in 2011 were California (50 percent of all children in the state), Nevada (39 percent), New Jersey (35 percent), New York, and Texas (34 percent each).
What are the top five states in terms of the absolute growth of the number of children living with immigrant parents?
Between 1990 and 2000, the five states with the largest absolute growth of the total number of children with immigrant parents were California (1.3 million), Texas (643,000), Florida (384,000), New York (366,000), and Illinois (231,000).
Between 2000 and 2011, the five states with the largest absolute growth of the total number of children living with immigrant parents were Texas (736,000), Florida (288,000), California (278,000), Georgia (232,000), and North Carolina (196,000).
What are the top five states in terms of the percent growth of the number of children living with immigrant parents between 1990 and 2000 and between 2000 and 2011?
Between 1990 and 2000, the five states with the largest percent growth of the total population of children with immigrant parents were Nevada (about 233 percent), North Carolina (about 224 percent), Georgia (about 194 percent), Nebraska (174 percent), and Arkansas (170 percent).
Between 2000 and 2011, the five states with the largest percent growth of the total population of children living with immigrant parents were Tennessee (about 145 percent), Kentucky (about 128 percent), Arkansas (about 123 percent), North Carolina (about 117 percent), and South Carolina (about 107 percent).
How many children living with immigrant parents are in poor families?
There were 15.4 million children under 18 who lived in poor families (i.e., with family incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty threshold). Of them, almost 4.7 million (or 31 percent) were children of immigrants.
How many foreign nationals (in all categories) obtain lawful permanent residence in the United States?
In 2011, 1,062,040 foreign nationals became lawful permanent residents (LPRs), also known as green-card holders, according to DHS' Yearbook of Immigration Statistics 2011. The total number has increased slightly from 2010 (1,042,625). New arrivals comprised approximately 45 percent (481,948) of those granted LPR status in 2011. The majority of new LPRs (580,092, or 55 percent) were status adjusters — immigrants who were already living in the United States before 2011, but whose green-card applications were approved during 2011. Most status adjusters were formerly one of the following: refugees, asylees, temporary workers, foreign students, family members of US citizens or green-card holders, or unauthorized immigrants.
Under which categories do permanent immigrants enter?
Of the roughly 1 million new LPRs in 2011, 43 percent were an immediate relative of a US citizen, 22 percent entered through a family-sponsored preference, and 13 percent entered through an employment-based preference. Another 16 percent adjusted from a refugee or asylee status, and 5 percent were diversity-lottery winners.
- Read about immigration preferences here.
Which countries do permanent immigrants come from?
The top five countries of birth for new LPRs in 2011 were Mexico (14 percent), China (8 percent), India (6 percent), the Philippines (5 percent), and the Dominican Republic (4 percent). Approximately 403,000 new LPRs were from one of the top five countries of birth, accounting for almost 38 percent of all persons who received LPR status in 2011.
Persons born in the next five countries — Cuba and Vietnam (3 percent each) and Korea, Colombia, and Haiti (2 percent each) — made up almost 13 percent of all LPRs. The top ten countries of birth made up half of the total of LPRs.
How many people apply for permanent immigration to the United States through the green-card lottery?
The Immigration Act of 1990 established the Diversity Visa Lottery (also known as the DV lottery or the green-card lottery) to allow entry to immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The act states that 55,000 diversity visas are made available each fiscal year, of which 5,000 must be used for applicants under the Nicaraguan and Central America Relief Act of 1997, thus reducing the available number to other nationalities to 50,000. In 2011, 50,103 people received LPR status as diversity immigrants, representing 5 percent of the 1 million new LPRs.
Before receiving permission to immigrate to the United States, lottery winners must provide proof of a high school education or its equivalent or show two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience. They also must pass a medical exam and a background check.
Overall interest in the DV lottery is significantly higher than the 50,000 available visas, but each year the application number varies depending on which countries are eligible. For instance, more than 7.9 million qualified applications were registered for the DV-2013 program. While an impressive amount, that number is significantly lower than the 14.8 million entries registered a year earlier. The 46 percent drop in qualified applications between DV-2012 (14.8 million) and DV-2013 (7.9 million) was almost exclusively due to the removal of one country — Bangladesh — from the list of eligible countries (in 2012, Bangladeshis accounted for 7.7 million of the total 14.8 million applications).
Check out the full list of qualified entries by country for DV-2007 to DV-2013 here.
What is the total number of nonimmigrant admissions to the United States?
The total number of nonimmigrant (temporary) admissions for 2011 was approximately 158.5 million, including primarily tourists, business travelers, and international students. However, an estimated 105.4 million admissions were exempt from completing the I-94 arrival/departure form at the port of entry. (Canadians who travel to the United States for business or pleasure, and Mexicans who possess a nonresident Border Crossing Card [i.e., laser visa] are exempt from completing this form).
Temporary admissions of I-94 nonimmigrants to the United States nearly tripled from 17.6 million in 1990 to 53.1 million (not including the admission of exempt Mexicans and Canadians) in 2011. Total temporary admissions of I-94 nonimmigrants increased from 46.5 million to 53.1 million (14 percent) from 2010 to 2011.
Note: Nonimmigrant admissions represent the number of arrivals, not the number of individuals admitted to the United States. DHS only reports characteristics of nonimmigrants that have to complete an I-94 arrival/departure form.
How do nonimmigrant admissions break down by visa category?
Temporary visitors (tourists and business travelers) account for an overwhelming majority of all nonimmigrant admissions. In 2011, they represented 87 percent (46.3 million) of all admissions to the United States. Of those, 40.6 million were tourist admissions and 5.7 million were business-traveler admissions.
Temporary workers and trainees, including H-1B "specialty occupation" workers, registered nurses, temporary agricultural workers, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) professional workers, treaty traders, and intracompany transferees, among others, accounted for almost 3.4 million arrivals (more than 6 percent of total admissions); this figure includes spouses and children of all temporary workers and trainees.
Students who entered the United States to study at academic or vocational institutes, made up about 4 percent (close to 1.9 million) of the total arrivals including their family members but not including exchange visitors).
- Read more about temporary admissions in 2011 in Temporary Admissions of Nonimmigrants to the United States.
- Read about the size of nonimmigrant population in Estimates of the Size and Characteristics of the Resident Nonimmigrant Population in the United States.
How many visas does the Department of State (DOS) issue per year?
DOS reports the number of visas issued to foreign nationals who wish to enter the United States for the purpose of traveling, conducting business, working, studying, and for other reasons.
In 2011, DOS issued 7,507,939 nonimmigrant visas, which is a 17 percent increase from the 6,422,751 visas issued in 2010. The 2011 figure is much closer to the decade's peak of 7,588,778 visas in 2001, and higher than the decade's lowest number of visas issued of 4,881,632 in 2003 (see Figure 2).
Figure 2. Nonimmigrant Visas Issued by Fiscal Year (in millions), 2000-2011
Source: The Department of State, Report of the Visa Office 2011, Table XVIII. Nonimmigrant Visas Issued by Nationality
The vast majority (75 percent) of the 7.5 million nonimmigrant visas issued in 2011 were temporary business and tourist visas (B-1, B-2, and BCC visas). The next largest visa class (F-1, F-2, and F-3) was for academic students and exchange visitors and their family members, comprising 6 percent of all nonimmigrant visas issued, followed by the J-1 and J-2 visa categories for exchange visitors and their spouses and children (nearly 5 percent).
The distribution of the 7.5 million visas issued to foreign nationals in 2011 by region shows that the majority of temporary visas were issued to nationals from Asia (36 percent) and North America (23 percent, including Central America and the Caribbean), followed by South America (close to 23 percent), Europe (13 percent), Africa (4 percent), and Oceania (1 percent).
Notes on Refugees and Asylees
What is the difference between a refugee and an asylee? In the United States, the main difference is the person's location at the time of application.
Refugees are generally outside of the United States when they are considered for resettlement, whereas asylum seekers submit their applications while they are physically present in or at a port of entry to the United States.
Asylum seekers can submit an asylum request either affirmatively or defensively. An asylum seeker present in the United States may submit an asylum request either with a US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum officer (affirmative request), or, if apprehended, with an immigration judge as part of a removal hearing (defensive request). During the interview, an asylum officer will determine whether the applicant meets the definition of a refugee.
Note: The number of visas issued does not necessarily match the number of foreign nationals who entered the United States in the same year because some nonimmigrant visas may not be used.
How many Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications were received in 2012?
On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain unauthorized immigrants who entered the United States as children would be able to apply for deferred action, granting relief from deportation and work authorization for two years. MPI estimates that approximately 1.76 million people could be eligible for the DACA initiative. Prospective beneficiaries have to meet a series of requirements, including the following:
- Entered the United States before the age of 16;
- Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007;
- Are currently in school, have graduated from high school or earned a GED, or are honorably discharged veterans of the US armed forces (including the Coast Guard);
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors; or otherwise pose a threat to public safety or national security.
Between August 15, 2012, when USCIS began accepting applications, and January 17, 2013, a total of 407,899 applications were received. Approximately, 97 percent (394,533) of applications were accepted for consideration, while 3 percent (13,366) of the applications were rejected. As of January 17, 2013, 154,404 DACA applications were approved.
The top states of residence for DACA applicants (refers to applications received, not approvals) are California (27 percent), Texas (16 percent), New York (6 percent), Illinois, and Florida (5 percent each).
The top countries of origin are Mexico (71 percent), El Salvador (4 percent), Honduras (3 percent) and Guatemala (2 percent) and Peru (1 percent).
How many foreign born enter the United States as refugees, and where are they from?
In 2011, 56,384 refugees were admitted to the United States, a roughly 23 percent decrease from 2010 (73,293). Burma, Bhutan, and Iraq were the primary countries of nationality for refugees admitted to the United States in 2009, 2010, and 2011. The nationals of these three countries made up 73 percent (41,359) of all refugees admitted in 2011. The next seven countries of origin for refugee resettlements in 2011 included Somalia, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan. Altogether, nationals of these ten countries totaled 53,469 individuals, or almost 95 percent of all refugee arrivals in 2011.
Each year, the President and Congress set the annual refugee admissions ceiling and regional allocations. For fiscal year (FY) 2013 the ceiling was set at 70,000 (down from 80,000 between 2008 and 2012). The Near East/South Asia regions received 45 percent (31,000) of the total regional allocations in response to the refugee crises in Iraq and Burma.
How many foreign born enter the United States as asylees, and where are they from?
In 2011, 24,988 principal applicants and their spouses and/or unmarried children under the age of 21 were granted asylum. An additional 9,550 individuals outside of the United States were approved for asylum status as immediate family members of principal applicants. (Note that this number reflects travel documents issued to these family members, not their arrival to the United States.)
Asylees from the top three countries of origin for asylum seekers — China, Venezuela, and Ethiopia — made up 43 percent (or 10,784) of all asylees in 2011. More specifically, 8,601 persons from China received asylum in 2011, accounting for 34 percent of all individuals who received asylum that year. The next four largest origin groups were from Venezuela (1,107), Ethiopia (1,076), Egypt (1,028), and Haiti (878), accounting for another 16 percent. Together, nationals of these five countries made up more than half of all individuals who received asylum status in 2011.
How many unauthorized immigrants are in the United States?
According to DHS' Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS), an estimated 11.5 million unauthorized immigrants resided in the United States in January 2011. The estimates, released in March 2012, suggest that the unauthorized population is virtually unchanged compared to the revised 2010 estimate of 11.6 million. The largest shares of the 11.5 million unauthorized immigrants resided in California (25 percent), Texas (16 percent), and Florida (6 percent). Arizona and Georgia are home to 3 percent and 4 percent of the nation's unauthorized immigrants, respectively. Between 2000 and 2011, Georgia's unauthorized population nearly doubled (from about 220,000 to 440,000), while the population in Arizona increased by 9 percent during the same period (from 330,000 to 360,000). These figures can be compared to 36 percent growth between 2000 and 2011 at the national level.
The Pew Hispanic Center (PHC) also produced estimates of the size and characteristics of the unauthorized immigrant population. According to recent PHC data, there were 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States in March 2011. This estimate was not statistically different from 2009 and 2010, but clearly has been on the decline from the peak of 12 million in 2007. The drop in the size of the unauthorized population (and lack of growth) is driven in large part by the decrease in the new immigrants arriving from Mexico.
Note: The data sources and estimating methodologies used by OIS and PHC to describe the unauthorized population are different. Hence the estimates are not fully comparable, and we urge our readers not to mix them. The two organizations cover somewhat different topics. For instance, OIS has estimates on the unauthorized population by period of entry, origin, state of residence, age, and sex. In addition to covering trends over time, PHC estimates include national and state-level estimates of the unauthorized labor force, as well as data on children with unauthorized parents.
Where are unauthorized migrants from?
In 2011, about 8.9 million unauthorized immigrants in 2011 were born in North America (which includes Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and Canada). About 1.3 million were from Asia, 800,000 from South America, 300,000 from Europe, and 200,000 from the remaining parts of the world. Mexico (59 percent), El Salvador (6 percent), and Guatemala (5 percent) were the top three countries of birth of the unauthorized immigrant population.
How many children have unauthorized immigrant parents?
About 5.5 million children in 2010 (the most recently available estimates) had at least one parent who was an unauthorized immigrant, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Of this group, about 82 percent (4.5 million) were US citizens by birth and 18 percent (1 million) were unauthorized immigrants themselves. The number of children with unauthorized immigrant parents has significantly increased since 2000, when there were 3.6 million such children. However, over the same period, the number of unauthorized immigrant children declined from 1.5 to 1.1 million, while the number of US-born children with unauthorized immigrant parents grew from 2.1 to 4.5 million.
- Read the Pew Hispanic Center's most recent fact sheet on unauthorized immigrants.
How many apprehensions are there per year?
There were over half a million apprehensions in 2011 (641,633) by the Border Patrol and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the two agencies within the Department of Homeland Security. About 340,000 (53 percent of all apprehensions) were reported by the Border Patrol in 2011, which was the lowest number since 1971. About 96 percent of Border Patrol apprehensions occurred along the southwest border. ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations made 285,085 administrative arrests (or 44 percent of the total apprehensions) and ICE Homeland Security Investigations made 16,296 administrative arrests (or 3 percent).
The leading countries of nationality of those apprehended in 2011 were Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Nationals from these four countries comprised 91 percent of all apprehensions, with Mexican nationals comprising the overwhelming majority of apprehensions, 76 percent in 2011, down from 80 percent in 2010.
Note: Apprehensions are events, not individuals. In other words, the same individual can be apprehended more than once with each apprehension counted separately.
How many people are deported per year?
Foreign-born individuals who must leave the United States are categorized as either "removals" or "returns." Both removals and returns result in the departure of a foreign-born individual from the United States. Combined removals and returns in 2011 totaled 715,495 — the lowest within the last two decades. They were 17 percent lower than in 2010 (860,713) and 62 percent lower than the decade's highest number of 1,864,343 in 2000.
In 2011, returns accounted for 45 percent (or 323,542) of the 715,495 total removals and returns, while removals comprised 55 percent (or 391,953) of the total, a reverse from 2010.
Notes: Removals (deportations) are the compulsory and confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable unauthorized immigrant out of the United States based on an order of removal. An unauthorized immigrant who is removed has administrative or criminal consequences placed on subsequent reentry owing to the fact of the removal. Returns are the confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable unauthorized immigrant out of the United States not based on an order of removal. Most of the voluntary departures are of Mexican nationals who have been apprehended by the US Border Patrol and are returned to Mexico.
The government fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30. All figures for immigration control and enforcement given here are for the government fiscal year.
Immigration Control and Enforcement
How much does the government spend on immigration control and enforcement?
Funding for the Border Patrol, which was part of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) until the agency was subsumed into the new Department of Homeland Security in 2003, increased 519 percent between 1986 and 2002, from $268 million to $1.6 billion. The Border Patrol is responsible for enforcing 8,000 miles of US land and water boundaries between legal points of entry (designated points where immigration officials can regulate entry).
Following DHS' creation, the Border Patrol became part of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), an agency within DHS.
CBP's responsibilities include regulating and facilitating international trade, collecting import duties, enforcing US trade laws, and protecting US agricultural and economic interests from pests and diseases.
According to DHS annual budgets, the total CBP budget (gross discretionary and mandatory, fees, and trust funds) was $5.9 billion in FY 2003. The agency's budget increased 32 percent to $7.7 billion in FY 2007 and then by another 52 percent to $11.7 billion in FY 2012. The president requested nearly $12 billion for the FY 2013 budget. CBP has the highest budget of all DHS agencies.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the investigative branch of DHS and is responsible for enforcing immigration laws. In FY 2003, the total ICE budget was $3.3 billion. The budget rose 44 percent to $4.7 billion by FY2007 and another 25 percent to almost $5.9 billion by FY 2012. The president requested a budget decrease for ICE in FY2013, reducing the total to slightly more than $5.6 billion.
How many Border Patrol agents are there?
The number of Border Patrol agents has more than doubled since 2004, from approximately 10,820 to over 21,440 in 2011. The 2013 budget request includes funding for 21,370 Border Patrol agents and 21,186 CBP officers who work at ports of entry across the nation.
How many foreign born are naturalized citizens?
In 2011, 18.1 million were naturalized US citizens, accounting for 45 percent of the foreign-born population (40.4 million) and 6 percent of the total US population (311.6 million) according to ACS estimates.
How many immigrants naturalize?
According to DHS data, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) naturalized 694,193 LPRs in 2011. The total number of immigrants naturalized increased by 12 percent between 2010 (619,913) and 2011.
From a historical perspective, the number of naturalizations has increased dramatically in recent decades. On average, 141,000 LPRs naturalized each year between 1970 and 1979; 205,000 on average per year in the 1980s; 498,000 per year on average in the 1990s; and 682,000 per year on average during the 2000s.
The number of naturalizations reached an all-time high in 2008 (1,046,539) before falling by almost 29 percent in 2009. The sharp increase in naturalizations of about 59 percent between 2007 and 2008 (from 660,477 to 1,046,539) is a result of the promotion of naturalization during the 2008 presidential elections and impending increases in the fees assessed for applicants, which worked to encourage a surge in applications for naturalizations during that time period.
How many foreigners became US citizens through military naturalization in 2011?
In 2011, 8,373 foreign-born military personal naturalized as US citizens on US soil, overseas, or aboard Navy ships. This is a decrease of 8 percent from 2010 when 9,122 individuals were naturalized, the largest number of military personnel naturalized in any single year since 1972.
Between September 2001 and September 2011, 65,204 foreign-born military personnel have naturalized on US soil. Another 9,773 have become citizens overseas or aboard Navy ships.
Between 2005 and 2011, the majority of the 9,773 foreign-born service members naturalizing overseas were naturalized in Iraq (3,410), Japan (1,919), and Germany (1,334). In addition, 991 persons were naturalized in Afghanistan during the same period.
What are the countries of origin of newly naturalized citizens?
Of those who naturalized in 2011, 14 percent were born in Mexico (94,783), close to 7 percent in India (45,985), and 6 percent in the Philippines (42,520). Immigrants from these three countries, together with those from China (32,864), Colombia (22,639), Cuba (21,071), Vietnam (20,922), the Dominican Republic (20,508), Jamaica (14,591), and Haiti (14,191) comprised the top ten countries of birth for newly naturalized citizens in 2011 and accounted for approximately 48 percent of all naturalizations that year.
Where do newly naturalized citizens live in the United States?
In 2011, 53 percent of all newly naturalized citizens lived in one of four states. California is the state with the largest number of newly naturalized citizens, comprising of 22 percent (151,183), of the total newly naturalized. Thirteen percent (87,309) of the newly naturalized resided in Florida in 2011, 11 percent lived in New York (76,603), and 8 percent resided in Texas (52,927).
Approximately 14 percent of those who naturalized in 2011 lived in the greater New York metropolitan area (99,153), 9 percent in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area (62,373), and almost 8 percent in the greater Miami metropolitan area (55,560). These areas, together with Chicago (4 percent), San Francisco, the greater Washington DC metropolitan area, Boston, and Houston (about 3 percent each), were home to nearly half of new US citizens in 2011.
How many LPRs are eligible to naturalize?
According to the latest available USCIS estimates, 13.1 million LPRs resided in the United States in January 1, 2011. Of them, about 8.5 million were eligible to naturalize.
How long does it take on average for LPRs to naturalize?
To be naturalized, LPRs must meet a number of criteria, including being at least 18 years of age; have resided in the United States with LPR status continuously for at least five years, and pass an English and civic exam.
According to USCIS estimates, immigrants who naturalized in 2011 spent a median of six years in LPR status before becoming US citizens. The time varied by country of origin: African born spent about 5 years in LPR status before naturalization, followed by those born in Asia, Europe, and South America (6 years), Oceania (7 years), and North America (including Mexico and Central America) (10 years).
How many visa applications for permanent immigration (green cards) are backlogged?
Two types of backlogs impact issuance of green cards. The first is due to visa availability. The government caps world-wide, employment-based, permanent visas for foreign workers and their families at 140,000 per year. Also, no country can receive more than 7 percent of the total annual number of family-sponsored and employment-based visas (approximately 25,600 visas).
The second type of backlog is due to processing delays of applicants' documents, which is related to the government's lack of financial and human resources as well as increased background and criminal checks.
Once the Department of State grants a visa to an immigrant, USCIS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation conduct background checks.
In January 2013, USCIS was processing some family-related visas applications filed as far back as April 1989, and it was still processing some employment-related visa applications from November 2002.
A US citizen wishing to sponsor an unmarried adult child from Mexico, for instance, must wait about 20 years before the application will be processed, and a US citizen wishing to sponsor a sibling from the Philippines must wait 24 years (see Table 1). However, recent years have witnessed dramatic reductions in the backlogs for certain categories of immigrants, particularly the immediate family members (spouses and children) of LPRs (i.e., see Preference 2A).
Table 1. Date by Which a Green-Card Application Should Have Been Filed to Be Processed in January 2013, by Applicant's Country of Nationality and Preferences
||All other areas
|1st: Unmarried adult children of US citizens
|2A: Spouses/minor children of LPRs
|2B: Unmarried adult children of LPRs
|3rd: Married adult children of US citizens
of US citizens
||All other areas
|1st: Workers/persons with extraordinary ability
|2nd: Professionals with advanced degrees/persons with exceptional
|3rd: Skilled or professional workers
|4th: Certain special immigrants
|5th Targeted Employment Areas/Regional Centers and Pilot Programs
Note: In this table, the listing of a date for any class indicates that the class is oversubscribed and no visas are available; "C" means current, i.e., numbers are available for all qualified applicants; and "U" means unavailable, i.e., no numbers are available. Visa numbers are available only for applicants whose priority date is earlier than the cut-off date listed in the table).