Below is an overview of U.S. immigration based on Fiscal Year 2003 data (October 1, 2002 to September 30, 2003) from the 2003 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, which was released in September 2004 by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics.
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The number of people granted legal permanent residence in the United States in FY 2003 dropped 34 percent. The total fell from 1.06 million the previous year to just under 706,000. They included 358,000 new arrivals and 347,000 persons who adjusted their status. The decline reflects that only half as many persons who were present in the United States adjusted their status as had done so the year before. DHS officials attribute the processing slowdown to new security requirements, as well as the shifting of staff to the Special Registration program.
Over half of all new legal immigrants arrived from just 10 countries, and 63 percent live in six states. The 10 countries of origin were Mexico (116,000), India (50,000), the Philippines (45,000), China (41,000), El Salvador (28,000), the Dominican Republic (26,000), Vietnam (22,000), Colombia (15,000), Guatemala (14,000), and Russia (14,000). The top six states of residence – California, New York, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, and Illinois - stayed the same as last year.
Family reunification and employment-based immigration continued to make up a large proportion of legal immigration, though the absolute numbers in both categories dropped significantly. Approximately 70 percent of the immigrants who obtained legal permanent residence in FY 2003 were relatives of United States citizens or permanent residents. In absolute numbers, however, their numbers fell 27 percent to 492,000 in 2003. Employment-based immigration accounted for 82,000 new immigrants (11.6 percent) in FY 2003, a 53 percent decline from 2002. Similar declines occurred across most other categories.
Refugee admissions rose by five percent but remained significantly below the 70,000 admissions ceiling authorized by the president in consultation with the Congress. The number of arrivals by refugees, who are eligible to obtain legal permanent residence after one year in the U.S., totaled just over 28,000 in FY 2003. This was above the 27,000 in FY 2002 (a 25-year low), but 59 percent less than the nearly 70,000 who arrived in FY 2001.
Temporary non-immigrant admissions totaled 27.8 million in 2003, continuing at 15 percent below pre-9/11 levels. The vast majority of non-immigrant visitors were tourists and business travelers (87.2 percent in 2003).
Reductions occurred across many temporary admissions categories, including foreign students and temporary workers and trainees. The number of foreign students, 625,000 in 2003, dropped 11.8 percent in the years since 9/11. Temporary worker admissions for categories such as H-2A temporary agricultural workers and holders of NAFTA visas for professionals declined to 650,000 in 2003, a continued decline from 2002 levels of 688,000.
Half of all non-immigrant visitors were nationals of the United Kingdom, Mexico, Japan, and Germany. Sixty-one percent of all non-immigrants arrived from 10 countries: the UK (4.5 million), Mexico (4.3 million), Japan (3.6 million), Germany (1.4 million), France (1.0 million), Korea (840,000), China (579,000), Italy (639,000), Brazil (497,000), and the Netherlands (544,000).
Temporary admissions from certain countries declined sharply. Between 2002 and 2003, admissions from Asian Islamic countries and African Islamic countries dropped by an average of 10 percent, after having dropped nearly 36 percent one year earlier. Between 2001 and 2003, admissions from Jordan fell nearly 40 percent and Malaysia nearly 46 percent, while admissions from Saudi Arabia declined by nearly 76 percent and Somalia 71 percent.
Figure 1: Temporary Admissions by Region of Origin, 1999-2003
More than 463,000 people gained U.S. citizenship in FY 2003, yet a processing backlog of 625,000 naturalization applications remains. The number of naturalizations was a 19 percent decrease from FY 2002. Of the 463,000 people who naturalized in FY 2003, 42 percent were born in Asia, while 28 percent were born in North America.