Immigration is the international movement of people from their country of origin (where they were born or where they have citizenship) to a different destination country.
Immigrants leave their home countries for several reasons, including searching for economic opportunities, family reunification, retirement, and better access to resources.
The United States has had a long history of significant population growth and cultural changes thanks to immigration. Because the U.S. is a settler-colonial society, all Americans can trace their ancestry to immigrants from other nations, with the exception of those who are Native American.
Immigrants who have been granted the right to reside permanently in the United States are referred to as lawful permanent residents (LPRs) or green card holders. To become a LPR/green card holder, one must first be admitted to the country as a refugee and have been physically present as an admitted refugee for at least one year. Refugees admitted to the U.S. are required to apply for a green card after one year.
Not all LPRs choose to become U.S. citizens. Those looking to apply for citizenship must meet specific requirements, including having lived in the U.S. for five years.
All immigration matters are handled through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The United States has the highest immigrant population in the world of 48.2 million. This is over 14.6% of the total U.S. population and about 20% of international immigrants worldwide. The number of immigrants in the U.S. has quadrupled since 1965. The U.S. immigrant population is incredibly diverse, with just about every country in the world being represented.
In 2018, the United States saw 1,096,611 people obtaining lawful permanent resident status, 528,727 of whom were new arrivals to the United States and 567,884 that had an adjustment of status. The states with the largest immigrant populations are California, New York, Florida, and Texas.
The ten countries of origin that sent the most immigrants to the U.S. in 2018 were:
- Mexico - 161,858
- Cuba - 76,486
- China - 65,214
- India - 59,821
- Dominican Republic - 57,413
- Philippines - 47,238
- Vietnam - 33,834
- El Salvador - 28,326
- Haiti - 21,360
- Jamaica - 20,347
Mexico is the top origin country of the U.S. immigrant population. In 2017, 11.2 million immigrants living in the United States were from Mexico, about one-quarter of the total immigrant population. This is likely because of the U.S.-Mexico border that runs along the southern United States.
Countries in South and East Asia comprised about 27% of all immigrants, such as India and China, which had a combined 125,035 immigrants in 2018. This is just 2% more than the total amount of immigrants from Mexico alone.