The United States is home to over 48 million immigrants, more than any other country in the world. Immigration is defined as the international movement of people from their country of origin (either where they were born or have citizenship) to a different destination country.
Immigrants leave their country of origin for several reasons. These include family reunification, seeking refuge from war or corruption, searching for better economic opportunities, family reunification, retirement, and better access to resources.
Thanks to immigration, the U.S. has seen significant population growth throughout its history. The U.S. was founded by immigrants. Because the country is a settler-colonial society, all Americans can trace their ancestry back to immigrants from other nations, with the exception of Native Americans.
All immigration matters in the United States are handled through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Immigrants who have been granted the right to reside permanently in the United States are considered lawful permanent residents (LPRs) or green cardholders. To obtain a green card and become an LPR, the individual must first be admitted to the U.S. as a refugee and have been physically present as a refugee for at least one year. After one year, admitted refugees are required to apply for a green card.
Lawful permanent residents are not required to become U.S. citizens, and some choose not to. LPRs are granted almost all of the same rights as U.S. citizens except for the right to vote and a few other civic rights. LPRs are also not permitted to stay in foreign countries for an extended period of time. Those looking to become U.S. citizens must meet specific requirements before applying. Among the requirements is living in the United States for at least five years.
The U.S. immigration population of 48.2 million comprises about 14.6% of the total U.S. population. Since 1965, the U.S. immigrant population has quadrupled. The immigrant population is incredibly diverse, representing just about every country in the world.
The largest countries of origin of U.S. immigrants are Mexico, Cuba, China, and India. Almost one-quarter of the entire U.S. immigrant population is from Mexico.
Nearly half of the country’s immigrants live in California, Texas, and Florida. As of 2018, about 28.7 million of the country’s immigrants lived in just 20 major metropolitan areas, the largest of which was New York City, Los Angeles, and Miami. This means that about 64% of the U.S. foreign-born population lives in these 20 metro areas.
Below are the states with the largest immigrant populations, but the table will show data that be organized by sheer immigrant population or percentage of the total population that are foreign-born. Figures are from 2016 Pew Research Center data, but we include a Statista Survey from 2021 for comparison.
As of 2016, California had a total of 10.68 million foreign-born residents, accounting for 27.2% of its total population. Los Angeles County alone has 3.457 million immigrants. California’s immigration hubs include Los Angeles, San Diego, right near the U.S.-Mexico border, San Francisco, San Jose, and Riverside.
In 2021, their foreign-born population decreased to 26.6%, which is in line with the number of people moving out of California since the beginning of the pandemic.
Texas’s foreign-born population makes up about 17.2% of its population of 29.9 million residents. Texas is known for having high immigrant traffic, especially from Mexico. Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston are the largest immigration hubs in Texas.
3. New York
New York has been known for its history of welcoming immigrants into the U.S. through Ellis Island. The New York City metro area is home to about 6 million immigrants. New York had a more dramatic loss of population due to the pandemic and related migrations. As of 2021, their foreign-born population has reduced from 23.0% to 22.3%.
In 2016, Florida’s immigrant population was 4.23 million, about 20.6% of its total population. Florida is another known entry point for immigrants into the U.S. Its largest centers for immigrants are Tampa, Orlando, and Miami. As one of the fastest-growing states in the U.S., Florida has seen a recent uptick in foreign-born residents to 21.2% of their 22 million.
5. New Jersey
Most likely due to its proximity to New York City, New Jersey has the fifth-highest immigrant population in the United States. Of New Jersey’s 8.9 million people, about 2 million are immigrants. This means immigrants account for about 23.0% of the state’s total population.
Illinois had 1.77 million immigrants, about 13.8% of its total population, in 2016. Chicago](/us-cities/chicago-il-population) is a major metropolitan area for immigrants. As of 2021, these figures have increased to 14.2% of their 7.12 million residents being foreign-born.
Massachusetts had 1.13 million immigrants, about 16.5% of its 6.8 million population. Boston’s colleges are drawing in students from around the world and shaping the city and state’s diverse immigrant population. From 2016 to 2021, the Bay State has seen these figures rise to 17.6%.
Georgia has a total population of about 10.3 million, 1.03 million were immigrants in 2016. This made up 10% of Georgia’s total population. Atlanta is unsurprisingly Georgia’s largest immigration metro area. More recent figures show no growth in this metric, sen s the population grew by about 600,000 people.
Virginia had 1.02 million immigrants, which accounted for about 12.2% of the state’s total population in 2016. The District of Columbia is a large immigrant center in the United States, which can contribute to the large immigrant population in Virginia due to its proximity to the District and overall lower cost of living.
Back on the West Coast, the state with the tenth-highest immigrant population is Washington. Washington had, in 2016, 1.019 million immigrants, which represented about 14.0% of its total population. Seattle is the largest immigrant hub in the northwestern region of the United States. This remains the case and more current figures are showing that there has been an increase of about 1% in foreign-born residents over the last five years.