Immigration to the United States

Immigration to the United States is the international movement of non- United States nationals to reside permanently in the country.[1] Immigration has been a major source of population growth and cultural change throughout much of the United States. history. All Americans, except for Native Americans, can trace their ancestry to immigrants from other nations around the world.

Naturalization ceremony at Oakton High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, December 2015.
Immigrants to the United States take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony at the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, September 2010.
Population growth rate with and without migration in the U.S.

In absolute numbers, the United States has a larger immigrant population than any other country, with 47 million immigrants as of 2015.[2] This represents 19.1% of the 244 million international migrants worldwide, and 14.4% of the United States population. Some other countries have larger proportions of immigrants, such as Australia with 30%[3] and Canada with 21.9%.[4]

According to the 2016 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, the United States admitted a total of 1.18 million legal immigrants (618k new arrivals, 565k status adjustments) in 2016.[5] Of these, 48% were the immediate relatives of United States citizens, 20% were family-sponsored, 13% were refugees or asylum seekers, 12% were employment-based preferences, 4.2% were part of the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, 1.4% were victims of a crime (U1) or their family members were (U2 to U5),[6] and 1.0% who were granted the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) for Iraqis and Afghans employed by the United States Government.[5] The remaining 0.4% included small numbers from several other categories, including 0.2% who were granted suspension of deportation as an immediate relative of a citizen (Z13);[7] persons admitted under the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act; children born after the issuance of a parent's visa; and certain parolees from the former Soviet Union, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam who were denied refugee status.[5]

The economic, social, and political aspects of immigration have caused controversy regarding such issues as maintaining ethnic homogeneity, workers for employers versus jobs for non-immigrants, settlement patterns, impact on upward social mobility, crime, and voting behavior.

Between 1921 and 1965, policies such as the national origins formula limited immigration and naturalization opportunities for people from areas outside Western Europe. Exclusion laws enacted as early as the 1880s generally prohibited or severely restricted immigration from Asia, and quota laws enacted in the 1920s curtailed Eastern European immigration. The civil rights movement led to the replacement[8] of these ethnic quotas with per-country limits for family-sponsored and employment-based preference visas.[9] Since then, the number of first-generation immigrants living in the United States has quadrupled.[10][11]

Research suggests that immigration to the United States is beneficial to the United States economy. With few exceptions, the evidence suggests that on average, immigration has positive economic effects on the native population, but it is mixed as to whether low-skilled immigration adversely affects low-skilled natives. Studies also show that immigrants have lower crime rates than natives in the United States.[12][13][14]