Immigration is the movement of persons into a country to which they are not native in order to settle there, especially as permanent residents or future citizens. Immigrants are motivated to leave their native countries for a variety of reasons, including a desire for economic prosperity, political issues, family re-unification, escaping conflict or natural disaster, or simply the wish to change one's surroundings. In 2013 the United Nations estimated that there were 231,522,215 immigrants in the world (apx. 3.25% of the global population).

Immigration is a highly debated and controversial topic in today's global community.


As of 2005, the United Nations reported that there were nearly 191 million international migrants worldwide, about 3 percent of the world population. In 2013 the United Nations estimated that there were 231,522,215 immigrants in the world (apx. 3.25% of the global population). while the number of immigrants increases along with the world's population the proportion of immigrants as part of the world's population was remained relatively constant since 1990. In 2005 60% of immigrants lived in developed countries while the rest lived in developing countries.

The Midwestern United States, some parts of Europe, some small areas of Southwest Asia, and a few spots in the East Indies have the highest percentages of immigrant population recorded by the UN Census 2005. The reliability of immigrant censuses is low due to the concealed character of undocumented labor migration.

2012 survey

A 2012 survey by Gallup found that given the opportunity, 640 million adults would migrate to another country with 23% of these would-be immigrant choosing the United States as their desired future residence, while 7% of respondents, representing 45 million people, would choose the United Kingdom. The other top desired destination countries (those where an estimated 25 million or more adults would like to go) were Canada, France, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Germany and Spain.

Understanding of immigration

One theory of immigration distinguishes between push and pull factors.

Push factors refer primarily the motive for immigration from the country of origin. In the case of economic migration (usually labor migration), differentials in wage rates are usual. If the value of wages in the new country surpasses the value of wages in one's native country, he or she may choose to migrate as long as the costs are not too high. Particularly in the 19th century, economic expansion of the US increased immigrant flow, and nearly 40% of the population was foreign born (versus today's values of 10%), thus making up a significant amount of the labor force. Poor individuals from less developed countries can have higher standards of living in developed countries than in their originating countries.

As transportation technology improved, travel time and costs decreased dramatically between the 18th and early 20th century. Travel across the Atlantic used to take up to 5 weeks in the 18th century, but around the time of the 20th century it took a mere 8 days. When the opportunity cost is lower, the immigration rates tend to be higher. Escape from poverty (personal or for relatives staying behind) is a traditional push factor, and the availability of jobs is the related pull factor. Natural disasters can amplify poverty-driven migration flows. This kind of migration may be illegal immigration in the destination country.

Emigration and immigration are sometimes mandatory in a contract of employment: religious missionaries and employees of transnational corporations, international non-governmental organizations, and the diplomatic service expect, by definition, to work "overseas". They are often referred to as "expatriates", and their conditions of employment are typically equal to or better than those applying in the host country (for similar work).

For some migrants, education is the primary pull factor (although most international students are not classified as immigrants). Retirement migration from rich countries to lower-cost countries with better climate is a new type of international migration. Examples include immigration of retired British citizens to Spain or Italy and of retired Canadian citizens to the US (mainly to the US states of Florida and Texas).

Non-economic push factors include persecution (religious and otherwise), frequent abuse, bullying, oppression, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and risks to civilians during war. Political motives traditionally motivate refugee flows; for instance, people may emigrate in order to escape a dictatorship.

Some migration is for personal reasons, based on a relationship (e.g. to be with family or a partner), such as in family reunification or transnational marriage (especially in the instance of a gender imbalance). Recent research has found gender, age, and cross-cultural differences in the ownership of the idea to immigrate. In a few cases, an individual may wish to immigrate to a new country in a form of transferred patriotism. Evasion of criminal justice (e.g., avoiding arrest) is a personal motivation. This type of emigration and immigration is not normally legal, if a crime is internationally recognized, although criminals may disguise their identities or find other loopholes to evade detection. For example, there have been cases of those who might be guilty of war crimes disguising themselves as victims of war or conflict and then pursuing asylum in a different country.

Barriers to immigration come not only in legal form or political form; natural and social barriers to immigration can also be very powerful. Immigrants when leaving their country also leave everything familiar: their family, friends, support network, and culture. They also need to liquidate their assets, often at a large loss, and they incur the expense of moving. When they arrive in a new country, this is often with many uncertainties including finding work, where to live, new laws, new cultural norms, language or accent issues, possible racism, and other exclusionary behavior towards them and their family. These barriers act to limit international migration (scenarios where populations move en masse to other continents, creating huge population surges, and their associated strain on infrastructure and services, ignore these inherent limits on migration).

The politics of immigration have become increasingly associated with other issues, such as national security and terrorism, especially in western Europe, with the presence of Islam as a new major religion. Those with security concerns cite the 2005 French riots and point to the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy as examples of the value conflicts arising from immigration of Muslims in Western Europe. Because of all these associations, immigration has become an emotional political issue in many European nations.

Studies have suggested that some special interest groups lobby for less immigration for their own group and more immigration for other groups since they see effects of immigration, such as increased labor competition, as detrimental when affecting their own group but beneficial when impacting other groups. A 2010 European study suggested that "employers are more likely to be pro-immigration than employees, provided that immigrants are thought to compete with employees who are already in the country. Or else, when immigrants are thought to compete with employers rather than employees, employers are more likely to be anti-immigration than employees." A 2011 study examining the voting of US representatives on migration policy suggests that "representatives from more skilled labor abundant districts are more likely to support an open immigration policy towards the unskilled, whereas the opposite is true for representatives from more unskilled labor abundant districts."

Another contributing factor may be lobbying by earlier immigrants. The Chairman for the US Irish Lobby for Immigration Reformâ€"which lobby for more permissive rules for immigrants, as well as special arrangements just for Irish peopleâ€"has stated that "the Irish Lobby will push for any special arrangement it can get â€" 'as will every other ethnic group in the country.'"

Region-specific factors for immigration

As a principle, citizens of one member nation of the European Union are allowed to work in other member nations with little to no restriction on movement. This is aided by the EURES network, which brings together the European Commission and the public employment services of the countries belonging to the European Economic Area and Switzerland. For non-EU-citizen permanent residents in the EU, movement between EU-member states is considerably more difficult. After 155 new waves of accession to the European Union, earlier members have often introduced measures to restrict participation in "their" labour markets by citizens of the new EU-member states. For instance, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain each restricted their labor market for up to seven years both in the 2004 and 2007 round of accession.

Due to the European Union'sâ€"in principleâ€"single internal labour market policy, countries such as Italy and the Republic of Ireland that have seen relatively low levels of labour immigration until recently (and which have often sent a significant portion of their population overseas in the past) are now seeing an influx of immigrants from EU countries with lower per capita annual earning rates, triggering nationwide immigration debates. Spain, meanwhile, is seeing growing illegal immigration from Africa. As Spain is the closest EU member nation to Africaâ€"Spain even has two autonomous cities (Ceuta and Melilla) on the African continent, as well as an autonomous community (the Canary Islands) west of North Africa, in the Atlanticâ€"it is physically easiest for African emigrants to reach. This has led to debate both within Spain and between Spain and other EU members. Spain has asked for border control assistance from other EU states; the latter have responded that Spain has brought the wave of African illegal migrants on itself by granting amnesty to hundreds of thousands of undocumented foreigners.

The United Kingdom, France, and Germany have seen major immigration since the end of World War II and have been debating the issue for decades. Foreign workers were brought in to those countries to help rebuild after the war, and many stayed. Political debates about immigration typically focus on statistics, the immigration law and policy, and the implementation of existing restrictions. In some European countries, the debate in the 1990s was focused on asylum seekers, but restrictive policies within the European Union, as well as a reduction in armed conflict in Europe and neighboring regions, have sharply reduced asylum seekers.

Some states, such as Japan, have opted for technological changes to increase profitability (for example, greater automation), and designed immigration laws specifically to prevent immigrants from coming to, and remaining within, the country. In 2007, minister Taro Aso described Japan as unique in being "one nation, one civilisation, one language, one culture and one race". In 2013, Japan accepted only six of 3,777 persons who applied for refugee status.

In the United States, political debate on immigration has flared repeatedly since the US became independent. Some on the far-left of the political spectrum attribute anti-immigration rhetoric to an all-"white", under-educated, and parochial minority of the population, ill-educated about the relative advantages of immigration for the US economy and society. On the other hand, those on the far-right think that immigration threatens national identity, as well as cheapening labor and increasing dependence on welfare.

Economic migrant

The term economic migrant refers to someone who has travelled from one region to another region for the purposes of seeking employment or an improved financial position. An economic migrant is distinct from someone who is a refugee fleeing persecution.

Many countries have immigration and visa restrictions that prohibit a person entering the country for the purposes of gaining work without a valid work visa. As a violation of a State's immigration laws a person who is declared to be an economic migrant can be refused entry into a country.

The process of allowing immigrants into a particular country is believed to have effects on wages and employment. In particular lower skilled workers are thought to be directly affected by economic migrants, but evidence suggests that this is due to adjustments within industries.

The World Bank estimates that remittances totaled $420 billion in 2009, of which $317 billion went to developing countries.

Laws and Ethics

Treatment of migrants in host countries, both by governments, employers, and original population, is a topic of continual debate and criticism, as many cases of abuse and violation of rights are being reported frequently. Some countries have developed a particularly notorious reputation regarding treatment of migrants. The United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, has been ratified but by 20 states, all of which are heavy exporters of cheap labor. With the sole exception of Serbia, none of the signatories are western countries, but all are from Asia, South America, and North Africa. Arab states of the Persian Gulf, which are known for receiving millions of migrant workers, have not signed the treaty as well. Although freedom of movement is often recognized as a civil right in many documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), the freedom only applies to movement within national borders: it may be guaranteed by the constitution or by human rights legislation. Additionally, this freedom is often limited to citizens and excludes others.

Proponents of immigration maintain that, according to Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to leave or enter a country, along with movement within it (internal migration), although article 13 actually restricts freedom of movement to "within the borders of each state." Additionally, the UDHR does not mention entry into other countries when it states that "everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country." Some argue that the freedom of movement both within and between countries is a basic human right, and that the restrictive immigration policies, typical of nation-states, violate this human right of freedom of movement. Such arguments are common among anti-state ideologies like anarchism and libertarianism. As philosopher and "Open Borders" activist Jacob Appel has written, "Treating human beings differently, simply because they were born on the opposite side of a national boundary, is hard to justify under any mainstream philosophical, religious or ethical theory." However, Article 14 does provide that "everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution."

Where immigration is permitted, it is typically selective. As of 2003, family reunification accounted for approximately two-thirds of legal immigration to the US every year. Ethnic selection, such as the White Australia policy, has generally disappeared, but priority is usually given to the educated, skilled, and wealthy. Less privileged individuals, including the mass of poor people in low-income countries, cannot avail themselves of the legal and protected immigration opportunities offered by wealthy states. This inequality has also been criticized as conflicting with the principle of equal opportunities, which apply (at least in theory) within democratic nation-states. The fact that the door is closed for the unskilled, while at the same time many developed countries have a huge demand for unskilled labor, is a major factor in illegal immigration. The contradictory nature of this policyâ€"which specifically disadvantages the unskilled immigrants while exploiting their laborâ€"has also been criticized on ethical grounds.

Immigration policies which selectively grant freedom of movement to targeted individuals are intended to produce a net economic gain for the host country. They can also mean net loss for a poor donor country through the loss of the educated minorityâ€"the brain drain. This can exacerbate the global inequality in standards of living that provided the motivation for the individual to migrate in the first place. One example of competition for skilled labour is active recruitment of health workers from the Third World by First World countries.

Immigration and Western social values

Many commentators have raised the issue that immigrants from certain cultures who move into Western countries may not be able to understand and assimilate certain Western concepts, that are relatively alien in some parts of the world, especially related to women's rights, domestic violence, LGBT rights and the supremacy of secular laws in front of religious practices. For instance, in some parts of the world it is legal and socially accepted for men to use physical violence against their wives if they "misbehave"; and wives are expected, both legally and socially, to "obey" their husbands. Various behaviors of women, such as refusing arranged marriages or having premarital sex, are seen in many parts of the world as justifying violence from family members (parents). A 2010 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that stoning as a punishment for adultery was supported by 82% of respondents in Egypt and Pakistan, 70% in Jordan, 56% Nigeria, 42% in Indonesia; the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion was supported by 86% of respondents in Jordan, 84% in Egypt and 76% in Pakistan; gender segregation in the workplace was supported by 85% of respondents in Pakistan, 54% in Egypt, 50% in Jordan. Some people argue that Western countries have worked very hard and for a very long time to achieve modern values, and they have the right to maintain these values, and protect them from threats. In 2007, Quebec premier Jean Charest said that Quebec had values such as equality of women and men and the separation between the state and religion and that "These values are fundamental. They cannot be the object of any accommodation. They cannot be subordinated to any other principle." (see reasonable accommodation). In recent years, several high-profile cases of honor killings, forced marriages and female genital mutilation among immigrant communities in Canada, the US and Europe have reignited the debate on immigration and integration. LGBT rights are another issue of controversy in relation to immigration, because homosexuality is in many parts of the world illegal and widely disapproved by society, and in some places it is even punishable by death (see sodomy laws and LGBT rights by country or territory). Some countries, such as the Netherlands, have adopted policies which explain to immigrants that they have to accept LGBT rights if they want to move to the country.

By country

The Commitment to Development Index ranks 22 of the world's richest countries on their immigration policies and openness to migrants and refugees from the poorest nations. See the CDI for information about specific country policies and evaluation not listed below.


P.R. China

The People's Republic of China has a closed attitude to foreign migration. Currently no foreign nationals are granted Chinese citizenship.


Jewish immigration to Palestine during the 19th century was promoted by the Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl in the late 19th century following the publication of "Der Judenstaat". His Zionist movement sought to encourage Jewish migration, or immigration, to Palestine. Its proponents regard its aim as self-determination for the Jewish people. The percentage of world Jewry living in the former Palestinian Mandate has steadily grown from 25,000 since the movement came into existence. Today about 40% of the world's Jews live in Israel, more than in any other country.

The Israeli Law of Return, passed in 1950, gives those born Jews (having a Jewish mother or grandmother), those with Jewish ancestry (having a Jewish father or grandfather) and converts to Judaism (Orthodox, Reform, or Conservative denominationsâ€"not secularâ€"though Reform and Conservative conversions must take place outside the state, similar to civil marriages) the right to immigrate to Israel. A 1970 amendment, extended immigration rights to "a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew". Over a million Jews from the former Soviet Union have immigrated to Israel since the 1990s, and large numbers of Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to the country in Operation Moses. In the year 1991, Israel helped 14,000 Ethiopian immigrants arrive in operation Solomon.

There were 35,638 African migrants living in Israel in 2011. Nearly 69,000 non-Jewish African migrants have entered Israel in recent years.


To help cope with a labor shortage, Japan allowed additional immigrants of Japanese ancestry into the country in the early 1990s. According to Japanese immigration centre, the number of foreign residents in Japan has steadily increased, and the number of foreign residents (including permanent residents, but excluding illegal immigrants and short-term visitors such as foreign nationals staying less than 90 days in Japan) was more than 2.2 million in 2008. The biggest groups are Koreans (both south and north), Chinese (including China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau nationalities), and Brazilians. Most of the Brazilians in Japan have Japanese ancestry due to the huge Japanese immigration to Brazil in the first decades of the 20th century. Immediately after World War II, most Koreans in Japan were illegal immigrants who escaped from civil war on the Korean Peninsula.

Japan accepted 8,646 persons as naturalized citizens in 2013, down from 10,622 the previous year. The definition of "ethnic groups" used in Japanese statistics is different from that used in North American or some Western European statistics. For example, the United Kingdom Census asks about its citizens' "ethnic or racial background". The Japanese Statistics Bureau does not ask this question. Since the Japanese census asks about nationality rather than ethnicity, naturalized Japanese citizens and Japanese nationals with multi-ethnic backgrounds are considered simply to be Japanese in the population of Japan.

According to the Japanese Association for Refugees, the number of refugees who applied to live in Japan has rapidly increased since 2006, and there were more than a thousand applications in 2008. Japan's refugee policy has been criticized because the number of refugees accepted into Japan is small compared to countries such as Sweden and the United States. In 2013, Japan accepted only six of 3,777 persons who applied for refugee status.



Morocco is home to more than 46,000 sub-Saharan African immigrants.

Most of the foreign residents are French or Spanish. Prior to independence, Morocco was home to half a million Europeans.


According to Eurostat, 47.3 million people lived in the EU in 2010, who were born outside their resident country. This corresponds to 9.4% of the total EU population. Of these, 31.4 million (6.3%) were born outside the EU and 16.0 million (3.2%) were born in another EU member state. The largest absolute numbers of people born outside the EU were in Germany (6.4 million), France (5.1 million), the United Kingdom (4.7 million), Spain (4.1 million), Italy (3.2 million), and the Netherlands (1.4 million).

Some EU member states are currently receiving large-scale immigration: for instance Spain, where the economy has created more than the whole of all the new jobs in the EU over the past five years. The EU, in 2005, had an overall net gain from international migration of +1.8 million people. This accounts for almost 85% of Europe's total population growth in 2005. In 2004, total 140,033 people immigrated to France. Of them, 90,250 were from Africa and 13,710 from Europe. In 2005, immigration fell slightly to 135,890. British emigration towards Southern Europe is of special relevance. Citizens from the European Union make up a growing proportion of immigrants in Spain. They mainly come from countries like the UK and Germany, but the British case is of special interest due to its magnitude. The British authorities estimate that the British population in Spain at 700,000. Mid- and long term EU demographics indicate a shortage of skilled laborers on a scale that would endanger economic growth and the stability of numerous industries. For this reason the European Union launched an initiative called the EU Blue Card, In 2009. The EU Blue Card is initially a temporary residence and work permit. However it will offer holders the opportunity to apply for a permanent resident permit after working on an EU Blue Card for two to five years uninterrupted, depending on individual member state regulations.


Italy now has an estimated 4 million to 4.5 million immigrants â€" about 8 percent of the population. Since the expansion of the European Union, the most recent wave of migration has been from surrounding European nations, particularly Central Europe, and increasingly Asia, replacing North Africa as the major immigration area. Some 997,000 Romanians are officially registered as living in Italy, replacing Albanians (590,000) and Moroccans (455,000) as the largest ethnic minority group, but independent estimates put the actual number of Romanians at double that figure or perhaps even more. Other immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe are Ukrainians (260,000), Polish (120,000), Moldovans (190 000) Macedonians (100,000), Serbs (75,000), Bulgarians (124,000), Bosnians (40,000), Russians (45,600), Croatians (25,000), Slovaks (9,000), Hungarians (8,600). As of 2009, the foreign born population origin of Italy was subdivided as follows: Europe (53.5%), Africa (22.3%), Asia (15.8%), the Americas (8.1%) and Oceania (0.06%). The distribution of foreign born population is largely uneven in Italy: 80% of immigrants live in the northern and central parts of the country (the most economically developed areas), while only 20% live in the southern half of the peninsula. In 2008, net immigration to Italy was 47,000.


Pr. January 1, 2012 registered immigrants in Norway numbered 547 000, making up about 11% of the total population. Many are fairly recent immigrants as immigration has gradually increased in Norway and per 2012 is very high, both historically and compared to other countries. Net immigration in 2011 was 47 032, a national record high. The immigrants come from 219 different countries. If children of two immigrants are included the immigrant population make up 655 170. The largest groups come from Poland (72 103), Sweden (36 578), Pakistan (32 737), Somalia (29 395) Iraq (28 935), Germany (25 683), Lithuania (23 941) and Vietnam (20 871) (numbers per 2012, include immigrants and children of two immigrants). Children of Pakistani, Somali and Vietnamese parents made up the largest groups of all Norwegians born to immigrant parents. The European and Pakistani immigrants are mainly labor immigrants while many other immigrants from outside Europe have come as asylum seekers or family members to such.


Portugal, long a country of emigration, that have created big Portuguese communities in France, USA and Brazil has now become a country of net immigration, and not just from the former colonies; by the end of 2003, legal immigrants represented about 4% of the population, and the largest communities were from Cape Verde, Brazil, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, UK, Spain, China and Ukraine.


As of 2010, there were over 6 million foreign-born residents in Spain, corresponding to 14% of the total population. Of these, 4.1 million (8.9% of the total population) were born outside the European Union and 2.3 million (5.1%) were born in another EU Member State. Spain is the most popular European destination for Britons living outside the UK. According to residence permit data for 2005, about 500,000 Moroccans, 500,000 Ecuadorians, more than 200,000 Romanians, and 260,000 Colombians lived in Spain. In 2005 alone, a regularisation programme increased the legal immigrant population by 700,000 people. As a result of the Spanish financial crisis net migration trends reversed and in 2011 more people left Spain than immigrated with 507,740 leaving Spain and only 457,650 arriving.


As the Swedish government does not base any statistics on ethnicity, there are no exact numbers on the total number of people of immigrant background in Sweden. As of 2010, 1.33 million people or 14.3% of the inhabitants in Sweden were foreign-born. Sweden has been transformed from a nation of emigration ending after World War I to a nation of immigration from World War II onwards. In 2009, immigration reached its highest level since records began with 102,280 people emigrating to Sweden. In 2010, 32,000 people applied for asylum to Sweden, a 25% increase from 2009, the highest amount in Swedish history. In 2009, Sweden had the fourth largest number of asylum applications in the EU and the largest number per capita after Cyprus and Malta. Immigrants in Sweden are mostly concentrated in the urban areas of Svealand and Götaland and the five largest foreign born populations in Sweden come from Finland, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Poland and Iran. According to a publication by Mete Feridun in the peer-reviewed Journal of Developing Areas published by the Tennessee State University, immigration has a statistically significant causal impact on economic growth in Sweden.


As of 2014, 23.4% of Switzerland's population are foreign born (with nearly 40% from Germany). Since the 1970s Switzerland's foreign born population has remained over 15% of the total population. Switzerland and Australia are the two countries with the highest proportion of immigrants in the world. In 2010, Swiss voters approved the deportation of criminal foreigners and in February 2014, the federal popular initiative "against mass immigration" was approved by 50.3% of voters. The referendum aims to reduce immigration through quotas and limits the freedom of movement between Switzerland and the European Union. In 2006 the United Nations special rapporteur on racism, Doudou Diène, observed that Switzerland suffers from racism, discrimination and xenophobia and that Swiss authorities do not view these issues as serious problems.

United Kingdom

In 2007, net immigration to the UK was 237,000, a rise of 46,000 on 2006. In 2004, the number of people who became British citizens rose to a record 140,795â€"a rise of 12% on the previous year. This number had risen dramatically since 2000. In the 2001 Census, citizens from the Republic of Ireland were the largest foreign born group and have been for the last 200 years. This figure does not include those from Northern Ireland located since it is part of the United Kingdom. Those of Irish ancestry number roughly 6 million from first, second and third generation. The overwhelming majority of new citizens come from Asia (40%) and Africa (32%), the largest three groups being people from Pakistan, India and Somalia.

In 2011, an estimated 589,000 migrants arrived to live in the UK for at least a year, most of the migrants were people from Asia (particularly the Indian subcontinent) and Africa, while 338,000 people emigrated from the UK for a year or more. Following Poland's entry into the EU in May 2004 it was estimated that by the start of 2007, 375,000 Poles had registered to work in the UK, although the total Polish population in the UK was believed to be 500,000. Many Poles work in seasonal occupations and a large number are likely to move back and forth over time. Some migrants left after the world economic crisis of 2008. In 2011, citizens of the new EU member states made up 13% of the immigrants entering the country. As of May 2010 the UK Immigration Minister was Damian Green, who has since been replaced by Mark Harper.

The British Asian (South Asian) population has increased from 2.2 million in 2001 to over 4.2 million in 2011, while the Black British community has increased from 1.1 million in 2001 to nearly 1.9 million in 2011. Between 2001 and 2009, this was part of a general trend seeing a drop in white British people by 36,000 and a concurrent rise in non-white British people from 6.64 million to 9.13 million, including Chinese, Pakistani, mixed white and black Caribbean, black African, Australian, Canadian and European immigrants.

London has the largest immigrant population.

North America


Large numbers of Central American migrants who have crossed Guatemala's border into Mexico are deported every year. Over 200,000 undocumented Central American migrants were deported in 2005 alone. In a 2010 news story, USA Today reported, "... Mexico's Arizona-style law requires local police to check IDs. And Mexican police freely engage in racial profiling and routinely harass Central American migrants, say immigration activists."

After the United States returned to a more closed border, immigration has been more difficult than ever for Mexican residents hoping to migrate. Mexico is the leading country of migrants to the U.S.. A Mexican Repatriation program was founded by the United States government to encourage people to voluntarily move to Mexico. However, the program was not found successful and many immigrants were deported against their will. Last year alone, 400,000 Mexican immigrants were repatriated. In 2010, there was a total of 139,120 legal immigrants who migrated to the United States. This put Mexico as the top country for emigration. According to recent studies, the amount of immigrants migrating from Mexico should continue to increase significantly each year.


As of 2014, Canada's immigration target is to accept between 240,000 and 265,000 new permanent residents per year in three categories: skilled workers, people with family members already in the country, and humanitarian cases. In 2001, 250,640 people immigrated to Canada. Newcomers settle mostly in the major urban areas of Toronto and Vancouver. Since the 1990s, the majority of Canada's immigrants have come from Asia. The leading emigrating countries to Canada are China, Philippines and India. India was the third largest source country for immigration to Canada in 2012, with 28,889 permanent residents admitted. This represents an increase of almost 15 percent since 2004. In 2010, a record 280,636 people immigrated to Canada. Accusing a person of racism in Canada is usually considered a serious slur. Political parties in Canada are now cautious about criticizing of the level of immigration, because, as noted by the Globe and Mail, "in the early 1990s, the old Reform Party was branded 'racist' for suggesting that immigration levels be lowered from 250,000 to 150,000." Dead link

United States

Historians estimate that fewer than 1 million immigrants came to the United States from Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. Around 350,000 came from England between 1600 to 1699, and 80,000 more between 1700 and 1775. In addition, between the 17th and 19th centuries, an estimated 645,000 Africans were brought to what is now the United States. In the early years of the United States, immigration was fewer than 8,000 people a year. After 1820, immigration gradually increased. From 1850 to 1930, the foreign born population of the United States increased from 2.2 million to 14.2 million. The highest percentage of foreign born people in the United States was found in this period, with the peak in 1890 at 14.7% (compared to 13% in 2009). During this time, the lower costs of Atlantic Ocean travel in time and fare made it more advantageous for immigrants to move to the U.S. than in years prior. From 1880 to 1924, over 25 million Europeans migrated to the United States, mainly economic migrants. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act meanwhile suppressed immigration from East Asia, while the Emergency Quota Act, followed by the Immigration Act of 1924, restricted immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe.

Following this time period, immigration fell because in 1924 Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924, which favored immigrant source countries that already had many immigrants in the U.S. by 1890. Immigration patterns of the 1930s were dominated by the Great Depression, and in the early 1930s, more people emigrated from the United States than immigrated to it. Immigration continued to fall throughout the 1940s and 1950s, but it increased again afterwards.

Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 or McCarran-Walter Act brought in major changes to immigration policy and the act removed the immigration restrictions based on race and gender, ending the decades of repression levied upon Chinese immigrants and other Asian immigrant groups. The McCarran-Walter act retained national origin immigration quotas.

The Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965 (the Hart-Cellar Act) removed quotas on large segments of the immigration flow and legal immigration to the U.S. surged. In 2006, the number of immigrants totaled record 37.5 million. After 2000, immigration to the United States numbered approximately 1,000,000 per year. Nearly 8 million people immigrated to the United States from 2000 to 2005. Almost half entered illegally. In 2006, 1.27 million immigrants were granted legal residence. Mexico has been the leading source of new U.S. residents for over two decades; and since 1998, China, India and the Philippines have been in the top four sending countries every year. The U.S. has often been called the "melting pot" (derived from Carl N. Degler, a historian, author of Out of Our Past), a name derived from United States' rich tradition of immigrants coming to the US looking for something better and having their cultures melded and incorporated into the fabric of the country.

Appointed by President Clinton, the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform recommended in 1997 that legal immigration be reduced to about 550,000 a year. Since September 11, 2001, the politics of immigration has become an extremely hot issue. It was a central topic of the 2008 election cycle.

U.S. immigration law distinguishes between "immigrants" who become lawful permanent residents and "nonimmigrants" who may remain lawfully in the U.S. for years, but who do not obtain permanent resident status. Since World War II, more refugees have found homes in the U.S. than any other nation and more than two million refugees have arrived in the U.S. since 1980. Of the top ten countries accepting resettled refugees in 2006, the United States accepted more than twice as much as the next nine countries combined. One econometrics report in 2010 by analyst Kusum Mundra suggested that immigration positively affected bilateral trade when the U.S. had a networked community of immigrants, but that the trade benefit was weakened when the immigrants became assimilated into American culture.

The table above does not include the years 2011 and 2012. The number of "immigrant" visas available each year is set by Congress. Nationals of countries that do not historically send many immigrants to the United States are eligible to apply for the Diversity Visa Lottery. According to Permanent residence (United States), in 2011 there were 2.7 million entries entered in the Diversity Visa Lottery. So far in 2012, there has been 19.6 million participants. The numbers increase tremendously each year.



The overall level of immigration to Australia has grown substantially during the last decade. Net overseas migration increased from 30,000 in 1993 to 118,000 in 2003-04. The largest components of immigration are the skilled migration and family re-union programs. The mandatory detention of unauthorised arrivals by boat has generated great levels of controversy. During the 2004-05, total 123,424 people immigrated to Australia. Of them, 17,736 were from Africa, 54,804 from Asia, 21,131 from Oceania, 18,220 from United Kingdom, 1,506 from South America, and 2,369 from the rest of Europe. 131,000 people migrated to Australia in 2005-06 and migration target for 2012â€"13 is 190,000.

Australia and Switzerland, with about a quarter of their population born outside the country, are the two countries with the highest proportion of immigrants in the world.

New Zealand

New Zealand has relatively open immigration policies. 23% of the population was born overseas, mainly in Asia, Oceania, and UK, one of the highest rates in the world.

Economic effects

The Cato Institute finds little or no effect of immigration on the income of citizens belonging to established populations. The Brookings Institution finds a 2.3% depression of wages from immigration from 1980 to 2007. The Center for Immigration Studies finds a 3.7% depression wages from immigration from 1980 to 2000. Research indicates that immigrants are more likely to work in risky jobs than U.S.-born workers, partly due to differences in average characteristics, such as immigrants' lower English language ability and educational attainment. Further, some studies indicate that higher ethnic concentration in metropolitan areas is positively related to the probability of self-employment of immigrants.

Toronto’s unemployment rate was 6.7% in November 2010, including 19.7% among recent immigrants.


Research has found that as immigration and ethnic heterogeneity increase, government funding of welfare and public support for welfare decrease. Ethnic nepotism may be an explanation for this phenomenon. Other possible explanations include theories regarding in-group and out-group effects and reciprocal altruism.


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