United States

United States total immigrant admissions for lawful permanent residents in fiscal year 2013 were, at 990,600, 5% lower than the 2010 level.  

Family-sponsored immigration accounted for two-thirds (649,500) of this total, while 161 000 immigrants (16%) were employment-based, a 9% increase compared to 2010. The diversity visa program granted a further 50,000 immigrant visas by lottery. The resettled refugee ceiling was set at 70,000 for 2013. In total, 119,600 persons were admitted on a humanitarian basis; this includes migrants who were granted refugee status while in the country and who became permanent residents.

In 2013, the United States issued approximately 1.6 million non-immigrant temporary visas (excluding government officials, business visitors, crew members and tourists), mainly for study or work, 20% more than in 2010.

The number of naturalizations, which peaked at 1,046,500 in 2008, dropped below 700,000 annually in the period 2009-2011, but climbed to 779,900 in 2013. Mexico was the leading nationality (13% of all naturalizations).

The foreign-born population residing in the United States in 2013 was 41.3 million, 14% of the total population. It mainly originates from other American countries, including the Caribbean, and from Asia. The main countries of birth were Mexico (11.6 million or 28%), India (2 million), the Philippines (1.8 million) and China (1.8 million). The other main American countries of birth with more than half a million persons resident in the United States in 2013 were El Salvador, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Canada, Jamaica, Colombia, Haiti and Honduras.

Working-age migrant men from other countries of the Americas have particularly high participation rates in the labor market of the United States, with 86% working or looking for work in the period 2012-13. This is 4 percentage points higher than other foreign-born and 12 points higher than the native-born. They are also less affected by unemployment than the native-born. Female migrants, on the contrary, have lower participation rates and higher unemployment rates than the other foreign-born and the native-born. The unemployment rates of American migrants decreased slightly between 2010-2011 and 2012-2013, in the same proportion as the native-born.  

Emigrants from the United States living in Europe have a low employment rate (67%) and show large differences in participation rates between men and women; indeed the participation rate of women is some 17.5 percentage points lower than that of men.  

Around 200 000 persons born in the United States have moved to other OECD countries or other countries of the Americas every year since 2009. Migration outflows from the United States are mainly directed to Canada and Asian or European countries like Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain. Emigration is also on the rise to some Latin American countries like Mexico and Chile where flows of persons born in the United States more than doubled between 2005 and 2012 but remain below 5,000 annually.  

The largest groups of emigrants from the United States established in other OECD countries can be found in Mexico – where the United States was the main country of birth of the foreign-born with more than 738 000 immigrants in 2010 – followed by Canada (263,000 immigrants in 2011), the United Kingdom (146,000 immigrants in 2012), Australia (96,000 immigrants in 2012) and Israel (85,000 immigrants in 2011). Many of the US-born persons living in Mexico are children of Mexican migrants to the United States who returned to Mexico.

More than 12 000 US citizens have acquired the citizenship of another OECD country annually in the period 2005-12. The main citizenships adopted are the ones of the main countries of destinations. An increase was also observed in the acquisition of citizenships of smaller destination countries, in particular Eastern European countries after their accession to the European Union in 2007 and Luxembourg, which has allowed dual citizenship from 1 January 2009.

In the first half of 2014, police accounts and a United Nations report alerted national authorities to an increase in unaccompanied children from Central America crossing the border from Mexico. This increase may have been prompted by prospects of immigration reforms, even though new immigrants are not covered by recent policy initiatives (see below).

The United States immigration system saw several policy initiatives over the past two years.

In 2012, President Obama, acting by executive order, announced the deferred-action-for-childhood- arrivals (DACA) policy. This policy provides for the deferral of expulsions of persons who came to the United States as children and provides them with work authorizations without providing formal lawful status. On 20 November 2014, the DACA renewal and work authorizations were extended to three-years from the former two. This change applies to first-time applications as well as applications for renewal. The initial age cap of 31 no longer applies. The eligibility cut-off date by which a DACA applicant must have been in the United States was adjusted from 15 June 2007 to 1 January 2010. Eligibility now encompasses all undocumented immigrants who entered the United States before the age of 16. Prior to 1 January 2010, around 600,000 persons are likely to benefit from this policy.

In 2013, the Obama administration submitted an immigration reform bill entitled “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” that combined provisions for border security, a path to citizenship for undocumented migrants and reforms of legal migration regulations.  This very comprehensive reform bill was divided into five titles. Title I contained provisions for border security with increases in staffing and in equipment for Customs and Border Protection, the establishment of more favorable rules for migrants and for persons being removed, and the training of border and law enforcement officials in Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Title II provided for the deliverance of documents to agricultural workers unlawfully residing in the United States, the creation of a merit and points-based immigrant admission system and the extension of the waiver of inadmissibility provisions for undocumented migrants who entered the country before the age of 16 and for parents of children lawfully in the country. Title III included provisions for the elimination of the one-year time limit for filing an asylum claim and for the granting of an employment authorization 180 days after the filing of an asylum application. Title IV listed changes to the non-immigrant visa programs, namely the right to work for certain spouses of H-1B permit holders and the establishment of an EB-6 immigrant investor visa. Title V introduced a surcharge on employers’ applications for non-immigrant visas, funds from which were earmarked to a Youth Jobs fund to provide employment opportunitiesto low-income youth.

The bill passed in the Senate in June 2013 but was never debated in the full House. Immigration reform in the United States thus remains deadlocked, with little prospects of a solution in sight.

Acting again by executive order, President Obama announced on 20 November 2014 the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). The DAPA allows individuals to apply for temporary relief from deportation if they have a son or daughter who is a United States citizen or a lawful permanent resident, have continuously resided in the United States since before 2010 and are not prioritized for removal under the new policy. Persons who apply for deferred action pursuant to these criteria shall also be eligible for work authorization. Both the deferred action and the work authorization are valid for three years. Applicants will pay the work authorization and biometric fees. The ultimate judgment as to whether an immigrant is granted deferred action will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Applicants will undergo a background check of all relevant national security and criminal databases including Department of Homeland Security and FBI databases. They have to have been physically present in the United Statesin November 2014. The DAPAdoes not apply to recent undocumented immigrants or those thinking of migrating to the United States. Indeed, the broader executive actions announced by the President include prioritizing the repatriation of recent border crossers and any person who tries to cross the border without proper documentation.

As many as five million persons living in the United States illegally are likely to benefit from this first memorandum out of a total of nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants, of which more than half are Mexicans.

Another major memorandum issued the same day introduces policies in support of high-skilled businesses and workers. The first provision is to assist employers in attracting and retaining highly skilled workers by ensuring that all immigrant visas authorized by Congress are issued. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is instructed to provide better guidance on the possibilities for an immigrant worker to change jobs without jeopardizing his or her ability to seek lawful permanent residence. The “Optional Practical Training”, which allows students to extend their time in the United States for temporary employment in a relevant field of study, is expanded to other degree programs and the time period offered to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students is extended. Third, the “national interest waiver” that allows highly qualified foreigners to seek green cards without employer sponsorship is to be promoted, as it is now underutilized. Similarly, there are provisions for granting “parole status” to inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises of “significant public benefit” on a case-by-case basis. This temporary status would be given to holders of promising projects, in situations where the persons concerned do not qualify for a national interest waiver. Fourth, the L-1B visa program for intracompany transferees is to be made more consistent with a better guidance on the meaning of the requirement of “specialized knowledge” for adjudication of the visa petitions. Finally, an immigrant wishing to adjust his or her status is to be allowed to change jobs or employers while his or her long-standing visa petition is being examined.

In order to secure the Southern border, three Joint Task Forces will be created: one responsible for the Southern maritime border, one focusing on the Southern land border and the West coast, and one focused on investigation. They will seek to enforce immigration laws, combat transnational criminal organizations and minimize the risk of terrorism.

Removal procedures were specified under two memoranda. The first one specifies priorities in the type of immigrants to be removed. The second one announces the discontinuation of the “Secure Communities Program”, in charge of identifying and facilitating the removal of criminal aliens, and its replacement by the “Priority Enforcement Program” (PEP), which redirects removal efforts towards those who pose a demonstrable risk to national security.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers jobs will be reclassified and their premium pay system improved to better remunerate them in their critical mission of removing criminals.  

The provisional waiver program in place provides undocumented foreigners with some level of certainty that they will be able to return after a successful interview in the U.S. consulate of their country of citizenship. They will no longer be barred from returning for three or ten years if they can prove that the bar imposes an “extreme hardship” to a citizen or lawful permanent spouse or parent. This program will be extended to all relatives for whom an immigrant visa is immediately available. In order to broaden the use of this program, the USCIS is to clarify the meaning of “extreme hardship”.

To support the military in its recruitment efforts, the Department of Homeland Security will expand the scope of its parole-in-place memorandum of November 2013 to include family members of citizens and lawful permanent residents who seek to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. The current program applies only to family members of those already part of the military service or veterans. The temporary status granted applies as well to persons in the United States who have entered without inspection.

USCIS regularly grants authorizations to travel abroad called “advance parole” to temporary migrants or immigrants with pending immigration applications. A memorandum calls for a Directive to provide consistency regarding advance parole, so that travel on advance parole would not be considered as a “departure” and does not trigger the ground of inadmissibility that bars admission after the accrual of unlawful presence. This would provide greater assurance to individuals with advance parole of the consequences of their travel.

Access to naturalization will be eased with the implement of credit card payment facilities and partial fee exemptions as well as public awareness campaigns.

Recent trends in migrant’s flows and stocks and in labor market outcomes of emigrants


United States of America
Migration inflows (foreign nationals) Persons Per 1000 inhabitants Percent change
  2010 2011 2012 2013 2013 2013/2010
Permanent 1042625 1062040 1031631 990553 3.0949876081515 -4.9943172281501
Temporary 1357355 1452813 1510572 1630580 5.0947550450098 20.129221905839
Permanent migration inflows (foreign nationals) by type Persons   % distribution      
  2010 2013 2010 2013    
Family 690915.29394694 649685.74398404 66.266902668451 65.588185991465    
Humanitarian 136324.99544305 119646.73349813 13.07517040576 12.078781599585    
Work and accompanying family 148380.00160692 161154.08926952 14.231387277969 16.269103144357    
Other 67004.709003084 60066.433248307 6.4265396478201 6.0639292645933    
Total 1042625 990553 100 100    
Temporary migration inflows (foreign nationals) by type Persons   % distribution      
  2010 2013 2010 2013    
Family 243034 288368 17.904969591595 17.684995523065    
Humanitarian 84 169 0.006188506322959 0.010364410209864    
Study 396180 548352 29.18764803607 33.629260753842    
Work 343124 412785 25.278869566178 25.31522525727    
Work and accompanying family 45229 56853 3.3321422914418 3.4866734536177    
Other 329704 324053 24.290182008391 19.873480601994    
Total 1357355 1630580 100 100    
Migration outflows (nationals) Persons       % of total % change
From unstandardised destination country data 2009 2010 2011 2012 2012 2012/2009
All countries 211571 224280 225679 211815 100 0
Canada 48468 53020 52140 54170 25.57420390435 11.764463150945
Korea 27127 28328 28061 28866 13.627930033284 6.4105872378073
Japan 23549 22669 19303 20985 9.9072303661214 -10.887935793452
Germany 17706 18262 20149 19563 9.2358898095036 10.4879701796
Asylum seekers and refugees Per million inhabitants         Number of persons
          Average 2010-2013  
  2010 2011 2012 2013   2013
Inflows of asylum seekers 137.61861603154 192.39358205978 208.18867300299 213.22558141067 187.85661312624 68243
Refugees resident in the country 847.32279253283 840.752999272 825.2556037921 823.8131859077 834.28614537616 263662
Components of population growth Per 1000 inhabitants          
  1985-1990 1990-1995 1995-2000 2000-2005 2005-2010  
Total 10.19 10.36 11.99 9.32 9.23  
Natural increase 7.027 6.949 5.852 5.662 5.803  
Net migration 3.163 3.411 6.138 3.658 3.427  
Foreign-born population Percentage of the total population       Persons % change
  1990 2000 2010 2013 2013 2013/2010
  7.9 11.1 12.9 13.1 41300 3.4
Remittances Millions of dollars       % of GDP % change
  2010 2011 2012 2013 2013 2013/2010
  5930 6104 6285 6695 0 12.9
Macroeconomic indicators Annual growth in %       Average annual growth Level
  2010 2011 2012 2013 2010-2013 2013
Real GDP 2.5 1.6 2.3 2.2 2.15 -
GDP/per capita ((PPP ) in constant 2011 international dollars) 1.6815469306564 0.86667728213643 1.5696179694195 1.4920733602735 1.4024788856215 51340
Labour market outcomes of emigrants in Europe and the United States Percentages          
  Men   Women   Total  
  2010-11 2012-13 2010-11 2012-13 2010-11 2012-13
Participation rate 80.36637 80.81268 61.4011 63.40833 70.49164 71.67078
Employment rate 76.33224 75.69186 58.17795 59.23808 66.87976 67.04926
Unemployment rate nr nr nr nr 5.123837 6.44826