By Gustavo Lopez
The U.S. has more immigrants than any other country in the world. Today, more than 40 million people living in the U.S. were born in another country, accounting for about one-fifth of the world’s migrants in 2015. The population of immigrants is also very diverse, with just about every country in the world represented among U.S. immigrants.
Pew Research Center regularly publishes statistical portraits of the nation’s foreign-born population, which include historical trends since 1960. Based on these portraits, here are answers to some key questions about the U.S. immigrant population.
How many people in the U.S. are immigrants?
The U.S. foreign-born population reached a record 43.2 million in 2015. Since 1965, when U.S. immigration laws replaced a national quota system, the number of immigrants living in the U.S. has more than quadrupled. Immigrants today account for 13.4% of the U.S. population, nearly triple the share (4.7%) in 1970. However, today’s immigrant share remains below the record 14.8% share in 1890, when 9.2 million immigrants lived in the U.S.
Most immigrants (76%) are in the country legally, while a quarter are unauthorized. In 2015, 44% were naturalized U.S. citizens.
Some 27% of immigrants were permanent residents and 5% were temporary residents. Another 24% of all immigrants were unauthorized immigrants in 2015. From 1990 to 2007, the unauthorized immigrant populationtripled in size – from 3.5 million to a record high of 12.2 million. During the Great Recession, the number declined by 1 million and since then has leveled off. In 2015, there were 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., accounting for 3.4% of the nation’s population.
The decline in the unauthorized immigrant population is due largely to a fall in the number from Mexico – the single largest group of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. Between 2007 and 2015, this group decreased by more than 1 million. Meanwhile, this decline was partly offset by a rise in the number from Central America, Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Do all lawful immigrants choose to become U.S. citizens?
Not all lawful permanent residents choose to pursue U.S. citizenship. Those who wish to do so may apply after meeting certain requirements, including having lived in the U.S. for five years. In fiscal year 2016, 971,242 immigrants applied for naturalization. The number of naturalization applications has climbed in recent years, though the annual totals remain below those seen in previous years.
Generally, most immigrants eligible for naturalization apply to become citizens. However, Mexican lawful immigrants have the lowest naturalization rate overall. Language and personal barriers, lack of interest and financial barriers are among the top reasons for choosing not to naturalize cited by Mexican-born green card holders, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center survey.
Click here to read the rest of the article.