Snapshot of U.S. Immigration 2019



This brief provides demographic information for the foreign-born population in the U.S., including permanent and temporary legal admissions, refugees and people seeking or granted asylum, and unauthorized immigrants. It relies on the most recent data available.

The brief also includes additional resources for demographic data of the foreign-born at the national and state level.

U.S. Population Fiscal Year 2017

Native Born U.S. Citizens

278.8 million

Naturalized Citizens

20.7 million

Legal Noncitizens

13.1 million

Unauthorized Immigrants

11.3 million

Temporary Visas 1.7 million

Total U.S. Population

322 million

Main Source Countries/Regions of Immigrant Population

As of 2015, South or East Asia was the single largest source region (26.9 percent) followed by Mexico (26.8 percent). Other regions accounting for significant shares were Europe and Canada (13.5 percent), the Caribbean (9.6 percent), Central America (7.9 percent), South America (6.7 percent), the Middle East (4 percent) and sub-Saharan Africa (3.9 percent).

Main Source Countries/Regions of Immigrants
Fiscal Year South or East Asia Mexico Europe and Canada Caribbean Central America South America Middle East Sub-Saharan Africa
1960 338,328  575,902  8,208,811  193,922  48,949  89,536  141,013  13,696 
1970 573,102  759,711  6,553,312  675,108  113,913  255,238  194,719  47,747 
1980 2,258,351  2,199,221  5,992,431  1,258,363  353,892  561,011  324,850  129,946 
1990 4,578,724  4,298,014  5,095,233  1,938,348  1,133,978  1,037,497  466,626  264,775 
2000 7,528,999  9,177,487  5,736,328  2,953,066  2,026,150  1,930,271  771,999  690,809 
2010 10,336,238  11,711,103  5,616,086  3,730,644  3,052,509  2,729,831  1,041,970  1,326,634 
2015 12,112,272  11,643,298  5,620,290  4,165,453  3,384,629  2,918,029  1,274,241  1,716,425 

Source: Migration Policy Institute

Graphic showing main countries/regions of immigrants

Source: Migration Policy Institute

People Obtaining Lawful Permanent Resident Status
Category FY 2017
Family and Immediate Relatives 748,746


Refugees and Asylees 146,003
Diversity and Other 94,563

Total Visas Issued


Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Permanent Residence

In fiscal year (FY) 2017, a total of 1,127,167 people obtained lawful permanent resident (LPR) status.

Of those granted LPR status, 54 percent were female, and 46 percent were male. Forty-eight percent (549,086) were adjustment of status in the U.S. and 51.3 percent (578,081) were new arrivals. The top six countries of nationality (country of origin) were Mexico (15.1 percent), China (6.3 percent), Cuba (5.8 percent), India (5.4 percent), the Dominican Republic (5.2 percent) and the Philippines (4.4 percent).

Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Temporary Visas (Nonimmigrant)

Temporary immigrants, known as “nonimmigrants” in U.S. law, are those allowed to enter the United States for a specific purpose, and for a temporary or limited time, and unless specifically authorized, are not permitted to work in the U.S. Nonimmigrant visas are issued for 87 subcategories within 24 major categories, including short-term visitors (tourists), students, business visitors, diplomats, and temporary agricultural and nonagricultural workers.

In 2018, the U.S. Department of State issued 9 million nonimmigrant visas: 75% were for tourism and business; 10.2% were temporary workers; 4.4% were students; and 4.2% were exchange visitors.

Source: Immigration: Nonimmigrant (Temporary) Admissions to the United States,” Congressional Research Service, Sept. 10, 2019

Refugee and Humanitarian Issues

In FY 2018, 22,491 refugees were admitted to the U.S.–a 58 percent drop from 53,716 admitted in 2017. The main countries of origin were the Democratic Republic of the Congo (35 percent), Myanmar (16 percent), Ukraine (12 percent), Bhutan (10 percent), and Eritrea (6 percent). According to the UN Refugee Agency, children below 18 years of age constituted about half of the refugee population in 2017, up from 41 percent in 2009. Women constituted around 50 percent of the refugee population as well.

Given the drop in the number of refugees admitted, there has been a significant decrease in refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2016: 16,730; 2018: 7,883), Bhutan (2016: 5,817; 2018: 2,228), and Eritrea (2016: 1,949; 2018: 1,269). Iraq refugees comprised 11.6 percent of admitted refugees in 2016; now, they are no longer in the top ten countries of origin. However, the number of refugees from Ukraine increased between 2016 (2,543 refugees) and 2018 (2,635 refugees).

Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

In FY 2016, a total of 20,455 people were granted asylum in the U.S.–a 22 percent drop from 26,124 a year earlier. The main countries of origin for asylum seekers in FY 2016 were China (22 percent), El Salvador (10.5 percent), Guatemala (9.5 percent), Honduras (7.4 percent), and Mexico (4.5 percent).

Source: Migrant Policy Institute

Unauthorized Immigration

In 2016, approximately 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants were estimated to be residing in the U.S. The top countries of origin for unauthorized immigrants are Mexico (53 percent), El Salvador (6 percent), Guatemala (5 percent), Honduras (3 percent), and China (3 percent). As of August 2018, 699,350 immigrants have been granted deferred status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA). Fifty-four percent of those meeting all criteria for DACA applied to the program in 2018. Additionally, at least 317,000 immigrants have received deferred status from Temporary Protected Status.

Source: Migration Policy Institute

Additional Resources


Research Institutions

Prepared By:
Maria Pimienti, NCSL Immigrant Policy Project fellow, summer 2017
Chesterfield Polkey, NCSL's Emerson National Hunger fellow, spring 2019

For more information: Contact the Immigration Program.