Green Card Holders and Legal Immigration to the United States
Much of the discussion surrounding immigration and immigrants these days is focused on the negative: the issue of illegal immigration with roughly 11 million unauthorized immigrants residing across the nation, problems surrounding the immigrant detention system, and highly contested state-level immigration legislation, to name a few examples.
It's easy to forget, perhaps, that the majority of immigrants in the country are lawful permanent residents and US citizens. As of January 2010, an estimated 12.6 million green card holders resided in the United States, about 8.1 million of whom were eligible to naturalize as citizens.
This Spotlight takes a close look at the 2010 statistics on foreign nationals admitted for and adjusted to lawful permanent residence (LPR).
This Spotlight uses data from The Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, one of the most commonly used publications on US immigration statistics, published by the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS).
The Yearbook presents inflow statistics on foreign nationals who, during a fiscal year:
The Yearbook also presents information about Homeland Security's immigration law enforcement activities during the fiscal year. Note: all yearly data is for the government's fiscal year (October 1 through September 30). All data are from OIS unless otherwise noted.
Click on the bullet points below for more information:
According to US immigration law, immigrants are persons lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States.
In contrast, foreign students, H-1B workers, and tourists are part of the large category of temporary nonimmigrant admissions.
The law provides for three general immigrant categories: family reunification, employment sponsorship, and humanitarian cases (refugee and asylum adjustments).
The total yearly inflow of immigrants in these categories is composed of both new arrivals to the United States and status adjusters.
A person, for example, might arrive in the United States on an H-1B temporary worker visa. If her company chooses to sponsor her for permanent residence, the employer can petition US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a green card on behalf of the worker under an employment-preference visa. If she meets the criteria and if annual, numerical ceilings for employment-preference visas have not been met, she would receive a card stating she is lawfully admitted for permanent residence. She would then be counted as a status adjuster for that year.
The number of new arrivals remained relatively stable at about 420,000 annually between 1986 and 2010.
During 2010, more than 1 million people were granted lawful permanent resident status.
Family reunification accounted for 66 percent of all lawful permanent immigration in 2010.
Employment-preference immigrants made up 14 percent of all lawful permanent immigration in 2010.
The share of employment-preference immigrants is significantly smaller than that of family-based immigrants and has varied between 8.8 percent (56,678) in 1999 and 22 percent (246,878) in 2005 (see Figure 2).
Similar to the past, immediate family members accounted for more than half of employment-based immigrants. In 2010, 54.8 percent (or 81,354) of employment-sponsored immigrants were spouses and children of principal applicants.
In 2010, about 13 percent of all lawful permanent residents were status adjusters who entered as refugees or asylees.
The 92,741 refugees and 43,550 asylees who adjusted their status to LPR in 2010 constituted 13.1 percent of all lawful permanent immigrants.
The number and percentage of refugee and asylee adjustments of status varied significantly between 2000 and 2010, from a low of 6.4 percent (44,764) in 2003 to a high of 17.1 percent (216,454) in 2006 (see Figure 2).
Refugees are eligible to adjust to LPR status without regard to numerical limit after one year of residence in the United States. Similarly, asylees have to wait one year after they are granted asylum to apply for LPR status. Until 2005, there was a limit of 10,000 asylee adjustments per year. The REAL ID Act of 2005 (enacted into law in May of that year) eliminated this numerical limit. The number of asylee adjustments in 2010 (43,550) was more than four times higher than in 2004 (10,217).
There were about 67,000 "other immigrants" in 2010.
Seventy-four percent of the "other immigrants" in 2010 (49,763) were people who received their immigrant visas through the green card lottery — officially the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program — run by the US Department of State.
The US Department of State received more than 12.1 million qualified applications for the 2011 green card lottery.
Successful applicants who registered for the 2011 lottery between early October and November 2009 were selected at random from over 12.1 million qualified entries. The number of qualified entries totaled 13.6 million in the 2010 lottery, 9.1 million in the 2009 lottery, and 6.4 million in the 2008 lottery. The US Department of State does not release the total number of applications received.
The visas are divided among six geographic regions — Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, South/Central America, and the Caribbean — with no single country receiving more than 7 percent of the available diversity visas in any one year. Nationals of countries with high rates of immigration to the United States such as Brazil, China (mainland-born, excluding Hong Kong and Taiwan), El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Pakistan, the Philippines, and South Korea were not eligible to participate in the 2011 lottery.
Before receiving permission to immigrate to the United States, lottery winners must provide proof of a high school education or its equivalent, or show two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience. They also have to pass a medical exam.
Mexico, China, India, the Philippines, and the Dominican Republic were the top five countries of birth of new lawful permanent residents in 2010.
As in 2000, the top 20 countries of birth in 2010 accounted for about two-thirds of all LPRs (see Table 1). Fourteen of the 20 countries on the list in 2010 were also on the 2000 list. Nicaragua, Russia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Poland dropped off the list, while Iraq, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Peru, Iran, and Nigeria joined it.
California, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, and Illinois were the key destinations for LPRs in 2010.
In 2010, an estimated 8,070,000 lawful permanent residents were eligible for naturalization.
The Yearbook of Immigration Statistics and Annual Flow Report. Available Online.
USCIS, "Estimates of the Legal Permanent Resident Population in 2010." Available Online.
Definitions of terms can be found at the website of the Office of Immigration Statistics. Available Online.
Diversity Visa Lottery 2011 (DV-2011) Results. Available Online.
Originally published on the Migration Information Source(www.migrationinformation.org), a project of the Migration policy Institute
Carola BalbuenaWorks for the Migration Policy Institute.
Jeanne Batalova is a Political Analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, where she focuses on the impacts of immigrants on social structure and labor markets; integration of immigrant children and elderly immigrants; and the policies and practices regulating immigration of highly skilled workers and foreign students. She is also Manager of the MPI Data Hub, a one-stop, web-based resource that provides instant access to the latest facts, stats, and maps covering US and global data on immigration and immigrant integration.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.