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Countries With The Most Immigrants


The United States has always been regarded as a nation of immigrants. Recently-published figures from the United Nations support this view. More than 45 million immigrants live in the U.S., according to UN figures, more than four times as many living in any other nation in the world.

Based on figures recently released by the UN’s Population Division, 24/7 Wall St. identified the eight nations with the highest total number of international migrants living inside their borders as of this year. These are the countries with the most immigrants.

Click here to see the top immigration destinations

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Several of the nations with the highest migrant populations are also among the world’s most populous. Both the U.S., and Russia are all among the 10 most populous countries in the world. Five of the eight nations are among the world’s 30 most populous nations.

Despite having large migrant populations, many of these nations do not have policies that actively support immigration. In fact, according to the UN, the governments of Saudi Arabia, France, the United Kingdom, and United Arab Emirates all promoted policies aimed at lowering the level of immigration into their countries, as of 2011. Only one of these nations, Russia, actively promoted immigration into their country as of 2011.

Most of these countries maintain different, more-accommodating policies for high-skilled workers than for most other potential immigrants, according to Vinod Mishra, chief of the population policy section of the United Nations Population Division. “It’s mostly the [number of] highly-skilled workers that almost all countries are trying to raise,” Mishra told 24/7 Wall St.

The actual immigration trends in these countries do not necessarily reflect the policies their governments have tried to enforce. Russia, which has actively sought to increase immigration, has had its immigrant population fall by 10% since 2010. Germany, which has sought to recruit highly-skilled workers from slumping Euro zone nations, has failed to retain many of the skilled workers that arrive there, and has also experienced a meaningful decrease in its immigrant population.

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Similarly, all four nations whose governments viewed immigration as too high as of 2011 have seen immigrant populations rise between 2010 and 2013. In one such nation, the UAE, the number of immigrants has more-than doubled in that time.

One reason for the disparity between policy and migration rates is that some nations are more appealing to potential immigrants than others. The U.S.'s GDP per capita was more than $49,900 in 2012, among the highest in the world. All but one of the countries leading the world in immigrant population were among the top 30 countries in the world for per capita GDP in 2012. Mishra added that while nations can determine how many people they allow in, the decision to move to a certain nation is largely driven by demand. And the primary driver of demand, according to Mishra, are “financial factors [and] the availability of jobs.”

To determine the nations with the most immigrants as of July 1 2013, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed figures published by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Population Division as part of its International Migration 2013 report. Information about governments' attitudes and policies towards immigration and emigration, as well as statistics on the total number of international migrants from 2010, comes from the Population Division’s International Migration Policies 2013 report. Per capita GDP figures, which are adjusted to reflect purchasing power parity exchange rates, are from the IMF. Other measures, used to guage a nation’s attractiveness, are from the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014.

These are the countries with the most immigrants.

8. Canada
> Immigrants: 7.3 million
> Pct of population: 20.7%
> GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $42,734
> Gov’t immigration goals: Maintain

Currently, 7.3 million immigrants live in Canada, equivalent to more than 20% of the nation’s total population. As 2011, the Canadian government was one of the few to propose policies that would increase the level of immigration for the purpose of family unification. The level of immigration, more generally, was considered satisfactory in the same year, according to the U.N. In spite of Canada’s exceptionally liberal immigration policies, there has been concern recently over whether Canada’s immigrants are successfully integrating into society. To avoid the potential social tension that could arise from a growing economic difference between immigrants and locals, the Canadian government has restructured its screening process to emphasize factors such as job skills and language fluency.

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7. France
> Immigrants: 7.4 million
> Pct of population: 11.6%
> GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $35,548
> Gov’t immigration goals: Decrease

Just 11.6% or France’s roughly 65 million residents are international migrants. According to the U.N. Population division, while the French government promoted some policies aimed at attracting skilled immigrants as of 2011, the governments overall attitude toward immigration was generally negative. As a member of the European Union, France is obligated to support the free movement of EU nationals between the EU nations. In recent years, however, the European Commission has criticized the French government for expelling Roma, popularly called Gypsies, from the country. France’s existing immigrant population is older, with nearly 20% at least 65 years of age, compared to just 11.1% globally.

6. United Kingdom
> Immigrants: 7.8 million
> Pct of population: 12.4%
> GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $36,941
> Gov’t immigration goals: Decrease

About 7.8 million million immigrants live in the U.K., up from just under 6.5 million as of 2010. This is despite the U.K. government’s view, as of 2011, that the large influx of foreigners to the country was somewhat of a problem. The government’s policies intended to lower the level of immigration to the country, including high-skilled workers immigration. Only one of the world’s eight largest destinations for immigrants, the United Arab Emirates, had a higher average annual increase in immigration that exceeded the U.K.’s 4.0%. Although the country’s aging population may actually signal a necessity for more immigrants, British Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that immigration has strained the nation’s public services.

5. United Arab Emirates
> Immigrants: 7.8 million
> Pct of population: 83.7%
> GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $49,012
> Gov’t immigration goals: Decrease

A stunning 83.7% of UAE residents are international migrants the most of any country in the world, excluding only Vatican City. Between 2010 and 2013, the emirates let in more than 4.5 million migrant workers, more than any other nation in the world. The UAE is able to attract workers to come there because the country is extremely wealthy, with an economy driven by oil and finance. As of 2012, the nation’s per capita GDP exceeded $49,000, on-par with that of the U.S. But despite the nation’s appeal for immigrants, the UAE’s government as of 2011 considered immigration to be too high. Additionally, the country has been criticized for the poor living and working conditions faced by many migrant workers.

4. Saudi Arabia
> Immigrants: 9.1 million
> Pct of population: 31.4%
> GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $31,275
> Gov’t immigration goals: Decrease

Nearly one-third of Saudi Arabia’s population consists of immigrants, while between 2000 and 2013 the number of immigrants rose by an annual average of 4.2% per year, higher than most other nations. Between 2010 and 2013 alone, the number of immigrants to Saudi Arabia rose 24.3% As of 2011, the Saudi Arabian government regarded the overall level of legal immigration as too high and implemented policies to reduce immigration, according to the UN had. Similarly, the government’s policies on the naturalization of immigrants were also considered restrictive. Recent news reports suggest immigration policy in Saudi Arabia has only become more restrictive with new measures implemented to prevent undocumented workers from finding employment.

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3. Germany
> Immigrants: 9.8 million
> Pct of population: 11.9%
> GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $39,028
> Gov’t immigration goals: Maintain

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Germany, one of the world's largest economies, is a popular destination for immigrants. Its well-developed infrastructure and top-rate higher education only add to its attraction. Just under 10 milllion of the country’s 82 million residents are immigrants. As of 2011, Germany’s policies reflected approval of the country’s rate of immigration. In 2012, with the eurozone crisis still unabated, a growing number of young workers immigrated from southern Europe to Germany. But Germany has openly recruited high skilled-workers to live and work in the country permanently, especially as the country’s population ages and shrinks, according to Der Spiegel. Unfortunately, many such workers fail to stay for even as little as a year, and since 2010 the number of immigrants to Germany has actually dropped.

2. Russian Federation
> Immigrants: 11.0 million
> Pct of population: 7.7%
> GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $17,709
> Gov’t immigration goals: Increase

More than 12 million immigrants lived in Russia in 2010 and the Russian government was among the few seeking to increase the number of foreigners entering the country. In 2011, the country's government viewed immigration as too low and oriented its policies towards increasing immigration. However, these policies have failed to attract more net immigrants: as of this year, there are just over 11 million immigrants living in Russia, a decrease of roughly 10% from 2010. Local authorities have not embraced the prospect of single-ethnicity communities for Chinese, Uzbeks, Tajiks and other ethnic groups in Russia ,and have even sought to ban them in some cases, hoping instead to promote integration into Russian society.

1. United States of America
> Immigrants: 45.8 million
> Pct of population: 14.3%
> GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $49,922
> Gov’t immigration goals: Maintain

The U.S. is by far the largest destination for immigrants, with more than 45.7 million living in the country, according to the UN. As of 2011, the U.S. government’s policies toward both immigration and emigration remained effectively neutral. However, immigration reform has been especially prominent in Congress this year. This reform is expected to address issues related to illegal immigration, while determining how, and whether, undocumented immigrants should be able to attain citizenship. Considering the U.S. has one the highest per capita GDPs in the world, at nearly $50,000, its appeal to immigrants is fairly straightforward. It is the world's largest economy, as measured by output, and has the second largest total exports. Also, the U.S. offers well-developed infrastructure and financial markets, as well as quality education.

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