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Green Card Statistics

Legal permanent residents (green card holders) in the U.S.

People in the United States with “green cards” are officially called “lawful permanent residents” (LPRs). These are non-U.S. citizens who can lawfully live and work permanently in the United States.

Holders of green cards can work in the country without restrictions, own property, receive financial assistance at public institutions of education, and even sign up to serve in the American military.

Green card holders can also apply for U.S. citizenship—in some cases in as soon as three years—granting them privileges such as a U.S. passport, the right to vote, and the ability to seek federal jobs, and many more.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) establishes various classes of admission for foreigners seeking legal permanent residence in the United States. Admission categories can be based on family reunification, on economic or humanitarian reasons, or on diversification of the immigrant community in the country. This last category is for immigrants from countries with low levels of immigration to the United States and persons wishing to immigrate to the U.S. through this category are selected in an annual lottery, the Diversity Visa Program, for which you can apply now.

Number of new legal permanent residents per year.

Approximately 740,000 people received their green cards in 2021 and thus became legal permanent residents. In 2021, there was a 5% increase in green cards awarded compared to 2020.

Because of difficulties created by the Covid-19 pandemic, the numbers of green cards awarded in 2020 and 2021 were lower than in previous years. As the impacts of Covid-19 subside, the number of green cards granted is expected to return to normal, historical levels.

New Green Card Holders (LPRs) 2017-2021

  2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
New Legal Permanent Residents 1,127,167

1,096,611

1,031,765 707,362 740,002

Number of legal permanent residents admitted through the Diversity Visa Lottery.

Among the many categories of admission under which new legal permanent residents are allowed into the country, exists the Diversity Visa category of admission.

Winners of the yearly DV Lottery program are granted legal permanent residence (a “green card”) for themselves and their direct family,,and are counted under the Diversity category.

In 2020 and 2021, the number of diversity visas issued was dramatically less than the roughly 50,000 available annually. This scenario was created by the suspension of certain immigration-related government services and the partial travel ban imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. As government and immigration services return online with the decline in Covid-19 restrictions, the number of diversity visas is anticipated to return to a normal level in the next years.

Following are figures for the number of immigrants who obtained their green cards (legal permanent residence status) through the Diversity Visa Program.

LPRs by Diversity Visa (DV) Class of Admission

  2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Total admissions 1,126,167 1,096,611 1,031,765 707,362 740,000
DV category admissions 51,592 45,350 43,463 25,028 15,145
Percent DV admissions 4.6% 4.1% 4.2% 3.5% 2.0%

Total population of legal permanent residents in the U.S.

According to the latest data available from the U.S. Office of Immigration Statistics, there were 13.1 million legal permanent residents (green card holders) living in the United States as of January 1, 2021. This number is slightly lower than the previous year’s 13.4 million green card holders mainly because of obstacles created by the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to a decline in the processing of new green cards.

Of the 13.1 million green card holders in 2021, approximately 9.2 million qualified to become U.S. citizens, or eligible to “naturalize.” They qualified based on requirements for age and length of residency in the U.S. as legal permanent residents. Overall, the population eligible to become U.S. citizens increased by 2% between 2019 and 2021.

Total Green Card Holders (LPRs) 2017-2021

  2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Total LPRs (non-U.S. citizens) 13,300,000 13,410,000 13,460,000 13,350,000 13,110,000
Total eligible to become U.S. citizens 8,920,000 8,950,000 9,000,000 8,940,000 9,210,000

Remember that these figures are for immigrants in the U.S. who are green card holders but have not yet become U.S. citizens.

Naturalization of legal permanent residents.

Green card holders in the U.S. can eventually request to become U.S. citizens, which grants them the right to vote and to obtain an American passport. This process is formally called “naturalization.”

Applying for naturalization can be a simple process. There are basic requirements that the person must satisfy for the request (or petition) for naturalization to be approved. These include things like being a minimum of 18 years old, having been a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) for 3 or 5 years (depending on the immigration category), and having been a resident in the U.S. continuously over that period.

The process begins with the completion of an online application with questions related to the applicant and their direct family. After the application is reviewed and approved by an immigration officer, the candidate is invited to an in-person interview in as soon as six months. The interview includes questions about the applicant’s background and some questions about general American culture and history (the answers which are provided ahead of time for the applicant to memorize). Once the interview i passed, the candidate is asked to swear loyalty to the American Constitution and flag, and the candidate receives a “Certificate of Naturalization,” which is the document needed to apply for a U.S. passport and the confirmation that the candidate has passed from being a legal permanent resident to an American citizen.

Below are recent statistics for naturalization requests and approvals.

Petitions for Naturalization and Persons Naturalized 2016-2020

Year Petitions Naturalizations
2016 972,151 753,060
2017 986,851 707,265
2018 837,168 761,901
2019 830,560 843,593
2020 967,755 628,254

Legal permanent residents by country of birth.

The total population of green card holders in the United States come from diverse backgrounds and many countries. In 2021, the top countries in which LPRs were born are Mexico, China, and the Dominican Republic.

Here are the Top 10 countries of birth for immigrants holding legal permanent residence status in 2021:

LPRs by Country of Birth

  2017 2018 2019 2020 2021  
Mexico 3,130,000 3,130,000 3,100,000 3,060,000 3,010,000  
China 810,000 820,000 820,000 830,000 820,000  
Dominican Republic 520,000 540,000 560,000 570,000 560,000  
India 590,000 580,000 580,000 550,000 550,000  
Philippines 580,000 580,000 570,000 560,000 540,000  
Cuba 490,000 530,000 560,000 550,000 530,000  
Vietnam 350,000 360,000 370,000 380,000 370,000  
El Salvador 300,000 310,000 320,000 320,000 320,000  
South Korea 290,000 290,000 290,000 280,000 280,000  
Canada 290,000 300,000 290,000 280,000 280,000  

Legal permanent residents by region of birth.

Green card holders in the United States were primarily born in North America (Mexico, in particular) and in Asia. These two are the regions of the world having the highest numbers of LPRs in the U.S.

The table below provides a breakdown for all geographical regions.

LPRs by Region of Birth

  2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Asia 4,230,000 4,270,000 4,300,000 4,240,000 4,160,000
Europe 1,540,000 1,520,000 1,490,000 1,470,000 1,440,000
North America 5,770,000 5,830,000 5,830,000 5,800,000 5,690,000
South America 840,000 840,000 840,000 850,000 850,000
Other 930,000 960,000 980,000 990,000 970,000

Legal permanent residents eligible to naturalize by country of birth.

Among all green card holders in 2021, those who were eligible to become U.S. citizens were born in almost every country of the world. But Mexico remains the #1 birth country (not surprising given that country’s extensive shared border with Texas, Arizona, California, and New Mexico). It is followed by China, the Philippines, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.

Here are statistics for the Top 10 countries of birth for those legal permanent residents who were able to request U.S. citizenship in 2021.

LPRs Eligible to Naturalize

  2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Mexico 2,530,000 2,500,000 2,470,000 2,420,000 2,450,000
China 450,000 470,000 490,000 500,000 540,000
Philippines 360,000 360,000 360,000 360,000 370,000
Cuba 310,000 320,000 340,000 360,000 390,000
Dominican Republic 320,000 320,000 330,000 340,000 360,000
India 290,000 290,000 300,000 290,000 310,000
Canada 240,000 250,000 240,000 240,000 230,000
El Salvador 220,000 220,000 220,000 220,000 220,000
United Kingdom 230,000 220,000 220,000 210,000 210,000
Vietnam 210,000 220,000 220,000 220,000 230,000

Legal permanent residents eligible to naturalize by region of birth.

As is the case with the total number of LPRs in the United States, the regions of birth with the largest numbers of LPRs in the U.S. who are eligible to apply for citizenship are North America (primarily Mexico) and Asia.

Here is the breakout by world region.

LPRs Eligible to Naturalize by Region of Birth

  2019 2020 2021
Asia 2,530,000 2,530,000 2,630,000
Europe 1,140,000 1,110,000 1,120,000
North America 4,280,000 4,260,000 4,370,000
South America 540,000 530,000 550,000
Other 510,000 510,000 540,000

Persons naturalized by country of birth.

Mexico, India, and the Philippines are the Top 3 countries in which most new U.S. citizens were born in recent memory. The following table shows numbers of new citizens from the Top 10 birth countries.

Persons Naturalized by Country of Birth

  2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Mexico 103,550 118,559 131,977 122,286 84,081
India 46,188 50,802 52,194 64,631 48,109
Philippines 41,285 36,828 38,816 43,668 33,417
Cuba 32,101 25,961 32,089 36,246 31,369
China 35,794 37,674 39,600 39,490 26,110
Vietnam 24,848 19,323 21,082 25,646 22,705
Dominican Republic 31,320 29,734 22,970 23,101 18,675
Jamaica 16,772 15,087 17,213 18,010 13,465
Colombia 18,601 16,184 17,564 17,126 12,768
El Salvador 17,213 16,941 17,300 18,260 12,606

Persons naturalized by region of birth.

In terms of legal permanent residents who have successfully become U.S. citizens, Asia is currently the region of birth with the most naturalized citizens, followed by North America (again, primarily Mexico).

Persons Naturalized by Region of Birth 

  2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Africa 72,338 61,851 64,934 84,990 66,436
Asia 271,733 255,306 275,621 327,273 246,099
Europe 74,344 65,141 71,436 81,040 57,403
North America 259,845 258,371 277,592 276,910 204,250
Oceania 3,953 3,327 3,792 4,308 3,392
South America 70,821 63,063 67,892 68,678 50,441
Other 26 206 634 394 233

 

#GreenCardStatistics #LegalPermanentResident #DVLotteryStatistics #Naturalization #USImmigrationStatistics

Sources:

  1. Office of Immigration Statistics
  2. Department of Homeland Security
  3. DHS Yearbook of Immigration Statistics 2020

 

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