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Foreigners in the United States

Did the September 11 attacks make it more difficult to immigrate into the United States?

October 9, 2001

Did the September 11 attacks make it more difficult to immigrate into the United States?

Even after the events of September 11, the image of the United States as a melting pot — where people sing ‘This land is my land, this land is your land’ — still holds true. While U.S. citizens are often maligned for being ignorant about everything foreign, the country remains open towards immigration. Our Globalist Factsheet explores the role foreigners play in the United States — and how the country benefits from its immigration policy.

How many people of foreign origin live in the United States?

In 2001, there are 28.4 million foreign-born people living in the United States. That is not only the largest number in history, but also almost equal to the entire population of Canada, which is 31 million.

(U.S. Census Bureau)

How large is the foreign workforce in the United States?

Foreigners make up 12% of the labor force in the United States. This compares to 25% in Australia, 19% in Canada — and 17% in Switzerland.


Does that apply to all job areas?

As of 1999, 8,465 non-citizens were enlisted in the U.S. armed forces — or 4.6% of total enlistments. Currently, 28,591 non-citizens are on active duty — about 2.5% of active duty forces.


What role do Hispanics play?

Immigrants from Mexico represent 30% of the foreign-born population of the United States. However, only 15% of Mexican immigrants had become naturalized U.S. citizens by 1997.

(U.S. Bureau of the Census)

What types of U.S. visas do foreigners have?

As of 2001, there are more than 50 categories of non-immigrant visas — including business travelers, tourists, students — as well as documents for ship’s crews and diplomats.

(Washington Post)

How easy is it for people from Middle Eastern countries to apply for a visa successfully?

In fiscal year 1999, 12% of the 72,809 visa applicants at U.S. consulates in Saudi Arabia were rejected — compared to 38% for Egypt.

(Washington Post)

How open is the United States to legal immigration?

About 700,000 people are admitted to the United States as legal immigrants each year — with some 43,000 coming from the Middle East between September 1997 and September 1998.


How many people cross U.S. borders?

530 million people — one-third of them returning U.S. citizens — cross U.S. borders each year.

(Washington Post)

How does the United States deal with refugees?

The United States detains most refugees who arrive without personal identification documents. In contrast, Canada detains only those refugees thought to be security risks. The rest are released until their hearings and immediately gain all the rights and entitlements of Canadian citizens, including welfare.

(Washington Post)

How many foreign students attend U.S. universities?

As of 2001, students from abroad account for 515,000 of the 14.5 million students attending institutions of higher education in the United States — an increase of nearly 5% over 2000.

(Institute of International Education)

How did this figure develop over the last generation?

Over the last 30 years, the share of foreigners studying as undergraduates in the U.S. has tripled.

(University of California)

How many of the foreign students in the United States come from predominantly Muslim countries?

As of 2001, 30,474 of the 515,000 foreign students in the United States — or 17% — came from three Muslim countries, Indonesia, Turkey and Malaysia.

(Institute of International Education)

What about the numbers at individual universities?

Nearly 40% of the graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology come from outside the United States.

(Wall Street Journal)

What is the U.S. record when it comes to studying abroad?

As of 2000, only 0.89% of U.S. students ever study abroad. And of those 0.89%, only 10% stay for a full academic year.

(Institute of International Education)

Which nation’s citizens have got the most U.S. work permits?

In 2000, more than 40% of the successful petitioners for H-1B work visas came from India. With 34,381 H-1B workers, India holds 42.6% of the total of successfully immigrating H-1B petitioners. China comes in second with 7,987, or just 9.9%.

(U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services)

Finally, what about U.S. citizens abroad — where do most of them live?

As of 1999, about 200,000 U.S. citizens live in London — making it one of the largest communities of Americans outside the United States.

(Financial Times)