Every year, millions of people move from one country to another in the hope of better job prospects, education, economic prosperity, and religious freedom. Sometimes people are forced to leave their home and seek refuge in another country due to social unrest or civil war. According to data from the United Nations, there were more than 258 million immigrants in 2017. Here we take a look at the top 10 countries with the most immigrants.
Immigrants are people living in a country other than where they were born. Some countries such as China and Brazil have a relatively minuscule proportion of immigrants compared to their native population. In contrast, there are some countries where the immigrant population is higher than the native population.
There are two ways to look at countries with the most immigrants. The first method is to see the proportion of immigrants compared to their population size, and the second is to look at the actual number of immigrants in a country. The rankings below are based on data from the United Nations and the French Institute for Demographic Studies professor Gilles Pison.
Top 10 countries with the highest proportion of immigrants
This list is dominated by countries in the Middle East, which attract millions of economic migrants from India, Pakistan, and other Asian countries. They have abundant oil resources, but low native population. They need migrant workers for economic activities. However, these countries do not grant permanent citizenship to migrant workers. The workers are required to leave the country once their contracts with employers are terminated and the visas expire.
Some other nations in this list attract immigrants because of their special tax laws. There are also a few countries that have seen a massive influx of refugees due to civil wars or conflicts in their neighboring countries.
These countries have the highest proportion of immigrants compared to their population size.
- United Arab Emirates (87.3%)
- Saudi Arabia (34.1%)
- Switzerland (29%)
- Australia (28.2%)
- Canada (21%)
- Austria (17.2%)
- United States (15.1%)
- United Kingdom (12.9%)
- Spain (12.7%)
- Germany (12.5%)
Top 10 countries with the highest number of immigrants
Spain has 5.9 million foreign-born people, accounting for 12.7% of its population. The country accepted 215,000 permanent immigrants in 2016.
More than 6.7 million immigrants live in Australia, accounting for 28.2% of its population. The country attracts migrant workers and students largely from India, China, the UK, and Malaysia.
Canada is one of the most favorite destinations for refugees and asylum seekers. The country accepted 296,400 permanent immigrants in 2016. There are about 7.6 million immigrants in Canada, accounting for 21% of its population.
France has 7.9 million immigrants living within its borders. It received 259,000 permanent immigrants in 2016. The country has been accepting refugees and migrant workers to help boost its economy.
6- United Arab Emirates
The UAE has 8 million immigrants. Most of them are economic migrants involved in low-skilled occupations rather than refugees. About 5.5 million of all migrants in the UAE are from India, Egypt, and Pakistan.
5- United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has 8.4 million immigrants, making up 12.9% of its population. The UK accepted more than 350,000 permanent immigrants in 2016. The country attracts the most immigrants from Romania, India, Poland, China, and Pakistan.
Germany is an industrial powerhouse, attracting skilled workers from around the world. However, it has seen a massive influx of refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries in the last few years. Germany has 10.2 million immigrants.
3- Saudi Arabia
More than a third of Saudi Arabia’s population consists of immigrants. The number of foreign-born people in the country rose by 93% between 2010 and 2015. There are 10.8 million immigrants in Saudi Arabia, according to the United Nations.
Russia actively encourages immigration. The world’s largest country by area has 11.6 million migrants living within its borders, accounting for 8.1% of its population.
1- United States
The United States attracts more skilled workers than any other country in the world. According to the United Nations, it has 48.2 million foreign-born residents, which is more than four times higher than the second-ranked Russia. The US attracts foreign-born individuals because of economic opportunities, religious freedom, and a strong education system.