Immigration overview

Understanding immigration
Economic effects
Legal Immigration
Illegal Immigration
Historical Perspective
Popular immigration destinations

Browse the introduction of immigration by specific country:

Introduction of immigration

It could be argued that the immigration process dates back to the very start of the human race. Since the begining of time humans have migrated from place to place in search of a better life and better security for themselves and their families. In the begining the challenges were purely logistical, how to safely travel to your new home, and how to live peacefully with the people and creatures already there. In the modern world there are also legal challenges. Immigration has became a subject of numerous disputes, but for many people it remains an opportunity to reach their goals and provide better security for themselves and their families.

Immigration is a movement from one country to another, in order to settle there. Annual migration statistics are astonishing! According to data, provided by International Organization for Migration, 200 million people throughout the world migrated during year 2006 alone! In 2012, Gallop (a US company), conducted a survey which completely changed the way experts look at immigration. Almost 640 million people responded that they would like to move to another country if they had the chance. The biggest destination for immigrants so far is Europe, which hosted 70 million people during year 2005 alone! The second place being held by the USA and Canada, which have hosted around 45 million immigrants.

Usually immigration is about getting a better and safer life, so in some parts of the world it is to escape war, poverty, famine, and genocide. But even in the more civilized parts of the world you often see immigration in order to seek a more comfortable social, political or economic situation. This explains why the most prosperous and successful countries are also the most popular amongst immigrants. Data shows that this trend is increasing, and each year the number of migrants increases. Such flow of immigrants has become the subject of many political discussions recently. As a result a number of countries have begun to make their immigration policies and laws much more strict.

How to ensure the propper treatment of migrants in their host countries is also a topic of debate, since the rights of immigrants have often been abused and violated in some places. However, freedom of movement is often recognized as a civil right, declared by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966). Despite this fact, no sovereign state provides full freedom of movement across its borders (except Uruguay). Even countries of the Schengen area, which aim to promote free movement, and which do not have any internal border controls within the area, still perform normal border control procedures when first entering the area.

Understanding immigration

Understanding immigration patterns is possible by first understanding immigration theory. The theory of the causes of immigration states that patterns of immigration are impacted by different push and pull factors. Push factors are those that serve to motivate individuals to leave the country of origin. While pull factors are usually motives for wishing to enter a certain country. In the case of economic migration – low wages or a financial crisis in the state of origin would be considered push factors, while economic prosperity and higher wages in another country – would play the role of pull factors.

That is how immigration works, people always move to a place that they consider better for them – there is always a reason, even if the reasons can be very different and sometimes quite ambiguous. Immigration is not a simple matter, and in the modern world there is often much in the way of legislation which must be adhered to, in order that immigration will not be considered illegal. Very often barriers are being put by states, in order to limit and control the flow of immigrants. Barriers may be in a form of legal regulations, welfare level requirements, or it may even be of a social, political or religious nature. The aim of states who set such regulations is always the same – to make sure that they get the immigrants that they want, while they keep away those who they do not.

Very often people, who are not able to immigrate legally, and driven by such factors as war, religous persecution, repression or genocide, are forced to immigrate illegally in order to escape threat. Sometimes immigration is for more personal reasons, such as family reunification, relationships. Criminal evasion may also be a reason for immigration, but usually it is considered illegal, especially, if the crime is recognised internationally. For some people an opportunity to obtain a better education is a pull factor, however, usually international students are not classified as immigrants. Retirement migration is also very common. Very often seniors from expensive countries move to cheaper countries with better climates, which is a new type of international migration.

Not all countries are equally interested in immigrants. While some countries find it a good source of cheap labour, others try to attract only wealthy, well qualified immigrants, which can result in the creation of a selective immigration policy. An extreme example would be Australia, which several decades ago executed the White Australia policy. Today this policy has disappeared, but still priority is usually given to educated, skilled and wealthy immigrants.

Economic effects

Different research on the economic effects of immigration shows, that immigration often has very little in the way of negative impact on the economy of the host country. Statistics, provided by the Cato institute, indicates, that immigrants tend to work in more dangerous or unpleasant jobs, which are usually considered less attractive to locals. Such a phenomena is caused by two main factors – lower local language ability, which does not allow immigrants to hold higher positions, and also the lack of locally recognized educational qualifications.

Mass immigration of it's qualified, skilled labour force may lead to a brain drain, leaving a country of origin with low numbers qualified workers, while symultaneously contributing to the economy and development of the host country. This can actually serve to increase the push-pull factors causing migration in the first place – making the economic situation worse in the country of origin while adding to the prosperity of the host state.

Another immigration effect, which is the subject of some discussions, is overpopulation. Since the largest proportion of immigrants require employment, the most attractive places of residence are often big cities. Over the last few decades a drammatic process of urbanization has taken place, which has lead to the expansion of big urban areas, while smaller villages and rural areas became less populated. This effect, however, is mostly caused by the internal movement of locals, since immigrants generally form only a small proportion of the population.


There has not been much research done on the welfare of immigrants in host countries, however, the few studies that have been made, indicate a few noticable trends.

It is pretty hard to settle for an immigrant at first. Besides possible culture shock, there are many other things that a person has to overcome. Language barrier and lack of locally recognised skills and qualifications, may lead to temporary unemployment. According to statistics, provided by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, in Europe 28% of foreigners between the ages of 25 and 49 can't find work during the first year however according to the same data, the percentage of unemployed foreigners drammatically decreases after one year of residence. There are several things however, designed to improve immigrant quality of life and welfare level and to limit the impact of such difficulties upon first arrival. One such provision being that, if you reside in a state as a legal immigrant, most countries provide some form of social guarantees and financial aid.

Welfare research has actually shown an inverse correlation between the increase of ethnic diversity and government funding of welfare. However, this often does not have a large impact on the general level of welfare of immigrants, because very often social groups and community centers (based on nationality or religion) are established to support immigrant populations. Usually they provide such services as financial support to their members as well as providing a hub to help preserve a person's culture, traditions and religion.

Legal immigration is the process of immigration, which meets all legal regulations, standarts and requirements provided by legislation. Usually to reside in a host country you need to have a passport or other equivalent document and you need to obtain a residence permit - a document that grants you the right to reside in a certain state. In order to be a legal immigrant, all legal procedures and requirements, provided by the legislation of a hosting state, must be followed. Some states have softer immigration policies, while it may be extremely hard or nearly impossible to obtain a residence permit in others.

According to statistics, the most popular countries for immigration are European countries. Since the majority of European countries participate in the Schengen area – once you obtain a residence permit in one of the Schengen states, you may travel to any other Schengen member state without any further visa requirements. You may also reside in any other Schengen member state for 90 days without any formal registration. Such benefits combined with the generally prosperous economy of the region and the maturity of the stable democratic environment, perfectly explains why Europe is so attractive for many immigrants.

It is much harder to obtain a residence permit in such countries as Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand. There are several reasons for this. The USA has suffered from a large flow of illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico and China. This has forced the government to make immigration policy much more strict. New Zealand, Canada and Australia enforce a selective immigration policy, which means that those countries are only interested in wealthy, skilled and qualified immigrants. As a result, there are strict requirements, that must be met, in order to receive a residence permit in these locations.

Sometimes people, driven out of their country of origin by war, genocide, persecution or other act of violence, may request refugee status or asylum. This type of immigration is controversial, because a state, which has received a request for asylum, has to grant the status of refugee to a person first. Until then - a person remains an illegal immigrant. Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution." However, as was mentioned before, this type of immigration is quite controversial. Mostly, because the question of which country should provide asylum to an influx of a large number of refugees, and this can cause lengthy discussions between countries. The most common solution to the problem of absorbing large numbers of refugees – is the use of refugee camps, built by governments or non-governmental organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross – Countries can then take their time examining each individual claim for assylum.

Illegal Immigration

Illegal immigration is travelling to or staying in a country without the approriate documents, entering at an inappropriate place or by an inappropriate method. Usually illegal immigrants try to enter a wealthier country, with a better quality of life, leaving a poorer country behind. There are three main factors which provoke illegal immigration: economic factors, criminal evasion or socio-political environment – effectively anything that can provide enough pressure such that a person is willing to break the law.

In the imagination of many, the mind of an illegal immigrant may seem to be very devious and cunning – while this is not universally true, it is an understandable perception given the tactics that many such desperate people employ. Immigrants have devised more than 30 ways to cross borders illegally. While some try to use more traditional methods, such as presenting falsified documents at the border or crossing border on foot in the middle of a desert, others act like a true inventors. Some immigrants hide themselves inside car seats, some vault over a border fence with a pole, some even try to hide in a suitcase at the airport. According to statistics, chances for the success are very small, because countries, which are primary targets for illegal imigrants, usually conduct serious border control procedures, including constant border patrols and fence building, but these individuals are often desperate, so if there is a way through – they will find it.

Another type of illegal immigration, which does not involve illegal border crossing, is overstaying an otherwise valid visa. In this case immigrants arrive in the host country on a legal basis, but they stay after their visa expires or perform work or other activities that might not be permitted by their visa. This method of illegal immigration requires a lot of effort, since you are forced to evade authorities who might discover your true immigration status. This means you can be scared to involve yourself in any kinds of legal action or participate in any form of legal agreement, this can limit your ability to do such simple things as bank payments, use of credit cards, legal, taxed employment etc. As a result, this approach can be very tiring and mentally exhausting. The legal consequences illegal immigrants who get caught vary from country to country. Usually the measures vary from deportation to jail terms.

Statistics provided by the International Organization for Migration, show that almost 15% of the world's total 214 million immigrants are illegal. For the last few decades the USA has experienced one of the largest influxes of illegal immigrants in human history. The biggest problem being the US–Mexico border, which is used by many thousands of illegal immigrants each year, this in spite of all the measures taken by the US government. Currently, the number of illegal immigrants, residing in the USA, is estimated to be around 15 million people. The largest amount of illegal immigrants reside in the state of California – 2,930,000 people, which is 25% of total population of California. Technically, it means, that each fourth person you see in the street there – is an illegal immigrant! According to the data provided by the Center for Immigration Studies, 56% of illegal immigrants are from Mexico, 22% from other Latin American countries, 13% from Asia, 6% from Europe and Canada, and 3% from Africa.

The European Union suffers from illegal immigration as well. According to data provided by the BBC, 80% of illegal immigrants pass through Grece – many of them through the border with Turkey. Lack of cooperation between Greek police, coast guard and the Turkish army (which is responsible for border control) makes this situation even worse. The majority of the rest of the illegal immigrants to the EU sneak in through the United Kingdom, entering using valid visas, but then overstaying those visas and disappearing into the general population. Currently in the UK, it is estimated. resides between 550,000 and 950,000 illegal immigrants from Africa and Asia.

It is worth mentioning, that because of illegal immigration - legal immigrants are also made to suffer. The Constant flow of illegal immigrants and an inability to properly control it, leaves the host country no other choice, but to take measures to make its immigration policy stricter which in turm makes things harder on legal immigrants as well.

Historical Perspective

From a historical perspective, modern immigration started in the 18th century, accelerated by the slave trade and industrialization. At this time three main types of immigration began to appear: labour migration, refugee migration and urbanization. Because the USA gained independence in the year 1776, while in Europe imperialism was still dominant, at the beginning of 19th century many people immigrated to the USA, which was considered the land of opportunity.

The begining of the 20th century with the fall of the large colonial empires and World War I had it's impact too, as people were immigrating from Europe, driven by the fear of war and violence. The aftermath of World War I was the fall of colonialism and establishment of the League of Nations. At this point, an influx of immigrants from the former-colonies started, which resulted in a large amount of immigrants from the newly independent countries of Africa the former colonies of France, Great Britain, Spain, and the Netherlands.

The League of Nations failed to prevent World War II. The birth of national-socialism in central Europe in 1930s played crucial role in immigration, as many jews started migrating from Europe before the outbreak of World War II. After World War II the United Nations organization was established, which is a sentinel of peace in all the world since then. The roots of the European Union also date back to the late 1940s, when the Paris Treaty was signed.

Since then – the principle of freedom of movement have developped quickly. The newly established Schengen area in Europe allowed the citizens of its member states to move free without any border controls. The United Nations and many countries ratified treaties on freedom of movement and provision of asylum for refugees. However, for the last three decades governments have become very concerned with the problems of terrorism, people trafficing and the drug trade. Therefore, many countries had to reduce the simplicity in their immigration policies in order to improve their homeland security.

Here is the list of popular immigration destinations among European countries and worldwide.

Immigration by country in Europe

Immigration in Europe:

Immigration by country in Elsewhere in the world

The list will be uploaded shortly.