Migration in and from America: current statistics

Based on the Atlas of Migration (2020), this article provides an overview of the current statistics of American immigration and emigration, focusing on the trends involving the European Union. Moreover, this article discloses quantitative data regarding the population of refugees and IDPs in America, Asylum application, Return rates and naturalisation in the EU, Migration drivers and risks assessment.

The United States of America (USA) has the largest number of international migrants (51 million people), i.e. equal to 18% of the world’s total. But what about the statistics for the whole continent? In 2020, the regional migration corridor from Latin America and the Caribbean to Northern America resulted to be the second largest globally, with nearly 26 million migrants (UN, 2020). On the other side of the Atlantic, only the corridor from the United Kingdom to the USA appears within the top 20 migration corridors involving European countries (with nearly 0,7 million migrants). This article provides an overview of the current statistics of American immigration and emigration by focusing on the trends involving the EU.

Overview of American migratory demography (2005-2019)

America’s population, that in 2019 was about 1 billion people, is estimated to increase by 8.1% between 2019 and 2030. Confirming itself as a receiving rather than a sending continent, during the last 15 years America registered an increase of immigrants from the EU (5,7 million in 2005, 6 million in 2019) and even more consistent increase flows from other countries (47 million in 2005, 64,3 million in 2019). Within the same time span, the emigration of American people increased as well. American emigration to Europe totalled 3,6 million people in 2005, and 5 million in 2019, whereas Americans emigrating to other countries counted 29,3 million people in 2005 and 40 million people in 2019.

Population of refugees and IDPs in America

In 2019, America registered 6,6 million internally displaced people. The majority of new displacements in 2018 were weather-related disasters, followed by displacement associated with conflicts, violence and social and economic crises (IDMC, 2019). In 2018, The US was the largest recipient of new asylum claims in the world (over 250000), which were mainly submitted by immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Honduras (IOM, 2020). While the total number of refugees within America in 2019 is 701390, refugees from the country residing in or outside a European country are 440395. 

Asylum in the EU

The number of American citizens who applied for asylum in the EU were 15385 in 2016 (54% male and 46% female), 30245 in 2017 (51% male and 59% female), 49430 in 2018 (50% male and 50% female) and 118250 in 2019 (50% male and 50% female). First instance decisions made by EU Member States (MB) were 7145 in 2016, 13095 in 2017 and 14035 in 2018. Between 2016 and 2018, the majority of these decisions resulted in a rejection (with a peak of 88% rejections in 2017). In 2019, out of a total of 63780 first instance decisions, 55% ended up with a humanitarian protection, 35% with a rejection and the remaining ones being attributed either the Geneva Convention status or the Subsidiary protection. American people who received a first residence permit in EU MS were 260745 in 2016, 291866 in 2017, 348849 in 2018 and 423488 in 2019. The majority of these permits were issued each year mainly for family reasons (35% in 2019), followed by education (24% in 2019), work (22% in 2019) and other reasons, including National and International Protection (18% in 2019). At the end of 2019, a total number of 2,3 million American people had a valid residence permit in the EU, with 869877 of them having long-term permits.

Persons ordered to leave, return rates and naturalisation in the EU

The annual number of people from America who have been determined by EU MS authorities to be ‘illegally present’ under their national laws relating to immigration were 21445 in 2016, 23335 in 2017, 24995 in 2018 and 30815 in 2019. Meanwhile, persons ordered to leave the EU within the same period of time were 18845, 16350, 17640 and 21925 respectively, with a return rate of 35% in 2016, 40% in 2017, 40% in 2018 and 41% in 2019. American people who moved to an EU MS and acquired citizenship were 112009 in 2016, 140307 in 2017, 85675 in 2018 and 95962 in 2019. 

Remittances (GDP) from the EU

In terms of remittance inflows to the Gross Domestic Product, America received through personal transfers from the EU 78,8 million US dollars in 2015, 83,6 million in 2016, 90 million in 2017, and 99,4 million in 2018 respectively. Since 2015, a relative increase has been registered in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and humanitarian aid sent by Europe to America, with 1,2 million dollars in 2015 which became 1,4 million in 2018.

Development indicators and migration drivers

Development indicators are factors that may have an influence on the drivers and dynamics of both internal and international migration. Highlights from the Atlas of Migration 2020 show that Venezuela is the country with the least political development index, scoring low both in terms of Global Peace index (2.7) and Political Stability (9.0). Moving on, Canada leads the social development category, scoring 0.9 in Human Development Index in 2018. The opposite applies for Haiti, which scores the lowest both in the same category (0.5) and in the economic factor, displaying a GDP per capita equal to 1729 US dollars. In comparison, the United States scores the highest for the latter factor, with a GDP per capita equal to 62527 US dollars. Finally, El Salvador and Cayman Island lead in terms of environmental development, while Saint Lucia and Suriname appear to be the two countries struggling the most for this developmental category. 

Risks assessments for humanitarian disasters

The JRC Risk Index is a statistics indicator aiming to plot trends on humanitarian crises and disasters. It assesses the risk to encounter hazards and disasters according to different categories, and displays the countries risking the most and the least per each of the labels. For instance, in 2020 Peru is the country risking to face a natural hazard the most, with a score of 7.1, while Grenada is the one risking the least, with a score of 1.7. Similarly, Mexico scored 9.0, while Antigua and Barbuda 0 for human hazard; Haiti scored 7.3 and Canada 0.4 for socio-economic vulnerability; Colombia scored 7.7 and Cuba 0.2 for risks concerning vulnerable groups; Haiti scored 6.7 and Canada 2.5 for institutional risks; finally, Haiti scored 6.7 while Trinidad and Tobago 1.2 for infrastructure risks. Moreover, the JRC index also provides an overall risk score, called “INFORM risk”: accordingly, Haiti is the country experiencing the highest risk rate overall, with a score of 6.2, while Canada has 1.8, making it the least risky country of America to encounter hazards or crises. 


Note: This article is based on the Atlas of Migration 2020 of the European Commission, which refers to “America” as including both North, Central and South American countries and territories.

Authors: Valentina Cappi and Alagie Jinkang


European Commission, Joint Research Centre. (2020). Atlas of Migration 2020 (EUR 30534 EN). Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. Doi:10.2760/430992, JRC122942.

IDMC – Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. (2019). Global Report on Internal Displacement 2019. Geneva: Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. Available at: https://www.internal-displacement.org/global-report/grid2019/

IOM – International Organization for Migration. (2020). World Migration Report 2020. Geneva: International Organization for Migration. Available at: https://publications.iom.int/system/files/pdf/wmr_2020.pdf

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. (2020). International Migration 2020 Highlights (ST/ESA/SER.A/452). New York: United Nations. Available at: https://www.un.org/development/desa/pd/sites/www.un.org.development.desa.pd/files/undesa_pd_2020_international_migration_highlights.pdf


Migration, America, Europe, Statistics, Population, Asylum, Remittances

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