What Are the Main Reasons for Immigration to America?

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • Driven by factors like work opportunities, living conditions, education, safety, and family reunification.
  • Marriage to a U.S. citizen is a common reason, but marriage fraud has severe penalties.
  • Impacts on the U.S. include economic growth, a skilled workforce, and filling job vacancies.

There are four ways to become a U.S. citizen: it can be done via your parents, marriage, naturalization, or the military.

Now, people want to immigrate to America for many reasons, and in 2019, immigrants already made up 13.7% of the total population of the U.S, with over 44.9 million immigrants living in the States at the time. The number of people who immigrate to the U.S. grows every year – therefore, the percentage will also fluctuate a lot. But what are the main reasons for immigration to America? Let’s find out!

Common Reasons for Immigration to the U.S.

Many individuals decide to make a huge life change and immigrate to the U.S. Reunification is one of the main reasons why so many people started immigrating to America, and this happened once the laws got amended back in 1968.

Better Work Opportunities

Obviously, a better job is why a lot of people decide to leave their countries and move to the U.S. Sometimes, the job opportunities in the U.S. are better compared to what the immigrant has at home. People either try to find a job in the States or they’ve been offered one.

Very often, immigrants will move to areas with higher wages and a higher number of available jobs. This not only helps immigrants build a better life for themselves or be able to send money home to their families but also helps the U.S. labor market.

Better Living Conditions

When foreigners think about the United States, they see it as this paradise that offers an ideal life. Although things are not perfect in the States, immigrants seek out a higher living standard here. People can get better opportunities when it comes to their job and education. Therefore, they can successfully contribute to society.

Even better, health care may look better in the U.S. than it does in an immigrant’s country – and many people need a place where they can enjoy high-quality care. Access to certain necessities that are unavailable in other parts of the world is another reason why some people decide to immigrate.

Better Education

The United States has numerous universities – thus, there are many educational opportunities for those who want to continue their studies. Many parents who want their children to have a better education consider the U.S. for this reason.

Not only does this give students a lot of opportunities to find something they like, but it will also help them build a great future. Some students choose to immigrate to America so they can enroll in programs that their countries may not have.

Because more and more students consider the U.S. for their education, 28% of visas were given for school purposes in 2015.

Safety from Persecution and Violence

For many individuals, the U.S. seems like one of the safest places to live, no matter the race, ethnicity, or religious beliefs.

In times of religious, racial, and ethnic persecution, non-US citizens think that the States are safer for them. Many people who immigrate to the U.S. do it to seek asylum from war and violence.

If someone meets the definition of a refugee and is a U.S. government humanitarian concern, they may be able to obtain the status of refugee and stay in America.

Reunification with Family in the U.S.

Reunification is one of the biggest reasons for people immigrating to the U.S. People can be reunited with a family member who lives in the U.S. – this became a possibility after the laws were amended in 1968. A U.S. permanent resident or a citizen was able to sponsor a spouse, parent, or child if they wanted to come to the U.S.

The original member of the family may be living in the U.S. as a refugee, for work, or many other reasons. However, while Donald Trump was still president, he tried to cut family-based immigration in order to reform the policy. This led to many limitations for foreign family movement.


In today’s world, people can find their other half even on the opposite side of the world. The Internet gives them more opportunities to find people to date, and perhaps even marry. It’s very common for someone in another country to fall in love with a person from the U.S. As a result, the American citizen will take their significant other to the U.S. for a better life, but also so they don’t have to deal with long-distance dating anymore.

The U.S. has a K-1 visa, which allows your fiancé to come to the country. Then, you have to get married within 90 days and if you do so, the immigrant can apply for permanent residency, which will bring your spouse to the U.S. It’s a common belief that some immigrants seek a relationship with a U.S. citizen only for the green card, but this is not always the case.

On top of that, if someone is marrying purely for a green card, they may get a $250,000 fine and spend up to 5 years in prison.

Impact of Immigration to the U.S.

With more and more immigrants coming to the U.S. every year, the country is impacted in many ways. It’s actually hard to keep up with the factors involved, but here are some effects that immigration has on the U.S.:

Better Economic Output Growth

The labor force increases a lot due to net immigration, and so does the economy’s productive capacity. As a result, living standards increase, while the dependency ratio decreases.

More immigration means more growth for the economy. This means higher tax revenues and more options for national spending.

Better Workforce

Getting a skilled professional in the workforce is always a plus, and this is something that immigration can help with. The U.S. attracts a lot of people who are looking for jobs – therefore, high numbers of skilled immigrants are starting to fill job vacancies. This leads to higher tax revenues as well.

Flexible Labor Markets

Immigrants tend to go to high-wage economies, which then leads to a labor demand boost. The high mobility of the immigrants allows labor to meet the growing demand by keeping the economy from heating up too much.

Undesirable Jobs Filled

Certain positions offer very low earnings, so U.S. citizens stay away from them. As such, employers have a very hard time finding someone to take these jobs. But immigration saves the day, as flexible labor can fill these positions too. Native-born individuals can then look for higher-skilled jobs as immigrants fill the low-skilled ones.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What drives people to immigrate to America?

People immigrate to America for various reasons, including:

  1. Economic Opportunities: Seeking better job prospects and financial stability.
  2. Family Reunification: Joining family members who already reside in the U.S.
  3. Education: Accessing high-quality educational institutions and opportunities.
  4. Political and Religious Freedom: Escaping persecution, conflict, or oppressive governments.
  5. Better Quality of Life: Seeking improved healthcare, safety, and overall living conditions.

How significant are economic opportunities as a reason for immigration?

Economic opportunities are often a primary motivator for immigration to America. The U.S. is perceived as a land of opportunity where hard work can lead to financial success and improved living standards.

Do family ties play a major role in immigration to America?

Yes, family ties are a significant factor in immigration to America. U.S. immigration policy has provisions for family-based immigration, allowing U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor relatives.

What role does education play in attracting immigrants to the U.S.?

The U.S. hosts some of the world’s top universities and colleges, attracting international students who often choose to stay post-graduation. Educational opportunities are a key factor in attracting young, skilled immigrants.

How does the search for political and religious freedom influence immigration to America?

The U.S. is seen as a safe haven for individuals fleeing political persecution, religious discrimination, or conflict in their home countries. America’s democratic values and freedoms are a major draw for such immigrants.

Can the pursuit of a better quality of life lead to immigration?

Yes, many immigrants are drawn to the U.S. by the prospect of a better quality of life, including access to healthcare, safety, and a clean environment.

How does the U.S. immigration system accommodate these diverse reasons?

The U.S. immigration system includes various visa categories to accommodate different reasons for immigration, including employment-based visas, family-sponsored visas, student visas, and humanitarian protections like asylum and refugee status.

What impact does the American Dream have on immigration?

The American Dream, the idea that anyone can achieve success through hard work, greatly influences immigration to America. It represents hope and opportunity, particularly for those from less affluent backgrounds.

How do changes in the global economy affect immigration to America?

Changes in the global economy can impact immigration patterns. Economic downturns in other countries can lead to increased immigration to the U.S., whereas improvements in foreign economies can reduce the flow.

Is safety and security a significant factor in choosing to immigrate to the U.S.?

Yes, safety and security are important factors for many immigrants, especially those from countries experiencing high levels of crime, conflict, or political instability. The U.S. is often perceived as a place where law and order prevail.

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Final Thoughts

How much it costs to become a U.S. citizen doesn’t matter much to those who want to live the American dream. Many individuals decide to go to the U.S. either to marry the love of their life who happens to be a U.S. citizen, to find a better job, or to get a better education. If you analyzed the pros and cons of immigrating to the U.S. and you’re sure about this step, you should initiate the immigration process as soon as possible.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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