Why Do Immigrants Come to the United States? Common Reasons for Migration
August 12, 2022
Article by Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C.
August 12, 2022
Immigration comes and goes as a mainstream topic in the United States. Depending on the current political climate, it might be the focus of national news for weeks or months at a time. Still, many citizens have limited knowledge of immigration law.
Understanding not only how individuals can legally enter the U.S. but also why they would want to do so can help inform decisions and further educate the general public.
People have always moved from place to place. Even before there were immigration laws, it was a common aspect of human civilization. According to the 2020 World Migration Report from the International Organization for Migrations (IOM) more than 3.5% of the world’s population is made up of international migrants–-that’s over 272 million people.
Since 1970, the U.S. has been the main country of destination for international immigrants, and the number of foreign-born citizens has more than quadrupled. Plenty of countries have immigration policies similar to the U.S., so why is the flow of foreign individuals so disproportionate?
To understand why immigrants choose the areas they do, we need to take a look at some of the factors affecting relocation.
For simplification purposes, the different causes of migration are often divided into two main categories––push and pull.
Push factors are reasons that people leave their country of residence. These are often negative or dangerous situations that result in people trying to escape.
Pull factors are the opposite, and often attract people to a specific area. Pull factors are usually positive opportunities or conditions that are desirable.
Immigration decisions are often the product of push and pull factors working in combination. The effects of these factors will differ based on each individual. Age, health, wealth, gender, and ethnicity can all alter how somebody responds to certain influences. Still, these motivations can help us start to better understand immigration patterns.
Starting with the factors that push people away from their original country of residence, let’s take a look at some of the reasons people are motivated to leave. Before we can identify why an individual may want to go to the U.S., we must know the root cause of their departure.
Although it’s possible there may be nothing wrong with where they live––they are simply looking for more elsewhere––many immigrants move as a result of a negative condition. Here are some of those potential push factors.
For whatever reason the quality of life in a country is low, this can ultimately lead to people migrating away. Sometimes life gets hard because of conflict or political issues, but other times it is merely because a country is not fully developed. Certain areas in the world do not have constant and easy access to clean water. Other environments must deal with constant exposure to harsh conditions.
Individuals who live in a geographic location where it’s difficult to survive day-to-day life may want to find a new home.
Sometimes, even though life is not unnecessarily difficult in other countries, there may not be enough to satisfy someone’s dreams. Limited opportunities in other countries might lead to great minds traveling elsewhere. Some people want to be challenged consistently in their lives, and to do so they must actively seek it out.
Areas that are under more strict control are sometimes ruled by political parties with unsatisfactory ideologies. Those citizens who do not agree with the laws and/or opinions of their government may want to flee to a country that better aligns with their views.
Along with social reasons for migration, there can also be scary consequences if dangerous parties rise to power as a result of infighting or revolution. The fear of a tyrannical leader can motivate citizens to leave the country before it’s too late.
Political differences throughout a region can lead to extreme measures. Entire races and/or classes of people have been discriminated against financially, socially, and physically in some cases. It can be scary to live in a world where you know that those in charge of your safety do not have your best interests at heart. Those who are treated unfairly––or in some cases purposefully harmed––may want to escape the country and seek help elsewhere.
The most dramatic state a country can be in is war with another country (or themselves). Large-scale battles are unpredictable and are extremely dangerous even to those bystanders who may just be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Civilian casualties become more and more common with highly destructive methods of warfare.
On top of the hazards of war, conflicts also often distract from other aspects of internal government. Living conditions may get worse and poverty rates increase. Many individuals will need to serve the military instead of working towards their own educational or professional goals.
War is one of the most common reasons the U.S. sees refugees and offers political asylum. War often leads only to temporary immigration that will expire when the original country is no longer dangerous.
Now that we’ve discussed why people migrate, let’s shift our focus to some of the main reasons for immigration to America. In today’s world, people can come to the U.S. for almost any reason they want. As long as they are eligible, patient, and have the money to back up the process, legal citizenship is attainable to many.
In many parts of the world, the U.S. is simply viewed as the next step for anybody with the means to get there. For people that can afford to escape poverty or talented individuals who want to make a living off their skills, there is one obvious destination. The reason that an immigrant comes to the U.S. will determine which type of visa they must apply for. Here are some common causes of migration to the U.S.
Many of the most successful and influential universities in the world can be found in the U.S. International students will travel here to further expand their knowledge and training. With such a large number of educational facilities that teach almost anything you can think of, the U.S. often has more available choices for residents of other countries.
The U.S. also has a variety of international programs designed to cater to foreign students. These programs can offer financial assistance to help make the transition easier. There are specific visas for those pursuing education in the U.S.
In addition to all the schools, there are many different career paths available to U.S. citizens that aren’t options elsewhere. Pursuing your passion––and making money while you do so––is a relatively Western ideology. The drastic variety of cultures and lifestyles throughout the U.S. make it easier to find almost anything you could want to do.
Due to the way the U.S. economy is constructed, there are many more money-making and investment opportunities for those with available funds. There is a lot of wealth to be made in America. Those who come seeking employment will choose from a variety of employment-based green card options.
Many individuals who come to the U.S. do so to reunite their families. This could be siblings, spouses, parents, children, or other relatives who moved previously.
The wait time for relatives to immigrate is often longer because they must wait until the primary visa holder earns citizenship. For example, if an immigrant arrives in the U.S. to work a job, they must get settled and be eligible before they can bring a spouse or children over.
Sometimes these family members can earn citizenship of their own, sometimes their status will remain dependent on the primary holder. If you are looking to reunify with your family in the U.S., you may want to look into hiring a family sponsorship lawyer.
Sometimes it can be hard to remember the many privileges taxpayers have here in the U.S. Freedom of speech and religion are two of the biggest ones that are not necessarily a choice elsewhere in the world. We can say what we want to say and believe what we want to believe without strict consequences from the government.
If an immigrant is fleeing from their country because they face persecution for practicing a specific religion, they may choose to come to the U.S. because of its liberties.
As well as the freedom to do certain things, the U.S. also has a certain level of protection for its citizens. Not only are you protected by law to say and believe what you choose, but there is also a dedicated justice system to ensure you are treated fairly.
Especially for those seeking asylum from persecution in their home country, this can be a huge factor. Different visas are available to victims of discrimination or those who are in danger of returning to their place of residence.
In some cases, applicants from other countries may be denied entry into the U.S. There is typically an obvious and straightforward explanation from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
All of the potential reasons for U.S. citizenship denial are outlined somewhere, the part that matters is finding them. Denial will typically come down to things like a criminal record or not meeting eligibility requirements. The best way to ensure that your petition or application is approved is to hire an attorney who is familiar with immigration laws.
Our team of experienced Chicago immigration lawyers can walk you through the process of applying for a visa and, if necessary, appealing a denied USCIS decision. Contact our team today to get started learning about your options.