Fareed Zakaria looks at how the immigration systems work – and don't work – in Japan, Europe, Canada and the U.S. in the TV special: "Global Lessons: The GPS Roadmap for Making Immigration Work" on CNN at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 10. Watch on CNN International on Saturday, June 16, at 4 a.m. and 9 p.m. ET
By John Cookson, CNN
While the U.S. has historically and famously been a nation of immigrants, few know the details of how the U.S. brings in foreigners now.
How many become citizens each year? Where do they live in the U.S.? Which country or origin leads for new American citizens?
Here is what you need to know.
How many foreigners become American citizens each year?
In the last decade, an average of 700,000 people a year became naturalized citizens of the United States. That’s roughly one each year for every 500 U.S residents, or one every 79 seconds.
In the 1990s, the annual average was 500,000, and in the 1980s it was 200,000. These may sound like large numbers, yet as share of the total population, this is a change from 0.1% of the population becoming naturalized citizens each year in the 1980s to 0.2% now.
Where are they from originally?
In recent years, the most new American citizens were from Mexico, followed by India, the Philippines and China. Since 1976, Asia has been the leading region of origin (before that it was Europe).
Where do they live in the U.S.?
Nearly half of new citizens now live in just three states: California, Florida and New York. In recent years, 15% have lived in the greater New York City metropolitan area, 10% in greater Los Angeles and 8% in and around Miami.
What other foreign-born people live in the U.S.?
Naturalized citizens are only a fraction of the overall foreign-born U.S. population, which is 13% of the total population. In this feature, the U.S. is no longer exceptional. Both Australia and Canada have higher foreign-born populations than the U.S., as a percentage of their total residents, and France, Germany and the UK are just below the U.S.
About 1 million people become legal permanent residents, or "green card" holders, each year in the U.S. Many others hold temporary work visas, given to a range of professionals from scientists and students to farm laborers and fashion models. There are also an estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., around 60% of which are from Mexico.
Do all foreigners with visas become citizens?
No. About 8 million green card holders are eligible to naturalize right now, having lived in the country continuously for at least 5 years, yet have not become citizens. Bureaucratic red tape and taxing inefficiencies have persuaded many with permanent resident visas not to seek full citizenship. For example, a 2003 survey supported by the National Institutes of Health found that a sixth of new legal immigrants - those who succeed in getting visas - surveyed said they became depressed during the process. Avoiding a similar situation in going from visa to naturalization can be a powerful deterrent to becoming a U.S. citizen.