Rahul Sharma (Editor)

Foreign born

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Foreign born (also non-native) people are those born outside of their country of residence. Foreign born are often non-citizens, but many are naturalized citizens of the country that they live in and others are citizens by descent, typically through a parent.


The term foreign born encompasses both immigrants and expatriates but is not synonymous with either. Foreign born may, like immigrants, have committed to living in a country permanently or, like expatriates, live abroad for a significant period with the plan to return to their birth-country eventually.

The status of foreign born — particularly their access to citizenship — differs globally. The large groups of foreign born guest workers in Arab states of the Persian Gulf, for example, have no right to citizenship no matter the length of their residence. In Canada and the United States, by contrast, foreign born are often citizens or in the process of becoming citizens. Certain countries have intermediary rules: in Germany and Japan it is often difficult but not impossible for the foreign born to become citizens.

Trends by country

The percentage of foreign born in a country is the product mostly of immigration rates, but is also affected by emigration rates and birth and death rates in the destination country. For example, the United Kingdom and Ireland are destination countries for migrants from Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia, but are themselves source countries for immigration to other English-speaking countries. The countries with the highest rates of immigration are wealthy countries with relatively open nationality or migration laws including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and the Persian Gulf States.

The largest foreign-born population in the world is in the United States, which was home to 39 million foreign-residents in 2012, or 12.6% of the population. The highest percentage of foreign-born residents occurs in small, wealthy countries with large numbers of temporary foreign workers, such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, the population of each is, depending on the economy at the time, around 80%. In 2010, the Migration Policy Institute reported that the largest percentages were Qatar (86.5%) and UAE (70%).

Miscellaneous regions with high percentage of foreign born population

  • Toronto was estimated to be higher at the 2011 census. After Statistics Canada, the national statistics agency, made the National Household Survey optional following the 2006 census it was estimated that minority groups would be less likely to respond to the survey. Furthermore, the statistics are less likely to represent the large communities of temporary foreign workers and international students in Toronto.
  • References

    Foreign born Wikipedia