Before the United States was colonized, there were people coming from all over the world to build settlements. While many came for the religious freedom and economic benefits that the country offered, there were also many who were forced here against their will. Immigration primarily started between 1500-1600 and included British, German, and Spanish populations. From 1600 to 1800, there were numerous West Africa slaves who came to America through forced immigration; they had to work for no wages.

From 1800 to 1900, immigrant populations greatly expanded and included people from the following countries. A third of all the immigrants that came to America during this time were from Ireland due to a rampant famine taking place at the time.

  • Ireland
  • Scotland
  • Italy
  • Sweden
  • China
  • Germany
  • Britain

During the early 1900s, immigration legislation deemed Ellis Island as the federal immigration station. It was also during this time that Congress passed legislation requiring the use of quota systems and literacy tests. The 1930s brought about World War II and many immigrants came over as a method for escaping Nazi persecution and communism.

From 1965 to 2000, the largest immigrant populations were:

  • Vietnamese
  • Filipino
  • Indian
  • Cuban
  • Brazilian
  • Mexican

The three main reasons for immigration during this time period were to escape communism, pursue economic opportunities, and to find lost family.

As of now, there are only three ways that an immigrant can move here permanently. He or she must:

  1. Receive a U.S. Green Card via employment opportunities
  2. Have a family member in America who is willing to file a Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative
  3. Win a U.S. Green Card in the Green Card Lottery

For a more in-depth look at immigration in the United States, check out this neat infographic.

History of US Immigration

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