Special Report

These Countries Are Mostly Made up of Immigrants

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Other than the occasional flare-up of anti-immigrant nativism and nationalism throughout American history, the United States has long been a harbor for immigrants seeking opportunities for freedom and opportunity. This promise is what then-President-elect John F. Kennedy described in 1961 as “the city upon a hill.” (Here are the most famous foreigners who became U.S. citizens.)

But the U.S. is not the only beacon for immigrants. Based on data from 2020, the U.S. ranks 39th among countries with the largest foreign-born populations. About 15.3% of the U.S. population, or about 50.6 million, are foreign born. (Here are the states where the most people are immigrants.)

To determine the countries with the largest foreign-born populations, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on international migrant stock from the United Nations. Countries were ranked based on the foreign-born migrant population as a percentage of their total population in 2020. Data on the size of the refugee population, a subset of the foreign-born population, is also from the U.N. All data is for 2020.

Nineteen countries also have larger shares of refugees as a percentage of their foreign-born populations than the U.S., albeit not always under great conditions. For example, 82% of Lebanon’s foreign-born population are refugees, mostly living in camps populated by Syrians who have fled conflict in recent years. 

Five European countries have among the largest share of refugees as a percentage of their foreign-born populations, between 9% and 14%. By comparison, the United States’ share of refugees as a percentage of foreign-born is just 2.35%. Canada has higher shares of both foreign-born and refugee populations compared to its southern neighbor.

Fifteen European Union member states are among the 50 countries with the largest foreign-born populations with between 12.9% in Greece and Croatia to nearly 48% in Luxembourg, the tiny landlocked country bordering Belgium, Germany, and France. As a wealthy common market with shared open borders, it makes sense that so many EU countries would have such large shares of foreign-born residents.

Six of the top 10 countries with the highest share of foreign-born populations are small population-wise, including Luxembourg and Bahrain, or they are European microstates like Liechtenstein, bordering Austria and Switzerland. Singapore, the wealthy Southeast Asia city-state, comes in at No. 10, with a foreign-born population accounting for 43% of the country. The other states among this top 10 are all in the Gulf region, a popular destination for foreign laborers and professionals.

Despite its relatively low ranking, the United States is indisputably a major draw for immigrants. With a population of 331 million, the U.S. is the most populous country to rank on the list. No other country with a population above 84 million makes this list.

Here are the largest foreign-born populations.

50. Greece
> Pct. foreign-born population: 12.86%
> Foreign-born population: 1,340,456
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 13.89%
> Refugee population: 186,166
> Total population 2020: 10,423,056

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49. Croatia
> Pct. foreign-born population: 12.86%
> Foreign-born population: 528,056
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 0.26%
> Refugee population: 1,383
> Total population 2020: 4,105,268

Source: SHansche / iStock via Getty Images

48. Maldives
> Pct. foreign-born population: 12.96%
> Foreign-born population: 70,079
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: N/A
> Refugee population: N/A
> Total population 2020: 540,542

Source: saiko3p / iStock via Getty Images

47. France
> Pct. foreign-born population: 13.06%
> Foreign-born population: 8,524,876
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 5.98%
> Refugee population: 510,080
> Total population 2020: 65,273,512

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Source: znm / iStock via Getty Images

46. Seychelles
> Pct. foreign-born population: 13.27%
> Foreign-born population: 13,050
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: N/A
> Refugee population: N/A
> Total population 2020: 98,340

45. Slovenia
> Pct. foreign-born population: 13.37%
> Foreign-born population: 277,964
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 0.39%
> Refugee population: 1,080
> Total population 2020: 2,078,932

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44. Netherlands
> Pct. foreign-born population: 13.76%
> Foreign-born population: 2,358,333
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 4.67%
> Refugee population: 110,052
> Total population 2020: 17,134,873

43. United Kingdom
> Pct. foreign-born population: 13.79%
> Foreign-born population: 9,359,587
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 2.08%
> Refugee population: 195,062
> Total population 2020: 67,886,004

Source: mikolajn / iStock via Getty Images

42. Saint Kitts and Nevis
> Pct. foreign-born population: 14.52%
> Foreign-born population: 7,725
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: N/A
> Refugee population: N/A
> Total population 2020: 53,192

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Source: SCStock / iStock via Getty Images

41. Spain
> Pct. foreign-born population: 14.63%
> Foreign-born population: 6,842,202
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 2.79%
> Refugee population: 190,791
> Total population 2020: 46,754,783

40. Estonia
> Pct. foreign-born population: 15.02%
> Foreign-born population: 199,277
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 0.19%
> Refugee population: 373
> Total population 2020: 1,326,539

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Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

39. United States of America
> Pct. foreign-born population: 15.30%
> Foreign-born population: 50,632,836
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 2.35%
> Refugee population: 1,189,312
> Total population 2020: 331,002,647

Source: Kevin Wells / iStock via Getty Images

38. Belize
> Pct. foreign-born population: 15.60%
> Foreign-born population: 62,043
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 3.51%
> Refugee population: 2,179
> Total population 2020: 397,621

37. Norway
> Pct. foreign-born population: 15.72%
> Foreign-born population: 852,238
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 6.50%
> Refugee population: 55,426
> Total population 2020: 5,421,242

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36. Cyprus
> Pct. foreign-born population: 15.77%
> Foreign-born population: 190,366
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 16.37%
> Refugee population: 31,168
> Total population 2020: 1,207,361

Source: NAPA74 / iStock via Getty Images

35. Bahamas
> Pct. foreign-born population: 16.17%
> Foreign-born population: 63,583
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 0.05%
> Refugee population: 30
> Total population 2020: 393,248

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34. San Marino
> Pct. foreign-born population: 16.33%
> Foreign-born population: 5,543
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: N/A
> Refugee population: N/A
> Total population 2020: 33,938

Source: vestica / iStock via Getty Images

33. Equatorial Guinea
> Pct. foreign-born population: 16.44%
> Foreign-born population: 230,618
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: N/A
> Refugee population: N/A
> Total population 2020: 1,402,985

Source: RudyBalasko / iStock via Getty Images

32. Belgium
> Pct. foreign-born population: 17.30%
> Foreign-born population: 2,005,479
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 3.62%
> Refugee population: 72,570
> Total population 2020: 11,589,616

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31. Ireland
> Pct. foreign-born population: 17.64%
> Foreign-born population: 871,256
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 1.80%
> Refugee population: 15,680
> Total population 2020: 4,937,796

Source: mtcurado / iStock via Getty Images

30. Gabon
> Pct. foreign-born population: 18.72%
> Foreign-born population: 416,651
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 0.13%
> Refugee population: 537
> Total population 2020: 2,225,728

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29. Germany
> Pct. foreign-born population: 18.81%
> Foreign-born population: 15,762,457
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 9.24%
> Refugee population: 1,455,947
> Total population 2020: 83,783,945

28. Iceland
> Pct. foreign-born population: 19.17%
> Foreign-born population: 65,424
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 2.02%
> Refugee population: 1,323
> Total population 2020: 341,250

27. Austria
> Pct. foreign-born population: 19.30%
> Foreign-born population: 1,738,183
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 9.36%
> Refugee population: 162,680
> Total population 2020: 9,006,400

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Source: scanrail / iStock via Getty Images

26. Sweden
> Pct. foreign-born population: 19.84%
> Foreign-born population: 2,003,908
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 14.07%
> Refugee population: 281,869
> Total population 2020: 10,099,270

Source: cosmopol / iStock via Getty Images

25. Kazakhstan
> Pct. foreign-born population: 19.88%
> Foreign-born population: 3,732,073
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 0.02%
> Refugee population: 742
> Total population 2020: 18,776,707

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24. Nauru
> Pct. foreign-born population: 20.32%
> Foreign-born population: 2,201
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 53.57%
> Refugee population: 1,179
> Total population 2020: 10,834

23. Canada
> Pct. foreign-born population: 21.33%
> Foreign-born population: 8,049,323
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 2.47%
> Refugee population: 198,772
> Total population 2020: 37,742,157

Source: John Theodor / iStock via Getty Images

22. Israel
> Pct. foreign-born population: 22.57%
> Foreign-born population: 1,953,575
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 2.80%
> Refugee population: 54,611
> Total population 2020: 8,655,541

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21. Lebanon
> Pct. foreign-born population: 25.09%
> Foreign-born population: 1,712,762
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 81.99%
> Refugee population: 1,404,312
> Total population 2020: 6,825,442

Source: mtcurado / iStock via Getty Images

20. Brunei Darussalam
> Pct. foreign-born population: 25.59%
> Foreign-born population: 111,959
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: N/A
> Refugee population: N/A
> Total population 2020: 437,483

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Source: javarman3 / iStock via Getty Images

19. Malta
> Pct. foreign-born population: 25.99%
> Foreign-born population: 114,760
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 10.98%
> Refugee population: 12,601
> Total population 2020: 441,539

Source: Norimoto / iStock via Getty Images

18. Palau
> Pct. foreign-born population: 28.12%
> Foreign-born population: 5,088
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: N/A
> Refugee population: N/A
> Total population 2020: 18,092

17. New Zealand
> Pct. foreign-born population: 28.65%
> Foreign-born population: 1,381,724
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 0.24%
> Refugee population: 3,326
> Total population 2020: 4,822,233

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Source: StockByM / iStock via Getty Images

16. Switzerland
> Pct. foreign-born population: 28.79%
> Foreign-born population: 2,491,249
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 4.87%
> Refugee population: 121,368
> Total population 2020: 8,654,618

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock via Getty Images

15. Antigua and Barbuda
> Pct. foreign-born population: 30.01%
> Foreign-born population: 29,386
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: N/A
> Refugee population: N/A
> Total population 2020: 97,928

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Source: Mlenny / E+ via Getty Images

14. Australia
> Pct. foreign-born population: 30.14%
> Foreign-born population: 7,685,860
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 2.01%
> Refugee population: 154,129
> Total population 2020: 25,499,881

13. Jordan
> Pct. foreign-born population: 33.89%
> Foreign-born population: 3,457,691
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 87.27%
> Refugee population: 3,017,401
> Total population 2020: 10,203,140

Source: Marina113 / iStock via Getty Images

12. Curaçao
> Pct. foreign-born population: 34.86%
> Foreign-born population: 57,210
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 28.99%
> Refugee population: 16,585
> Total population 2020: 164,100

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Source: swisshippo / iStock via Getty Images

11. Saudi Arabia
> Pct. foreign-born population: 38.65%
> Foreign-born population: 13,454,842
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 0.02%
> Refugee population: 2,651
> Total population 2020: 34,813,867

Source: tropicalpixsingapore / iStock via Getty Images

10. Singapore
> Pct. foreign-born population: 43.14%
> Foreign-born population: 2,523,648
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: N/A
> Refugee population: N/A
> Total population 2020: 5,850,343

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9. Oman
> Pct. foreign-born population: 46.47%
> Foreign-born population: 2,372,836
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 0.02%
> Refugee population: 563
> Total population 2020: 5,106,622

Source: querbeet / iStock via Getty Images

8. Luxembourg
> Pct. foreign-born population: 47.62%
> Foreign-born population: 298,062
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 1.46%
> Refugee population: 4,357
> Total population 2020: 625,976

7. Bahrain
> Pct. foreign-born population: 55.01%
> Foreign-born population: 936,094
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 0.03%
> Refugee population: 312
> Total population 2020: 1,701,583

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Source: gbarm / iStock via Getty Images

6. Andorra
> Pct. foreign-born population: 58.98%
> Foreign-born population: 45,574
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: N/A
> Refugee population: N/A
> Total population 2020: 77,265

Source: Garsya / iStock via Getty Images

5. Monaco
> Pct. foreign-born population: 67.78%
> Foreign-born population: 26,601
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 0.08%
> Refugee population: 22
> Total population 2020: 39,244

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Source: RossHelen / iStock via Getty Images

4. Liechtenstein
> Pct. foreign-born population: 67.85%
> Foreign-born population: 25,877
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 0.63%
> Refugee population: 162
> Total population 2020: 38,137

Source: Lukas Bischoff / iStock via Getty Images

3. Kuwait
> Pct. foreign-born population: 72.83%
> Foreign-born population: 3,110,159
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 0.06%
> Refugee population: 1,765
> Total population 2020: 4,270,563

Source: SHansche / iStock via Getty Images

2. Qatar
> Pct. foreign-born population: 77.27%
> Foreign-born population: 2,226,192
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 0.01%
> Refugee population: 303
> Total population 2020: 2,881,060

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Source: JandaliPhoto / iStock via Getty Images

1. United Arab Emirates
> Pct. foreign-born population: 88.13%
> Foreign-born population: 8,716,332
> Refugees as percent of foreign-born pop.: 0.10%
> Refugee population: 8,517
> Total population 2020: 9,890,400

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