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International Immigration and Foreign-Born Population


About immigration

Population moving to Minnesota from other countries has reached historically high numbers in recent years, sparking keen interest in these populations.

Minnesota’s State Demographic Center has produced estimates for some of the largest of these population. Additional information on international immigrants and foreign-born population in the state is available from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics, MN Department of Education, MN Department of Health. None of these sources gives a complete picture of international immigration in Minnesota. Estimates of these population rely on a synthesis of many sources of data and necessarily have fairly large confidence intervals.

Links to Immigration Data

Working with Immigrant Data

The Office of Immigration Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, collects and publishes data on legal immigrants by country of birth. This data is available in a consistent format beginning with 1982. In addition, many immigrants come here from other states – secondary migration. Also, the Census Bureau estimates that about 30 percent of all legal immigrants decide to leave the U.S. and return to their home countries. Movement of immigrants makes estimating their numbers more difficult. The Office of Immigration Statistics also estimates the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S., but these estimates are not produced on an annual basis.

Most immigrant groups are comprised of both immigrants and native-born children. For populations who have been in the U.S. for long periods of time, the population includes native-born, some of whom may be third or even fourth generation Americans, recent arrivals and foreign-born people who have lived in the U.S. for many years.

Data on immigration comes from the U.S. Census, the Minnesota Department of Education, the Department of Homeland Security’s (formerly Immigration and Naturalization Services) Immigration Statistics, the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Policy changes, changes in immigration law and developments throughout the world have marked effects on the number of people moving to Minnesota from other countries.


  • Alien – any person not a citizen or national of the United States (from Yearbook of Immigration Statistics)
  • Asylee – an alien resident in the U.S. or at a port of entry who seeks the protection of the U.S. because of persecution or well-founded fear of persecution in his/her country of nationality (from Yearbook of Immigration Statistics).
  • Foreign born or foreign-born population - people who are not U.S. citizens at birth (from U.S. Census website).
  • Legal immigrant – an alien admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident (from Yearbook of Immigration Statistics).
  • Refugee – any person outside his/her country of nationality who is unable to return to that country because of persecution or well-founded fear of persecution (from Yearbook of Immigration Statistics).
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