Home / Population and society / Articles / How many people have received a US green card?

Green cards, officially known as Permanent Resident Cards, indicate a foreign-born person’s lawful permanent residency status in the US.

In 2022, the US accepted 1.02 million green card applications, a 37.6% increase from 2021. As of January 2023, there were 12.7 million lawful permanent residents living in the US.

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Since 1820, this process has granted permanent residence status to 88,455,881 people. Today, around 14% of the US population is foreign-born.

What is a green card?

Green cards are one of the most common ways for people to immigrate to the US. They grant people lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, allowing them to live and work in the country, own property, get financial aid for education, and join the Armed forces — paving the way to full citizenship.[1]

How have green card admittances changed over time?

Official immigration tracking in the United States began in 1820 with the passage of the Steerage Act of 1819, requiring captains of any ship arriving in the country to submit a passenger manifest.

During the 19th century, about 90% of new lawful residents came from Europe, predominantly from Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and Russia.[2]

During this era, Ellis Island became the nation’s premier federal immigration station. Opening on January 1, 1892, and in operation until 1954, Ellis Island processed over 12 million immigrant steamship passengers, roughly half of the total green card population admitted during that time.

Immigration peaked in the early 20th century with a wave of green card acceptances from people of Italian, Russian[3], Canadian, and Caribbean origin.

Between 1900 and 1914, at an average of 1,013 new LPRs being admitted each year per 100,000 US citizens.[4]

From 1915–1919 and 1931–1945, US immigration rates were low, likely influenced by American Isolationism during World War I, World War II, and the Great Depression.

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After World War II, immigration began gradually rising, until another peak started in 1989 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, bringing an influx of immigrants of Russian and Eastern European origin.

In the past quarter-century, green card recipients in the US have hailed from an array of countries, predominantly Mexico and other Latin American nations, China, India, and the Philippines.

The last decade alone has accounted for 11.3% of all lawful permanent residents since 1820, with 9.96 million new people obtaining LPR status.

In 2022, the US admitted approximately 306 LPRs for every 100,000 people, slightly below the historical average of 329 annual recipients per 100,000 US residents from 1900 to 2022.

How many green card recipients are new arrivals?

Between 1986 and 2022, 44.4% of green card acceptances, or just over 16 million people, were new arrivals to the US, meaning the majority of green card recipients had already lived in the country for some time.

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During this period, 20 million green card applicants already residing in the US became LPRs through an adjustment of status.

Which countries are the largest sources of green card recipients?

Since the US began tracking lawful permanent residents in 1820, people from Mexico have been the largest demographic of green card admittances: Over 9.4 million people, or 10.7% of total arrivals. Behind them are Germany[5] (8.3%), the United Kingdom[6] (6.3%), Italy (6.2%), and Canada[7] (5.6%).

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Of the nearly 10 million green card recipients over the last decade, 14.4% came from Mexico, followed by India (7.2%), China (6.6%), Cuba (4.6%), and the Dominican Republic (4.6%).

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Green card admittances fell for most countries during the COVID-19 pandemic but appear to be returning to pre-pandemic levels, according to available data.

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How do you get a green card?

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1952 outlines several paths to obtain a green card. The most commonly admitted applicants have family members currently in the US, are US citizens, and are at least 21 years old.[8]

Other admission categories include employment, asylum seekers, refugees, and human trafficking and abuse victims.

What is the green card lottery?

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, also known as the green card lottery, makes immigrant visas available to citizens of countries with low immigration rates. The program began in 1995, and offers a maximum of 55,000 visas each fiscal year. Eligibility criteria require citizenship in a low-immigration country and either a high school diploma (or equivalent) or relevant work experience.

Eligibility requirements include being a citizen of countries with low immigration rates, and either having graduated from high school or its equivalent or having qualifying work experience.

Where does this data come from?

The source of this data is the Department of Homeland Security's Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, a publication that compiles annual data on immigration by country and year, among other useful details. Additional information on green card processes comes from US Citizen and Immigration Services.

Read more about immigration and border security in the US, including how many asylum seekers and refugees are coming to the US, and get the latest data by signing up for our weekly newsletter.

Year of Immigration Statistics 2022
Last updated
November 22, 2023
Lawful Permanent Residents Annual Flow Report
Last updated
November 17, 2023
Diversity Visa Lottery
Last updated
November 7, 2023

Green cards issued from January 1977 to August 1989 do not have expiration dates.


Estimates apply to 19th century boundaries for each country.


Finland included in Russia from 1899 to 1919.


US population data before 1900 is sparse, making it difficult to ascertain the ratio of green card arrivals to US citizens at the time.


Part of Poland was included in Germany from 1899 to 1919.


United Kingdom refers to England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland since 1925.


Includes British North America and Canadian provinces. Land arrivals not completely enumerated until 1908. Data is unavailable from 1886 to 1893.


Green card holders can sponsor certain family members to immigrate to the United States as permanent residents, including their spouses and child.