So you're ready to leave your country and start a new life somewhere, but you're not sure which destination is right for you. We picked the top ten most welcoming countries for immigrants, from the places with booming economies to the spots with the most progressive immigration policies and immigrant support services. Don't just throw a dart at a map or follow your relatives: consider what your priorities will be and pick the country that's right for you.
Updated August 26, 2015
Boa Viagem [Public Domain]
Brazil is one of the biggest, most populous, and most diverse countries on earth. It also has a roaring economy and one of the biggest skill deficits in the world. Brazil wants to recruit as many as 6 million immigrants in the coming years according to the Miami Herald, so start learning Portuguese. Sure there are some harsh traffic problems in the biggest cities, and the murder rate is high at 25.2 per 100,000 inhabitants according to the UN, but rates have been declining and much of the crime occurs in the infamous favelas or shanty towns in the big urban centres. Literacy rates have soared from around 75% to 90% in the last few decades and competition for a spot at top-notch and tuition-free public universities is fierce. Top marginal personal tax rates run at a reasonable 27.5%, but kick in at Reais 53,500, a relatively low level. Brazil may be finally starting to live up to its national motto: Ordem e Progresso, or Order and Progress, which is emblazoned on the Brazilian Flag. And while Brazilians love their beautiful game, unless getting pounded by Germany in the 2014 World Cup Semi Final, their national sport is arguably Capoeira: a mix of martial arts and dance that comes from the lower classes and used to get you tortured by the authorities if they caught you practicing it. Safe to say those days are long gone. Nowadays, Brazil is a giant of a nation that is increasingly asserting itself on the world stage.
The Portuguese still make up the largest percent of foreign-born Brazilians, with the Japanese a distant second. Most people in Brazil are Brazilian-born.
Many immigrants to Brazil are actually just foreign-born Brazilians moving back from the neighbouring countries where their parents moved. Paraguay and Argentina are the most common sources of both these returning Brazilians and new immigrants. But people are also coming from Bolivia and Uruguay.
Immigration to Brazil from 1990-2000 by Country of Origin (approximate)
|Country of Origin||%||country of origin||%||country of origin||%|
The largest source of recent immigrants from outside of South America is the United States, followed by Japan, Portual, Italy, France, Germany and China.
Brazil has always been multi-cultural, experiencing waves of immigration from all over the world, but the diversity of the current wave of immigrants means that it is likely you will find a community in which your native language is common.
Brazil does not have an official immigration policy or ministry. To learn more about immigrating to Brazil, visit the Ministry of Labour's website (Portuguese).
Israel is a rich, beautiful country on the Mediterranean that leaves its door open to people from countries all over the world, with one major caveat: you have to be Jewish. If you aren't, you likely need not consider moving to Israel, but if you're one of the 7 million Jews who don't live there yet and you're comfortable with some unfriendly neighbours, take advantage of your right to return and get ready to soak up the rays.
While the neighbourhood is not a very friendly one, Israel itself is a modern transparent democracy, albeit one based on the Jewish faith. They ranked 37th in Transparency International’s world rankings, way ahead of Brazil (69th) but behind most of Europe and North America. Aside from the occasional but tragic political violence, Israel is a very safe country with a crime rate below that of Norway at 1.8 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. Schools are divided into several tracks: State, State-Religious, Independent, and Arab. Their first rate state universities charge tuition rates around US$2,500 for an undergrad degree and around US$3,000 for a master’s degree. Private Universities, like Tel Aviv University, charge closer to North American tuition levels. The top marginal rate for personal taxes is an astonishing 50% but it kicks in at the equivalent of US$205,000. Israel has no National Motto and there is no official sport.
About 1/3 of recent immigrants to Israel are coming from countries that made up the former USSR, particularly Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Surprisingly, about 1/5 of new immigrants are coming from Ethiopia. France and the United States are the two other large sources of new Jewish immigrants.
As for non-Jewish immigrants, who might be legally eligible to eventually become citizens, but for all intents and purposes are essentially denied such rights, Thailand is the biggest source, at nearly 10%. The former USSR is, again, another large source, as well as the Philippines.
Haifa Archives [Public Domain]
Immigrants to Israel by Country of Origin, 2006 (approximate)
|country of origin||%||country of origin||%||country of origin||%|
|Former USSR (Europe)||25||Rest of Europe||12||Rest of Asia||2|
|Ethiopia||20||Former USSR (Asia)||10||Rest of Africa||1|
|France||15||United States||10||Rest of the World||5|
Scandinavia is the most peaceful, stable, safe (and, yeah, cold) region on earth, and Norway consistently tops lists of equality, happiness, and standard of living. There's the fjords. The cool Viking heritage. The rehabilitative justice system. The seed bunker. The massive, responsibly-invested oil wealth. Come for the cross-country skiing, stay for the herring!
It’s no surprise that Norway comes in 5th out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s rankings but what is a little surprising is their murder rate of 2.2 per 100,000. That’s more than double New Zealand’s and ahead of Canada and Australia, as well as Israel. Their Royal Motto is Everything for Norway and they seem to live up to it: free tuition in their excellent public universities, day care, a social welfare net and everything you would expect from a Scandinavian kingdom with a huge sovereign wealth fund, fed by all that offshore oil. Of course, all those freebies also come from personal taxes; the top marginal rate is just behind Israel at 47.2%. It kicks in at the equivalent of US$ 113,000. Makes you want to strap a pair of cross country skis and flee into the great outdoors as most Norwegians do when practicing their national sport.
Unsurprisingly , most immigrants to Norway have come from western and northern Europe, with Poland the source of the largest group. Immigrants also come from all over Asia, with a large portion of those coming from Turkey.
Total Immigrants in Norway as of 2013 by Region of Origin (%age of total population)
|Region of origin||%||region of origin||%||region of origin||%|
|Asia||4.6||Scandanavia||1.4||South and Central America||.4|
|Eastern Europe||2.9||Western Europe||1.4||North America||.2|
|Africa||1.8||Rest of Europe||1.3||Oceania||>.1|
To immigrate to Norway, contact the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration.
You don't have to be a Hobbit or an Elf to live here, but it helps. If you value natural beauty and a relaxed pace of life, New Zealand would make a great immigration destination. The small island nation boasts one of the best work / life balances in the world, with the emphasis very heavily on the “life” side of the equation. Its proximity to Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands and its well-respected and strong Maori indigenous culture makes New Zealand a diverse and friendly country. If you prefer metropolitan bustle, stay away, but if you're ready to slow down and have the mountains and greenery blow your mind, come on over.
Despite the fact that you don’t want to find out how tough Kiwis are in a crowded pub near closing time, or at any time really, the island nation is practically Scandinavian in its democratic openness and transparency. It ranks 2nd in Transparency International rankings and it’s murder rate of 0.9 per 100,000 inhabitants is one of the lowest in the world, less than in Australia or Canada. Unfortunately, international students at the university level pay far higher tuition than locals do. For example at the University of Auckland a Bachelor of Science will cost you NZ$30,562 or US$23,400 per year if you are an international student, while locals pay NZ$6,000 or US$4,500. The top marginal tax rate for personal taxes is a solid 33% and kicks in at NZ$70,001 or about US$53,500. So if you don’t like paying taxes but love the outdoors maybe Alaska is for you. New Zealand’s National Motto used to be, Onward, but was dropped during a redesign of their Coat of Arms during the ‘50s. As for their national sport, the men in black are all about Rugby, and New Zealand’s passion for the game is perhaps unlike anywhere else on the planet.
Predictably, over a third of immigrants to New Zealand come from the British Isles. Japan and Korea are the next biggest source of immigration. New Zealand also gets a substantial proportion of its immigrants from the Pacific Islands. South Africa is also a big source. And Indonesia and the rest of southeast Asia provide most of the rest.
Immigrants in New Zealand by region of origin (approximate)
|region of origin||%||region of origin||%||region of origin||%|
|British Isles||33||South Africa||9||Southeast Asia||5|
|Northern Asia||18||South Asia||9||North America||4|
|Pacific Islands||12||Rest of Europe||6||Other||4|
To immigrate to New Zealand contact the New Zealand Immigration Service.
With the world's highest proportion of foreign-born residents, the oil and money-drenched Emirates is a magnet for international business. This is the twenty-first century Wild West, and in Dubai and Abu Dhabi they're anxious for you to bring your elbow grease and get rich(er) quick ideas. It's not all man-made islands and gleaming skyscrapers – income inequality can be shocking and low-skill immigrant labourers have a notoriously tough time. But if you're in the petro business or if you're a skilled professional and you want to be part of the action in the Middle East, consider the Gulf.
The UAE is full of surprises. Did you know they´re way ahead of Israel on Transparency International’s ranking, coming in at a very respectable 25th out of 175 nations? Its murder rate of 2.6 per 100,000 inhabitants is about half the USA’s rate. There are a large number of universities, many that are affiliated with Western institutions and tuition rates for postgrad programs are reasonable: an MBA costs US$3,000 at the University of Dubai, for example. And the UAE charges no personal income tax. The number zero is an Arab invention after all. Nice. Very nice. The national motto is: Allah, then the Homeland, then the President. Flag burning in front of an emirate’s palace is not recommended in other words. And when you’re sick of watching your fav team on satellite TV, you can check out their national pastime: Camel Racing! At 15 tracks located around the UAE.
Dubai [Public Domain]
Unlike most of the countries on this list, most people move to Dubai to work temporarily, not to settle.
The 5 biggest sources of foreign-born residents of the United Arab Emirates as of 2013:
|Country of origin||Population|
The UAE is a major destination for foreign workers because of the high wages but it is also a major destination for foreign workers because it is rather difficult to become a citizen.
Most foreign workers live in the UAE for a while, save money, and then emigrate somewhere else.
Immigration is handled by the different emirates. See here for the different departments and their contact information.
US Capitol [Public Domain]
Don't be put off by the cowboys and the zealots: America is still the number one immigration destination in the world, with over one-fifth of all global immigrants heading there annually, according to a recent US census study. The downside to that is competition: with all of those other strivers chasing the dream, you might find yourself struggling to get a foothold. And in spite of generally weak employment possibilities and stalled immigration reform, the US is still one of the most diverse countries on earth and one of the best places to come if you're an engineer or if you're in the tech industry. Just don't try entering illegally and stay out of the South.
Yes, crime rates are higher than in countries like Canada or Australia: the USA has a murder rate of 4.7 per 100,000 inhabitants and ranks second last in our top 10 list on the Numbeo crime index, behind Brazil and coming in at 50.01. A word of caution however. The Numbeo index is a user-generated survey and not sound statistically. And it also helps to realize that the USA is even bigger and far more diverse than say, Brazil. Guess which city is safer: Dallas or Baltimore? Wrong. It’s Dallas by a long shot. It has half Baltimore’s murder rate and less than a fourth Detroit’s. And neighbouring Forth Worth is one of America’s safer cities, with less than half Minneapolis’ crime rate. Detroit and St. Louis are the worst in terms of violent crime. And the safest city in the USA? Plano, Texas according to recent statistics.
Barn in the Grand Tetons [Public Domain]
What to say about education? America has an overwhelming proportion of the world’s top universities which also happen to be the most expensive. It has an overwhelmingly diverse amount of options to choose from when deciding where to study. It also has trouble, like many developed nations, getting some of its high school grads to actually read and write, especially in lower income areas. The gaps are huge between the top achievers and those that struggle to stay in school. America has an incredibly complex tax system that begs for expert advice, or good tax software, to help you navigate it. Right now top marginal rates for personal income tax are high at 39.6%, but they kick in at fairly high levels: US$228,000 per individual and US$457,600 per married couple. In the mid-fifties America’s Motto changed from E Pluribus Unum – which is Latin for Out of One, Many – to In God We Trust. The new official motto began to appear on paper currency notes in 1957. It had appeared on coins since around the Civil War and comes from the Star Spangled Banner’s lyrics. And America’s national pastime? It used to be Baseball, without any doubt. That’s changed in the last few decades and Football now bests Baseball for that honor. Some small mid-western towns where the local Basketball arena has more seats than the county’s total population, and is always filled for every game, might disagree.
To the surprise of no one, most immigrants to the US currently come from Mexico: over 9,000,000 of the foreign born population of the United States was born in Mexico, and that makes up the vast majority. China and the Philippines are next on the list, both providing over 1 million immigrants, nothing to compare to Mexico's. India and Vietnam have both provided about 1 million immigrants.
And the remaining countries in the Top 10 provided less than 1 million each.
Foreign Born Population by Country of Origin, 2010 (approximate)
|country of origin||population||country of origin||population|
To immigrate to the US, contact the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
This powerhouse city-state in Southeast Asia has liberal immigration laws, close to zero unemployment, and half of its population is foreign-born. With English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil spoken in its lively (and notoriously clean – remember the gum and spitting laws?) streets, migrants from Asia and India will feel especially at home here. Keep in mind that it's small – the country is just one big 700 square kilometre city at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, but it's also by far the richest diverse city in Asia with a centuries-long history of migration. You'd be honouring tradition by moving here.
As a gleaming, perfectly clean city-state you’d expect Singapore’s Transparency International ranking to be a little higher than the 7th place they earned, but that’s still impressive. Their murder rate per 100,000 inhabitants is an astonishingly low 0.2. Way less than most every other place on the planet. While they only spend 3% of GDP on education, they outperform most nations in the PISA test rankings coming in 2nd or 3rd. University tuition is not cheap but is reasonable compared to US tuition rates and is comparable to domestic tuition charged in Australian and Canadian universities. At the National University of Singapore, or NUS, the tuition for a pharmacy degree is the equivalent of US$12,500 per year for an international student. For a local, it’s about US$6,300. Personal tax rates are reasonable, with a top marginal rate of 20% kicking in at the equivalent of US$234,000. The national motto is Onward Singapore, which sounds a lot like the former New Zealand motto. And while Singapore has no official national sport, footy is very popular with a local league on the island that appeals to the diverse communities that make up the state of Singapore.
Most immigrants are from neighbouring Malaysia, whether they are citizens or permanent residents. China is the only other major source of immigrants to the country.
India and Indonesia are the only other countries which have been the source for over 100,000 people. After that, there is a sharp drop-off to the other countries that have provided immigrants to Singapore.
Country of Origin of Foreign Born Population of Singapore, 2010 (citizens and permanent residents)
|country of origin||population||country of origin||population|
To immigrate to Singapore contact the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.
Europe is going through some rocky economic times, and the trouble has led to widespread anti-immigrant sentiment drummed up and sustained by successful extreme right wing parties in countries from France to Hungary. Germany's economy is still strong, so immigrants are pouring in from across the continent and beyond. Come for the job at the modern, efficient manufacturing plant, stay for the schnitzel. And if you make it into an EU country and long for a different culture and climate, movement around the continent will be easy.
With a population now over 80 million and large scale immigration, it is practically a miracle that Germany has a murder rate that is lower than New Zealand, a laid back island far from the turmoil of Europe and the Americas. Germany’s murder rate comes in at 0.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. As for education, in the land that gave us Kindergarten, did you know that an increasing number of international students are heading to Germany to do their post-secondary studies? In English, not German. The public universities are tuition-free and as a German professor told the BBC a few years ago, “I wonder whether a Chinese student can understand us better than someone with a Yorkshire accent or some strange American accent.” At private universities you will pay tuition rates closer to those in the USA. Unfortunately someone has to pay for free universities and public health care and in Germany the top marginal rate for personal taxes is 45% and kicks in at Euros 250,700 which lately is about US$275,000. The unofficial national sport is soccer, or football, and they have compiled a very successful record over the years. As for national mottos, there is none in Germany. There used to be a few, let’s just say. The unofficial motto nowadays is apparently: Unity, Justice, and Freedom. And in an increasingly diverse nation, that’s pretty cool.
The reputation of Germany has having a lot of Turks is true, Turks make up a gigantic proportion of Germany's foreign born population: over 1/4. Europe is the source for most of the other immigrants to Germany.
And it's no surprise that most of the European countries which are a major source for German immigrants have experience some economic hardships lately.
Germany's Foreign Born Population (citizens and residents) by Country of Origin, 2010
|country of origin||population||country of origin||population|
|Poland||613,768||Bosnia and Herzegovina||252,262|
To immigrate to Germany contact the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.
Kangaroos! Koalas! Surfing! Plus one of the highest standards of living in the world, subsidized language lessons, employment support, and comprehensive health care services. All of that sunny beauty and optimism will cost you – Australia is one of the most expensive places to live in the world – but you'll get what you pay for. Yes, Australia has been in the news for its illegal immigration struggles, but if you stay on the right side of the law and avoid hopping into a smuggler's boat, you could be set for a great new life.
Australia is a good if not perfect place to do business, coming in at number 11 in Transparency International’s ranking. It has a low murder rate at 1.1 per 100,000 inhabitants which is less than Canada, way less than the USA, and only slightly higher than New Zealand’s rate. Their Numbeo crime index – a statistically dubious but interesting survey of their users’ view of crime in their home country – is a disappointing 42.16 which is third worst on our list. Within Australia, along the coast in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland, you will find the area with the highest crime rate. It’s Gold Coast territory that includes cities like Cairns, Hervey Bay, and Brisbane. The most dangerous city in Oz? Coff’s Harbour along the coast between Sydney and Brisbane with blueberry farms, fishing, and tourism as its main industries. It has been voted Australia’s most livable climate. And it has the highest crime rate in the country.
Australia places a lot of emphasis on the trades, apprenticeships, and technical education, which is a good thing seeing tuition at the country’s universities is not cheap for international students. Undergrad programs can run up to US$25,000 a year in tuition fees. Like Germany, Australia has a top marginal tax rate of 45% and it kicks in at AU$180,001 or US$140,500. Australia’s national sport is arguably Australian Rules Football: Gaelic Football played with a Rugby ball on a converted Cricket Pitch with way too many goalposts. As for their national motto it is Advance Australia, which comes from their national anthem Advance Australia Fair, which itself has been criticized as being so boring as to cause Aussies to sing themselves to sleep. Most Australians, however, are as proud of their anthem as they are of their diverse and generous country.
After all these years, the biggest source of Australia's immigrants is still the United Kingdom. That has a lot to do with Australian immigration policy: untli 1973 a British subject could become an Australian just by living there for a while. This was part of the so-called "White Australia" policy, which only allowed European and British Commonwealth immgirants. Since then Australia has been open to people from all over the world but the UK and New Zealand are still the two biggest sources. China, Italy and India are the only other countries to have contributed at least 200,000 immigrants to Australia's current population.
Foreign-born Population of Australia by Country of Origin, 2010 (citizens and permanent residents)
|country of origin||population||country of origin||pouplation|
To immigrate to Australia contact the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
Spray River [Public Domain]
We might be a little biased, but we think Canada is the most immigration-friendly country in the world. We've got plenty of space, we're already ethnically diverse (including two of the six most multicultural cities on earth, Vancouver and Toronto), and we survived the global recession relatively unscathed. Yes, it can get pretty cold, and you'll probably want to avoid rural areas at first, but Canada has great social services and a high standard of living. Check out our lists of top Canadian cities to immigrate to, study in, and places to avoid.
Canada finds itself near its commonwealth cousin Australia on many lists. For example, Canada ranks 10th on Transparency International’s rankings just ahead of Oz, and Canada’s murder rate of 1.6 per 100,000 inhabitants is much closer to Australia’s than to America’s. And our Numbeo crime index comes in at 37.46 which is slightly better than Oz’s 42.16. In terms of crime in major Canadian cities, Toronto is one of the safest in the country, behind Quebec City, Guelph, and Barrie only. At the other end of the scale, booming Regina and Saskatoon are the two most dangerous cities right now in Canada, with Kelowna, Vancouver, Edmonton, Brantford, and Winnipeg all above the national average in terms of crime.
Canada’s education system is funded and managed by all three levels of government: federal, provincial, and local. University tuition for international students is high, often much higher than the rates locals get charged. The top marginal tax rate is 29% for personal income taxes and it kicks in at C$135,055 or US$108,250 at current exchange rates.
As for national sports, Canada has two. One for winter: Ice Hockey to no one’s surprise. And one for summer: Lacrosse, a sport that originated with the First Nations and was initially picked up by European colonists in the 1840s. The original game was called baggataway and involved hundreds of participants in a violent contest. The modern game is played on artificial turf laid down off season in hockey rinks, and outdoors, and although not nearly as violent as the original, it can still get plenty rough. Canada’s national motto is A Mari Usque ad Mare, or From Sea to Sea, and first appeared on Canada’s redesigned coat of arms in 1921. A fitting motto for a geographically enormous and culturally open country that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific and is lapped by the Arctic Ocean as well.
Just like Australia, most of Canada's foreign born population is from the United Kingdom, though most of these people immigrated a fairly long time. In fact, China has ecipsed the UK as the source of Canada's largest number of immigrants, if you include Hong Kong in the number. The rest of Canada's immigrants come from all over the world.
Foreign-born Population of Canada by Country of Origin, 2010
|country of origin||population||country of origin||population|
|United Kingdom||674,746||United States||291,652|
|Country||Murder Rate||Top Personal
Income Tax Rate
|Tuition Rates||National Sport
|Brazil||25.2 per 100,000||27.5%||Free at State Universities||Capoeira||Order and Progress|
|Israel||1.8 per 100,000||50%||US$3,000 for MBA at State Universities||None||None|
|Norway||2.2 per 100,000||47.2%||Free||Cross-Country Skiing||Everything for Norway|
|0.9 per 100,000||33%||US$23,400 for BSc||Rugby Union||None|
|2.6 per 100,000||39.6%||US$3,000 for MBA||Camel Racing||Allah,
then the Homeland,
then the President
|USA||4.7 per 100,000||39.6%||US$19,339 is the average tuition
across all post-secondary institutions
in the USA
|Baseball and Football||In God We Trust|
|Singapore||0.2 per 100,000||20%||US$35,000 for Medicine||None||Onward Singapore|
|Germany||0.8 per 100,000||45%||Free at State Universities||Football (Soccer)||None|
|Australia||1.1 per 100,000||45%||US$25,000||Australian Rules Football||Advance Australia|
|Canada||1.6 per 100,000||29 %||US$11,000 to US$25,000||Ice Hockey and Lacrosse||From Sea to Sea|
More about Canada
|Check out our Free Tool which lets you see how you qualify for Canada's various immigration programs. (Please note that this is a large program and will take a few minutes to load. It contains information regarding all Canadian immigration programs and let's you pick your level of experience, education and any other qualifying factors.)|
Much of the data in this article comes from the World Bank's data, by way of the absolutely incredible PeopleMov.in visiualization of migration trends.
Foreign Policy put out a list in 2010 that listed the best countries to immigrate to as:
- New Zealand
For 2013, the United Nations ranks the Top 10 most popular countries to immigrate to as
- The United States: 45.8 million
- Russia: 11 million
- Germany: 9.8 million
- Saudi Arabia: 9.1 million
- United Arab Emirates: 7.8 million
- United Kingdom: 7.8 million
- France: 7.4 million
- Canada: 7.3 million
- Austria: 6.5 million
- Spain: 6.5 million
This list includes foreign-born citizens, permanent residents, temporary workers and students, and refugees.
Like our list? Disagree? What do you think is the best place to immigrate to? Let us know.
And check out our list of the worst countries to immigrate to.
Immigration to the US, 1820-2007
US and European Perspectives on Immigration (2010)
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