INS Reports FY 1997 Immigration Totals

January 22, 1999

INS Announces Legal Immigration Figures for Fiscal Year 1997

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) today announced that 798,378 persons legally immigrated to the United States in Fiscal Year (FY) 1997. The major categories of immigrants were: family preferences (213,331), employment preferences (90,607), immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (322,440), and refugees/asylees (112,158).

The FY 1997 total of 798,378 is a 13 percent decrease from FY 1996's total of 915,900. However, this decrease is

The agency's application workload nearly doubled between 1994 and 1995 when Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act was implemented. This provision allowed illegal residents who were eligible for immigrant status to pay a penalty fee and apply with INS for adjustment of status in the United States, instead of acquiring a visa abroad from the Department of State. Application receipts continued to increase through FY 1997, and pending adjustment of status applications increased from 121,000 in FY 1994 to 699,000 by the end of FY 1997.

Also contributing to the decrease in admissions in FY 1997 are the carryover provisions of immigration law, which reduced the annual limit of immigration to the United States based on family relationships (family preference categories) by 27 percent from 311,819 in FY 1996 to 226,000 in FY 1997.

Release of the FY 1997 data was delayed as INS transitioned to an improved automated immigrant application processing system. FY 1997 data indicates that 380,718 new arrivals to the United States obtained immigrant visas abroad through the Department of State; and 417,660 who were already living in the United States became legal immigrants by applying for adjustment of status with INS.

There was little change in the demographic characteristics of legal immigrants between FY 1996 and FY 1997. However, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens increased both in number (from 302,090 to 322,440) and as a proportion of all immigrants (from 33 percent to 40 percent).

The largest single source country for U.S. immigrants in FY 1997 was Mexico, which accounted for 18 percent of all immigrants admitted for the fiscal year. As a result, North America was the largest geographic source with 39 percent, followed by 33 percent from Asia and 15 percent from Europe. The top states of intended residence for new immigrants in FY 1997 were California, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey and Illinois, as has been the case since 1971.

- INS -

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 99012240.