Immigrants in Virginia

October 17, 2017

Virginia has a sizeable immigrant community, making up more than 12 percent of the state’s total population. One in six Virginia workers is an immigrant, while foreign-born entrepreneurs account for more than a fifth of the state’s self-employed business owners. Across sectors, the Virginia economy benefits from the participation of immigrants, who represent more than a fifth of Virginians working in the computer and math sciences, for example. As workers, business owners, taxpayers, and neighbors, immigrants are an integral part of Virginia’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

One in eight Virginia residents is an immigrant, while 1 in 11 is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent.

  • In 2015, 1 million immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 12.2 percent of the state’s population.
  • Virginia was home to 494,795 women, 454,726 men, and 69,105 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were El Salvador (10.6 percent of immigrants), India (8.1 percent), Korea (5.4 percent), Vietnam (5.2 percent), and Mexico (5.2 percent).
  • In 2016, 773,852 people in Virginia (9.4 percent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

Over half of all immigrants in Virginia are naturalized U.S. citizens.

  • 519,086 immigrants (51 percent) had naturalized as of 2015, and 168,564 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2015.
  • More than four in five immigrants (81.7 percent) reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

The greatest shares of immigrants in Virginia are college-educated.

  • Two-fifths of adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2015, while one-fifth had less than a high school diploma. 

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

40.5

36.3

Some college

19.9

28.7

High school diploma only

20.4

25.4

Less than a high-school diploma

19.2

9.6

More than 140,000 U.S. citizens in Virginia live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • 300,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 28 percent of the immigrant population and 3.5 percent of the total state population in 2014.
  • 326,492 people in Virginia, including 113,072 born in the United States, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, 5 percent of children in the state were U.S.-citizens living with at least one undocumented family member (98,768 children in total).

Over 10,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients live in Virginia.

  • In 2016, 47 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in Virginia, or 13,967 people, had applied for DACA.
  • An additional 6,000 residents of the state satisfied all but the educational requirements for DACA, and another 4,000 would be eligible as they grew older.

One in six workers in Virginia is an immigrant, together making up a vital part of the state’s labor force across industries.

  • 689,661 immigrant workers comprised 16 percent of the labor force in 2015.
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services

89,022

Accommodation and Food Services

84,071

Retail Trade

82,410

Health Care and Social Assistance

81,905

Construction

77,417

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • The largest shares of immigrant workers were in the following industries:

Industry

Immigrant Share (%)
(of all industry workers)

Construction

24.1

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

21.5

Accommodation and Food Services

20.3

Other Services (except Public Administration)

20.1

Transportation and Warehousing

17.7

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

Immigrants are an integral part of the Virginia workforce in a range of occupations.

  • In 2015, immigrant workers were most numerous in the following occupation groups:

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Management

77,385

Sales and Related

71,941

Office and Administrative Support

68,489

Construction and Extraction

64,760

Food Preparation and Serving Related

59,380

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • The largest shares of immigrant workers were in the following occupation groups:

Occupation Category

Immigrant Share (%)
(of all workers in occupation)

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

28.4

Construction and Extraction

25.1

Computer and Mathematical Sciences

23.6

Personal Care and Service

20.2

Food Preparation and Serving Related

19.0

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • Undocumented immigrants comprised 5 percent of the state’s workforce in 2014.

Immigrants in Virginia have contributed billions of dollars in taxes.

As consumers, immigrants add tens of billions of dollars to Virginia’s economy.

  • Virginians in immigrant-led households had $27.1 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2014.

A fifth of self-employed Virginia business owners are immigrants.

  • 78,180 immigrant business owners accounted for 20.8 percent of all self-employed Virginia residents in 2015 and generated $2 billion in business income.
  • In 2015, immigrants accounted for 50.7 percent of business owners in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area (encompassing parts of Virginia and Maryland), 18.2 percent in the Richmond metro area, and 9.2 percent in the Virginia Beach/Norfolk/Newport News metro area (which spans Virginia and North Carolina).

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