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Economic migration

City Lights


Land of opportunity
Economic migration is when people migrate to another country for economic benefits -for work and money.

It is not confined to poor countries - inhabitants of rich countries also migrate for economic reasons to other countries. Traditionally and historically, the USA has been hotspot of economic migrants since it is seen as the ‘land of opportunity’.

Thousands of people from all across the world, including Britain, try to move to the USA for a better life. For example a lecturer at an Ivy League University still earns more than someone at a top university in the UK.


Green Card
Thousands of people try to enter America through both legal and illegal routes. To enter the USA legally, you need to apply for a visa and, for permanent residence, a Green Card. This then entitles people to apply for citizenship.

In certain parts of the world, people can also apply for Green Cards through the Green Card lottery system. There are 50,000 Green Cards on offer but they are only offered to those who have completed high school or to those who have worked in a job which needs two years training in the US.

Statue of Liberty

Many economic migrants to the USA come from Latin America and the Caribbean. About 150,000 Mexicans enter illegally each year, resulting in 3 to 4 million illegal Mexicans in the USA. They arrive in dangerous conditions such as hidden in the backs of lorries under legal produce.

Many are willing to risk their lives crossing dangerous water in leaky boats or running the risk of immediate arrest as they burrow under barbed wire marking the USA – Mexican border. They are seeking to escape crippling poverty and hope that the American Dream will come true for them.

behind the wire

…versus reality?
Many economic migrants find the reality is very different from their dreams. Some people experience hostility from their new countrymen and feel that they are treated as second class citizens.

Many immigrants work in low paid jobs that no one else want to do. Also there is little protection from unscrupulous employers who take advantage of these illegal workers, in the terms and conditions they offer.

As a result, many economic immigrants live in appalling conditions and again find themselves in the poverty trap they sought to leave behind.



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