Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 8,185,867
Population (2000 CB est.) 7,078,515
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 947,320
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 570,279
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 11.6 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 7.2%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 456,611
Share Naturalized (2012) 48.0 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 277,724
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 29,595
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 260,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $1,905,051,721
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 11,389,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of Virginia in 2012 was 8,185,867 residents.

Between 2000 (population 7,078,515) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 90,396 residents. That was an annual average change of 1.2 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 6,187,358) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 89,116 residents. The annual average rate of change was 1.4 percent compared to the national rate of change of 1.2 percent.

Foreign-Born Population

According to the Census Bureau the foreign-born population of Virginia was about 947,320 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 11.6 percent. The chart above shows the long-term change in the state's foreign-born population based on Census Bureau data.

Foreign-Born Change

Between 2000 and 2012 the Census Bureau estimate indicates an average annual rate of change in the foreign-born population of about 30,779 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 90,396  people. That is a 34.0  percent share of the state's population change (not including the children born in the United States to illegal aliens). The foreign-born population grew by 66.1 percent between 2000 and 2012.

Immigration also contributes to population growth through the U.S.-born children of immigrants. Nationally the share of births to the foreign-born is about double their share of the population. A 23.2 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 23,760 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 54,540 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 60.3 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 49.1 percent of Virginia's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 47.2 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in Virginia's immigrant population may be seen in data on the share of the population over five years of age that speaks a language other than English at home. Between 2000 and 2012, the share of non-English speakers changed from 11.1 percent to 15.5 percent. In 2000, 41.3 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 36.4 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 43.4 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 48.1 percent of those who spoke English less than very well.

The chart above shows the regional composition of the state's foreign-born population and how it has changed from between 2000 and 2012.


Census Bureau data in 2012 indicate that 456,611 residents of Virginia, or 48.0 percent of the foreign-born population in Virginia, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 232,767 residents, or 40.8 percent, in 2000.

Nationally, 40.3 percent of the foreign-born population was naturalized in 2000, and 45.8 percent in 2012.

Net International Migration (NIM)

Data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the Census Bureau estimated that between 2000 and 2012, the change in Virginia's population resulting from net international migration has been about 51,395 people. It was 30.4 percent of total change (not including the children born to the immigrants after their arrival in the United States). 1   The remainder was due to net domestic migration and natural change (births minus deaths).


  1. A negative percentage results when there was an overall population decrease. A percentage greater than 100 percent results when domestic migration is negative, i.e, a net loss from interstate migration.

Immigrant Admissions

Recent "green card" recipients who intend to reside in Virginia were 876 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 2,965 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 28,937 persons. Immigrant admissions data are from the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.

The chart above shows recent immigrant admissions and the cumulative amount of immigrant admissions since FY'65. The cumulative total of immigrant admissions to Virginia between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 724,801 persons.

The data for fiscal years 1989-91 were artificially raised by the inclusion of former illegal aliens who were amnestied in 1986. According to INS data (1991) the number of amnesty applicants from Virginia was 19,416 (10,190 pre-1982 residents and 9,226 agricultural workers). These data were published by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and reported in "Report on the Legalized Alien Population," March 1992.

Admissions by Nationality: FY'96 - FY'05

The table below furnishes INS data by nationality on the immigrants who were admitted for residence in Virginia between 1996 and 2005.

The INS data are for nationals of the countries with the largest number of immigrants admitted or adjusted to legal residence each year since 1996. The absence of data means that the total number of admissions to the United States by nationals of that country was not enough to merit detailed reporting in that year.

The Department of Homeland Security website has detailed data on immigrant admissions since FY'03 by year and by source country and intended state of residence. (See then select the desired year, click Legal Permanent Residents, data and then select "supplemental table 1."

Chart of Immigrant Admission by Fiscal Year


Virginia has received 29,595 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 1,341 refugees in fiscal year 2012. The chart above shows the annual admissions over the last ten years and the cumulative total of those admissions using data complied by the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. government program that distributes new refugees among the states is the only immigration program that provides state governments the opportunity to participate in deciding how many newcomers will come to that state each year.

Illegal Aliens

Virginia Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $882.70 46.3%
LEP educ. $401.70 21.1%
Medicaid+ $205.00 10.8%
SCHIP $60.40 3.2%
Justice $132.60 7.0%
Welfare+ $79.80 4.2%
General $142.90 7.5%
Total $1,905.10  
Tax receipts $116.10  
Net Cost $1,789.00  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of Virginia as of 2010 was about 260,000 persons. This is part of an overall estimate of the U.S. illegal alien population of about 11,900,000 persons.

DHS Estimate - The current estimate by DHS of the illegal alien population in Virginia was n/a in 2012. The DHS estimate is available for only the 10 states with the largest illegal alien populations. The DHS estimate of the national illegal alien population in 2012 was 11,430,000.

Other Estimates - The Pew Hispanic Center estimates the illegal alien population of the state at 210,000 as of 2010.

Fiscal Cost of Illegal Aliens

FAIR's most recent estimate of the cost outlays due to illegal immigration and tax receipts from illegal aliens in Virginia are as shown on the right:

Limited English Proficiency Students

Data are not available nationally on immigrant students (either legally or illegally resident in the United States) who are enrolled in primary and secondary schools (K-12). However, a large majority of these students enrolled in Limited English Proficiency/English Language Learning (LEP/ELL) instruction programs may be assumed to be children of either legal or illegal immigrants with a predominance of children of illegal aliens.

In Virginia, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 97,763) was 308.6 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 109.8 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected Virginia's population in 2050 likely would be between 10,991,000 million and 11,389,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (9,295,000) if immigration were reduced to a level where it balanced the number of U.S. residents leaving to reside outside of the United states, i.e., zero-net immigration. See "Projecting the U.S. Population to 2050: Four Immigration Scenarios," FAIR 2006.

Foreign Students

Data compiled by the Institute of International Education (IIE) record the number of foreign students attending post-secondary school in Virginia as 16,521 in 2013.

The chart above illustrates the change in the number of foreign students attending school in Virginia since 1997.

For information on foreign student issues see: Foreign Students in the United States.

Immigration Impact

Sanctuary Policies

City or County


Resolution 2246 (October 9, 2007)

  • “…beyond what is required by State and Federal law, the City and its various agencies will neither make inquiries about nor report on the citizenship of those who seek the protection of its laws or the use of its services.”


Traffic: Over one-quarter (26%) of Virginia's bridges and culverts are classified as structurally deficient or obsolete. The American Society of Civil Engineers termed the state's bridges to be "among the oldest in the nation," warning that "more than 50 percent" are approaching the end of their anticipated lifetimes.1

Virginia Beach commuters spent about 29 extra hours in traffic in 2007 due to congestion, resulting in 19 extra gallons of fuel consumption per commuter. In Richmond, each commuter lost about 20 hours and 13 gallons of fuel, bringing Virginia's cost of non-D.C. congestion to $703 million. Washington, D.C.'s urban area, which includes parts of Maryland and Virginia, was the second-most congested city in the U.S. in 2007. Commuters wasted an estimated 62 hours and 42 gallons of fuel while stuck in traffic, resulting in a time and fuel cost of $2.8 billion.2 For the entire Northern Virginia region, the average commuter delay per year was 38 hours, and the Hampton Roads region had the second-highest delays for recreational travelers in the country.3 Nationwide, the amount of travel in urban areas that was not congested dropped from 74 percent in 1982 to 45 percent in 2007. Prevalence of severe congestion nearly tripled, and the peak period of work-related congestion once dubbed "rush hour" has more than doubled in length since 1982.4 About 18 percent of Virginia commuters had a commute of 45 minutes or longer in 2008.5

In 2009, over 30 percent of Virginia's interstates and primary roads were judged to be deficient, a figure that is projected to rise to 79 percent by 2025 (including 96 percent of urban interstates). The projected cost of this maintenance is $74 billion.6 Vehicle travel on Virginia's highways increased 36% from 1990 to 2007.7 Driving on roads in need of repair costs Virginia motorists $1.2 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs — $248 per motorist.8

Within the next 20 years Northern Virginia's increase in population will be two to three times greater than the planned increase in highway capacity, according to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board.9

Disappearing Open Space: The amount of developed land in Virginia increased by 1,259,300 acres from 1982 to 2007, growing at a pace of 47,350 acres per year over the last ten years of that period.10 About 62,000 acres were developed in the Richmond region from 1982 to 1992—a developed area one and a half times the size of the city itself. Forty-seven percent of the farmland in the Richmond metro area disappeared from 1959 to 1992. At that rate, 86 percent of the farmland would disappear by 2020.11

A study of urban sprawl between 1970 and 1990 that calculated the impact of population increase and per capita land use found that 221.4 square miles of additional land were consumed by urban sprawl in the Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News metropolitan area, and 85.1 percent of that sprawl was attributable to population increase. In the Richmond metro area sprawl consumed an additional 158.1 square miles and population increase accounted for 47.1 percent of the increase. In the Washington, DC-Maryland, and Virginia metropolitan area, 47.0 percent of 450.1 square miles of growth was attributable to population increases.12

Sprawl: In the Richmond region, land was developed twice as fast from 1992 to 1997 as in the previous decade—from an average of 5,830 acres a year to 11,760 acres a year. The development rate increased 42 percent in Hampton Roads (which developed 43,300 acres from 1992 to 1997) and 3 percent in northern Virginia (which developed 49,300 acres).13

Water: Between 2000 and 2006, Virginia's foreign-born population increased by 35.7 percent.14 That compares with a 5.5 percent increase in the native-born population and that includes the children born to immigrants. When the U.S-born children of immigrants are included, immigration accounts for 57.9 percent of the state's overall growth during that time.15 By 2050 the state's population is expected to rise from 7.6 million in 2006 to 11.4 million.16 Virginia has a daily, per-capita water demand of 101.7 gallons.17 This means that by 2050 public water usage will have increased by 386.5 million gallons each day.

The Chesapeake Bay: Virginia obtains over $300 million dollars in revenue every year from tourism in the Chesapeake Bay area18. However, the state is already spending more than $400 million annually in an attempt to clean it up, and still the Bay continues to deteriorate19. The EPA estimates that the Chesapeake Bay is shrinking at a rate of more than 3,000 acres of wetlands every year.20

At the same time, the human population in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is expected to reach 19 million by 2030.21 Seven of the 100 fastest growing counties in the country are in Virginia, and all of them lie within the boundaries of the Chesapeake Bay watershed22. Three of these counties directly border the waterway. Each of these counties exhibited a population growth rate of between 34 and 78% in the past ten years, well above the 9% growth rate the nation experienced in the same time period. If growth continues in the Chesapeake Bay watershed at its current rate, the Conservation Fund predicts that 9.5 million acres of forested land within the watershed will be developed by 2030, reversing virtually all gains made so far in restoring the bay.23

Virginia is at the very bottom of the enormous drainage area that is the Chesapeake Bay watershed, collecting water from 5 other states and the District of Columbia. Both municipal and private water systems draw much of their water directly from the bay. This water is contaminated through stormwater and runoff with increasing amounts of bacteria, pathogens, industrial discharge, fertilizers, and pesticides as development in the entire watershed eats up clean ground and increasing numbers of people pollute the land. More than two-thirds of Virginia residents employ a water system which uses this surface water.24

Solid Waste: Virginia generates 1.5 tons of solid waste per capita.25

Air Pollution: In the American Lung Association's 2010 assessment based on the number of high ozone days, three-quarters of the Virginia counties scored received an "F," and none received an "A."

Lack of Affordable Housing: As population rises, the housing supply often can't keep up with the demand, causing prices to rise sharply. In northern Virginia, tight housing markets have kept prices beyond the reach of many blue-collar workers. Programs that require developers to build affordable housing into their projects have been stymied by efforts to restrict development in order to stop sprawl.26 In 2008, Virginia's housing wage (the amount a full-time worker must earn per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent) was $18.09 per hour, more than three times the minimum wage at the time. A minimum-wage worker would have had to work 124 hour weeks just to pay rent on a typical 2-bedroom apartment.27

The number of households requesting governmental rental subsidies has grown by thousands in each of northern Virginia's major jurisdictions in recent years. In Loudoun, the waiting list tripled. Fairfax County, where the average rent increased 40 percent in the last four years, reported a 25 percent increase in homelessness during the same period.28

Crowded Housing: An estimated 44,457 of Virginia's housing units were classified as crowded in 2008, defined as units with more than one occupant per room. This amounted to 1.5 percent of the state's housing units. 11,741 of those were severely crowded, with at least 1.5 occupants per room.29 Following the national trend, crowded housing rates were driven upward by immigration. 13 percent of children in immigrant families live in crowded housing, compared to just 6 percent of children with native-born parents.30

High immigrant concentrations in Fairfax County have led to massive crowding and plagued once-quiet neighborhoods. "People live in a great neighborhood, and the next day, 14 unrelated people move in, with inadequate bathroom facilities," says Virginia Senator Leslie Byrne. Byrne, whose office has been deluged with complaints about overcrowding, says it is harming this harms property values and putting public health at risk.31

Immigration and School Overcrowding: Virginia's K-12 student population increased by more than 80,000 between 2000 and 2005 (7 percent) and is expected to increase an additional 7 percent by 2015.32 In Northern Virginia, the constant influx of students makes it difficult to meet desirable student-teacher ratios, and experts attribute the increase in large part to an influx of immigrants.33 Funds for school construction and renovation have not kept up with the growth in the Fairfax County's student population; which has increased by 20,000 students since 1995. Stafford county had to ask the state for emergency funds to hire additional teachers to accommodate the hundreds more students than were expected.34 In Chesapeake, "no space is available at the elementary school, middle school, or high school."35

All signs point to a continued funding and infrastructural shortfalls in the Virginia school system. Nearly half (46%) of Virginia's schools are over forty years old, and over three-quarters of school districts planning new construction name prohibitively high repair cost as a reason. Between deferred payments and currently unmet obligations, Virginia's shortfall for school construction expenditures was $3.8 billion as of December 2009.36

Poverty:Virginia's immigrants are more likely to be poor than their native-born counterparts. In 2007, 10.1 percent of foreign-born households were below the poverty line, compared to 9.9 percent of native households. An additional 6.6 percent of both foreign-born and native households had incomes between 100 and 149 percent of the poverty level.37 12.9 percent of children in immigrant families were poor in 2006, compared to 11.6 percent of native children.38


Before September 11th, 2001, Virginia's lax requirements for obtaining a driver's license caused a stream of illegal aliens into the state. After the terrorist attacks, the state tightened its identity and residency requirements and will no longer accept passports with expired visas as an acceptable document.39

Experts say that northern Virginia, with its thriving service economy and surging communities of legal immigrants, has made northern Virginia a magnet for illegal aliens.40 Approximately eighty percent of the state's illegal residents live in northern Virginia.41


  1. American Society of Civil Engineers, "2009 Virginia Infrastructure Report Card."
  2. Texas Transportation Institute, "Urban Mobility Report 2009."
  3. Virginia Section, American Society of Civil Engineers, "2009 IRC Summaries."
  4. Texas Transportation Institute, "Urban Mobility Report 2009," p 8-9, 22-24
  5. American Community Survey, 2008 Estimates, Custom Data Table.
  6. Virginia Section, American Society of Civil Engineers, "2009 IRC Summaries."
  7. Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, Virginia State Page, Accessed July 23, 2010.
  8. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.
  9. Hiawatha Nicely, "Northern Virginia's Gridlock Affects the Entire State, "Roanoke Times & World News, February 16, 2002.
  10. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, "Summary Report: 2007 National Resources Inventory."
  11. Rex Springston and Will Jones, "A Growing Problem, "Richmond Times Dispatch," September 10, 2000.
  12. Beck, Roy and Leon Kolankiewicz, "Weighing Sprawl Factors in Large U.S. Cities," NumbersUSA, March 2001.
  13. U.S Census Bureau 2006.
  14. Jack Martin, "Issue Brief: Estimation of Foreign Born Birthrate." FAIR. 2008
  15. Jack Martin and Stanley Fogel, "Projecting the U.S. Population to 2050." FAIR. March 2006
  16. U.S. Geological Survey 2000.
  17. Ron Vample, "Sprawl Drying Up Drinking Water," Associated Press, August 28, 2002.
  18. Virginia Tourism Corporation, "Vision Plan for Virginia’s Tourism Industry," 2002
  19. ChesapeakeStat, "About Bay Funding"
  20. Virginia DEQ, "Restoring Virginia’s Wetlands, A Citizen’s Toolkit," 2006
  21. Anita Huslin, "Warning Issued on Health of Bay," Washington Post, July 14, 2000.
  22. U.S. Census Bureau, "100 Fastest Growing Counties"
  23. The Conservation Fund, "The State of Chesapeake Forests," 2006
  24. U.S. EPA Virginia, "List of Water Systems in SDWIS"
  25. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.
  26. Michael Laris, "Affordable Housing Programs"
  27. National Low Income Housing Coalition, "Out of Reach 2007-08."
  28. Peter Whoriskey, "Prosperity Feeds Housing Pinch," Washington Post, March 17, 2002.
  29. American Community Survey, Three-Year Estimates 2006-2008. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool.
  30. Kids Count Data Center, which used 2008 American Community Survey Data.
  31. Lisa Rein and Michael D. Shear "Sleeping Quarters Measure Withdrawn," Washington Post, January 30, 2001.
  32. "Overview of Public Elementary and Secondary Schools and Districts: School Year 1999-2000," National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education. "Public Elementary and Secondary School Student Enrollment, High School Completions, and Staff From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2005-06', National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, June 2007. "Projections of Education Statistics to 2015," National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
  33. Vaishali Honawar, "Schools Facing 8,000 More Students,"Washington Times, August 27, 2000.
  34. Steven Ginsberg and Christina A. Samuels, "School Enrollments Surge for 2 Year,"Washington Post,"September 9, 2001.
  35. Robert McCabe, "Schools Can't Handle Growth,"Virginian-Pilot,"August 26, 2002.
  36. Virginia Section, American Society of Civil Engineers, "2009 IRC Summaries."
  37. Migration Information Source State Data (Migration Policy Institute)
  38. Urban Institute, Children of Immigrants Data Tool.
  39. David Cho and Mary Beth Sheridan, "Tighter Immigrant ID Rules Shut Doors,"Washington Post,"March 18, 2002
  40. Mary Beth Sheridan and Peter Whoriskey, "A Magnet for Illegal Immigrants," Washington Post," March 27, 2001.
  41. Spencer S. Hsu, "Va. Lawmaker Takes Aim at Illegal Immigrants," Washington Post, January 16, 1995.