Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 9,919,945
Population (2000 CB est.) 8,186,453
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 940,138
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 577,273
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 9.5 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 5.9%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 353,192
Share Naturalized (2012) 37.6 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 239,165
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 44,079
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 450,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $2,398,689,473
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 15,540,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of Georgia in 2012 was 9,919,945 residents.

Between 2000 (population 8,186,453) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 141,510 residents. That was an annual average change of 1.6 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 6,478,216) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 170,824 residents. The annual average rate of change was 2.4 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 Georgia was about 940,138 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 9.5 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 29,620 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 141,510  people. That is a 20.9  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 62.9 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 19.0 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 25,740 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 55,365 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 39.1 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 41.5 percent of Georgia's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 59.7 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in Georgia'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 9.9 percent to 13.4 percent. In 2000, 49.8 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 41.5 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 58.7 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 64.5 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 353,192 residents of Georgia, or 37.6 percent of the foreign-born population in Georgia, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 169,232 residents, or 29.3 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 Georgia's population resulting from net international migration has been about 54,800 people. It was 19.5 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 Georgia were 1327 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 1,880 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 26,823 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 Georgia between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 517,736 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 Georgia was 24,118 (7,247 pre-1982 residents and 16,871 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 Georgia 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


Georgia has received 44,079 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 2,520 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

Georgia Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $1,453.50 60.6%
LEP educ. $217.80 9.1%
Medicaid+ $265.50 11.1%
SCHIP $52.00 2.2%
Justice $194.60 8.1%
Welfare+ $77.10 3.2%
General $138.00 5.8%
Total $2,398.70  
Tax receipts $142.40  
Net Cost $2,256.30  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of Georgia as of 2010 was about 450,000 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 Georgia was 400,000 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 425,000 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 Georgia 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 Georgia, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 85,410) was 119.9 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 1,649,589 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected Georgia's population in 2050 likely would be between 15,146,000 million and 15,540,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (13,157,000) 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 Georgia as 16,670 in 2013.

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

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

Immigration Impact

Environmental and Quality of Life Profile

Water: Georgia has per-capita water demand of nearly 153 gallons each day.1 If population projections hold true, by 2050 this will have created the additional consumption of over 943 million gallons of water each day. As the state has faced dry times in recent years, Georgia has been forced to question if they will always be able to supply water to their burgeoning population. The taps may run out, when dry times inevitably strike again in the future.

Georgia's primary drinking water source comes from Lake Lanier, a manmade lake that has dipped more than twenty feet below its full level in the last year.2 In fact, Lanier entered uncharted territory, hitting in 2008 its lowest, documented springtime level.3

Recognizing the limits to its own water resources, Georgia has been forced to begin looking elsewhere for water. Georgia recently lost a legal battle against Alabama and Florida, who also rely on Lake Lanier water. The case denied Georgia the right to take an additional allocation of water to divert to Atlanta, where population growth and urban sprawl are most notably rampant.4 In the wake of this case, Georgia opened a new court battle with neighbor Tennessee, seeking to pump water from the Tennessee River which runs between the two states borders. Beginning to face the reality of a limit on its own natural resources, Georgia is determined to try to find water downstream.5

Additionally, Georgia's water shortages pose serious economic threats. Such shortages create sudden depressions in tourism, home prices, and job markets such as gardening and lawn care.6

Although Georgia recently declared that citizens should attempt to restrict metropolitan water usage by 10 percent, and limit the number of times individual's can water their lawns in certain areas, these precautions may not be enough—especially if the state's population continues to boom.7

Traffic: Traffic on the state's highways increased by 48 percent from 1990 to 2008. Over half (56%) of Georgia's major urban highways are considered congested by The Road Information Project (TRIP).8 As population growth put more traffic on the roads, the average commute for Georgia residents increased 22 percent during the 1990s, to 28 minutes in 2000.9 

Atlanta is America's third-most congested city in terms of time and fuel wasted, only behind Washington, DC and Los Angeles, CA. The average commuter lost 57 hours and burned 40 gallons of fuel sitting in traffic, resulting in a total cost of $3.0 billion.10 About 18 percent of commuters had a commute of 45 minutes or longer in 2008, placing Georgia sixth among states.11

The Atlanta area is planning to spend $50 billion on transportation improvements over the next 25 years, only to see gridlock get worse. After expanding highways, transit and bike paths and so on, the Atlanta Regional Commission predicts that traffic delays will be increased. The drive from Marietta to Hartsfield-Jackson Airport takes 48 minutes today. In 2030 it will take 70 minutes but if Atlanta doesn't spend the money, it will take 84 minutes. In the next 25 years 2 million more people will be are expected to pour into the region.12

The number of miles driven each day on metro Atlanta roads is expected to rise by about 42 million miles by 2025 — about half the distance from the Earth to the sun.13 Carl Patton, vice chairman for transportation of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, predicts that by 2010 Atlantans will spend more time in traffic than at home. Traffic on I-95 at is increasing by seven percent annually.14

Disappearing open space: The amount of developed land in Delaware increased by 121,400 acres from 1982 to 2007, growing at a pace of 6,570 acres per year over the last ten years of that period.15 Of the 74,542 acres of state parkland in Georgia, 8,212 are endangered by sprawl, commercial and residential development, and traffic, according to the National Park Trust.16 About two-thirds of the trees in the Atlanta area have been cut down by development, reports the Georgia Conservancy.17

A study of urban sprawl between 1970 and 1990 that calculated the impact of population increase and per capita land use found that 701.7 square miles of additional land were consumed by urban sprawl in the Atlanta metropolitan area, and 63.5 percent of that sprawl was attributable to population increase. In the Chattanooga metro area, which crosses into Georgia, sprawl consumed an additional 140 square miles and population increase accounted for 36 percent of the increase.18

Crowded Housing: An estimated 79,192 of Georgia's housing units were classified as crowded in 2008, defined as units with more than one occupant per room. This amounted to 2.3 percent of the state's housing units. 18,763 of those were severely crowded, with at least 1.5 occupants per room.19 Out of the 100 most crowded metropolitan areas with populations over 65,000 in 2008, five are in Georgia: Dalton (#25), Gainesville (#53), Rome (#75), Macon (#82), and Warner Robbins (#87).20 Nationally, crowded housing rates are driven upward by immigration, where 27 percent of children in immigrant families live in crowded housing compared to 9 percent of children with native-born parents. In Georgia, the shares are 22 percent of children in immigrant families are in crowded housing compared to 9 percent of those in native-headed households.21

In Gwinnett County, complaints about neighborhood traffic and trash have led to zoning ordinances to limit the number of people living in single-family homes. Officials say the influx of immigrants has led to a rise in crowded housing and subsequent complaints from long-time residents.22

Sprawl: In 1990, metro Atlanta measured about 65 miles from north to south. It's now about 110 miles across. By 2018, its range is expected to include suburbs like Athens and Dalton. The Atlanta Regional Commission projects that the region will grow by 1.6 million people by 2020.23

Air Polution: More than 3.2 million Georgia residents live in areas where ozone pollution and smog have made it unsafe to breathe the air.24 Metro Atlanta is among the worst violators of the federal standards for ground-level ozone, with dangerously high ozone levels. Most of the problem is caused by motor vehicle emissions.

The American Lung Association ranks metro Atlanta, Fulton, Rockdale, Douglas, DeKalb, and Fayette as having some of the worst air pollution in the country.25 Of the 21 Georgia counties that were graded on ozone levels in the Association's 2010 assessment, 17 received an "F." Two others received a "D," and Chatham and Glynn counties were graded "B."26

Solid Waste: Georgia generates 1.3 tons of solid waste per capita each year.27

School Overcrowding: Georgia's K-12 enrollment increased by over 175,000 students between 2000 and 2006 (a 12 percent increase) and is projected to increase by an additional 13 percent by 2015.28 Georgia has a student-teacher ratio of 14.7.29

Throughout the state, schools are struggling to meet the needs of growing student populations. In many counties, students must attend classes in portable classrooms and eat lunch as early as 10:30 to ease the strain on crowded cafeterias.30 In some areas, sports leagues can't find room for all the students who want to participate. Principals report that they don't have the space to comply with a recent law requiring schools to cut class sizes; more than 14,900 new classrooms are needed.

Poverty: Georgia's immigrants are more likely to be poor than their native-born counterparts. In 2007, 16.1 percent of foreign-born households were below the poverty line, compared to 14.1 percent of native households. An additional 14.1 percent of the foreign-born and 9.0 percent of native households were not in poverty but had incomes less than 1.5 times the poverty level.31 21.4 percent of children in immigrant families were poor in 2006, compared to 19.4 percent of native children. 32


  1. U.S. Geological Survey, 2000.
  2. Garry Boulard. "Hot Water." State Legislatures Vol. 34, Issue 3, 21-23. March 2008.
  3. Debbie Gilbert. "Our lake in crisis: What a difference a year makes." Gainesville Times. May 25, 2008.
  4. Joe Cook. "Georgia officials take wrong tack on water." Journal-Constitution. April 22, 2008.
  5. Joe Cook. "Georgia officials take wrong tack on water." Journal-Constitution. April 22, 2008
  6. Richard Sammon. "Water Shortages: Atlanta's Cup Nearly Runneth Out." Kiplinger Business Forecasts Vol 2007, No 1221. December 21, 2007.
  7. Richard Sammon. "Water Shortages: Atlanta's Cup Nearly Runneth Out." Kiplinger Business Forecasts Vol 2007, No 1221. December 21, 2007
  8. The Road Information Project (TRIP), "Key Facts about Georgia's Surface Transportation System and Federal Funding," May 2010.
  9. "The 2005 Urban Mobility Report", Texas Transportation Institute. "U.S. Population 2007 Data Sheet," Population Reference Bureau.
  10. Texas Transportation Institute, "Urban Mobility Report 2009."
  11. American Community Survey, 2008 Estimates, Custom Data Table.
  12. Jingle Davis, "It's No Longer Just the Seashore Islands that Attract Development: Growth Moves Inland," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 28, 2000.
  13. Dave Williams, "Barnes' Green-Space Plan Covers Most of State," Savannah Morning News, February 2, 2000
  14. Jane Gross, "Urban Sprawl Threatens the Solitude and Fragile Lands of Georgia's State Parks," New York Times, August 31, 2000.
  15. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, "Summary Report: 2007 National Resources Inventory."
  16. Lee Bey, "Nation's New Suburbia Growing Out of Control," Chicago Sun-Times, November 19, 2000.
  17. Haya El Nasser, "U.S. Neighborhoods Grow More Crowded," USA Today, July 7, 2002.
  18. Randy Capps, "Hardship among Children of Immigrants: Finding from the 1999 National Survey of America's Families," Urban Institute, 2001.
  19. American Community Survey, Three-Year Estimates 2006-2008. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool.
  20. American Community Survey, 2008 Estimates. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool.
  21. Kids Count Data Center, which used 2008 American Community Survey Data.
  22. R. Costello, "Centennial Place: Model of Mixed-Use Urban Living," Atlanta Business Chronicle, September 7, 1998.
  23. Michael Kanell, "Atlanta's Explosive Growth Comes at a Steep Price," Atlanta Journal Constitution, June 30, 2002.
  24. "State of the Air 2005: Georgia", American Lung Association.
  25. Ibid.
  26. American Lung Association, "State of the Air 2010."
  27. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.
  28. "Overview of Public Elementary and Secondary Schools and Districts: School Year 1999-2000," National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education. "Projections of Education Statistics to 2015," 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.
  29. "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.
  30. "Shannon Womble, "No Room to Grow," Savannah Morning News, August 24, 2000.
  31. Migration Information Source State Data (Migration Policy Institute)
  32. Urban Institute, Children of Immigrants Data Tool.