North Dakota


Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 699,628
Population (2000 CB est.) 642,200
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 19,380
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 12,114
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 2.8 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 1.9%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 8,232
Share Naturalized (2012) 42.5 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 6,816
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 6,297
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 5,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $32,491,618
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 657,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of North Dakota in 2012 was 699,628 residents.

Between 2000 (population 642,200) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 4,688 residents. That was an annual average change of 0.7 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 638,800) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 340 residents. The annual average rate of change was 0.1 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 North Dakota was about 19,380 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 2.8 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 1,195 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 4,688  people. That is a 25.5  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 60.0 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 5.6 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 495 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 1,090 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 23.2 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 56.3 percent of North Dakota's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 52.3 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in North Dakota'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 6.3 percent to 5.8 percent. In 2000, 29 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 29.8 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 27.0 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 23.3 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 8,232 residents of North Dakota, or 42.5 percent of the foreign-born population in North Dakota, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 5,156 residents, or 42.6 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 North Dakota's population resulting from net international migration has been about 1,435 people. It was 11.5 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 North Dakota were 190 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 321 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 931 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 North Dakota between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 23,566 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 North Dakota was 58 (14 pre-1982 residents and 44 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 North Dakota 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


North Dakota has received 6,297 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 555 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

North Dakota Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $15.40 47.4%
LEP educ. $3.10 9.5%
Medicaid+ $2.50 7.7%
SCHIP $0.90 2.8%
Justice $1.90 5.8%
Welfare+ $3.10 9.5%
General $5.60 17.2%
Total $32.50  
Tax receipts $1.30  
Net Cost $31.20  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of North Dakota as of 2010 was about 5,000 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 North Dakota 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 <10,000 as of>

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 North Dakota 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 North Dakota, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 4,291) was 51.5 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 84.8 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected North Dakota's population in 2050 likely would be between 648,000 million and 657,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (603,000) 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 North Dakota as 3,087 in 2013.

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

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

Immigration Impact


While rural North Dakota is losing population to urban centers, the population increase in Fargo and Cass County during the 1990s — more than 20 percent — surprised demographers. Nearly half of the newcomers to Cass County during the 1990s were immigrants. "That's not inconsequential numbers," notes the director of the State Data Center at North Dakota State University. "How well will we deal with that?" 1


Water: Between 2000 and 2006, the foreign born population of North Dakota increased by 10.4 percent. 2 This compares with a 1.2 percent decrease in the native-born population and that included the children born to immigrants. According the U.S. Geological Survey, per-capita, water demand in the state is just under 100 gallons per day (99.6). 3 This means that the net increase of 1,264 foreign born between 2000 and 2006 has added approximately 125,000 gallons of water each day to the state's demand.

Monitoring of the Fox Hills aquifer shows that wells are declining between 1 and 2 feet per year. The Water Appropriation Division for the State Water Commission is particularly concerned about ranches which operate on artesian wells. Some are only a few feet from running dry.4

Despite the clear decline in water levels, demand for water remains at an all time high to facilitate energy projects with oil, coal, and ethanol. Already the state has been forced to keep new ethanol plants from tapping into the fragile aquifer. "They're slowly, locally mining the aquifer and it's only a matter of time before the aquifer will cease to flow in low-lying areas," the director of the Water Appropriation Division for the State Water Commission said.5

Dry times have also contributed to the state's dwindling water supply. There has been a great decrease in surface water in the state. Much of the state did not receive adequate snowfall or spring rains to replenish the ponds, and reservoirs. In Minot, citizens have been enduring drought for quite some time. Drought has reduced the Souris River that runs through Minot to little more than a creek. Additionally, officials anticipate Lake Darling, on the river northwest of Minot to drop to a record low this summer. Without normal surface water sources, Minot has been forced to place a burgeoning and unsustainable demand on the town's aquifers.6

Drought has been of particular concern to those in the cattle industry. In addition to posing a shortage of water for all of the cattle, the lower supply may result in unsafe levels of salts and toxins.

Traffic: As population growth put more traffic on the roads, the average commute for North Dakota residents increased from 15.5 minutes in 200 to 16.3 minutes in 2005. 7,8 6 percent of commuters in North Dakota have a commute that is 45 minutes or more. 9

Disappearing open space: Each year, North Dakota loses 6,600 acres of open space and farmland due to development.10

Crowded housing: In 2005 almost 3,000 North Dakota households were defined as crowded or severely crowded by housing authorities. 11 Studies show that a rise in crowded housing often correlates with an increase in the number of foreign-born. 12,13

Poverty: In 2005 12.6 percent of immigrant had incomes below the poverty level. 14

Solid Waste: North Dakota generates 1.01 tons of solid waste per capita. 15


  1. Lauren Donovan. "Old country for no men." Bismarck Tribune. June 8, 2008
  2. " Minot, N.S. could face water supply problems." U.S.Water News Online. April 2008.
  3. Worried About Livestock Water." Dakota Farmer. June 2, 2008
  4. FAIR estimate based on the 2006 Current Population Survey
  5. "Estimates of the Unauthorized Migrant Population for States based on the March 2005 CPS", Pew Hispanic Center.
  6. "Fargo Area Population Growth 'Phenomenal'" Associated Press, December 31, 2001.
  7. Selected Social Characteristics: 2000 Data Set - 2005 American Community Survey, American Fact Finder, U.S. Census Bureau.
  8. Selected Social Characteristics: 2005 Data Set - 2005 American Community Survey, American Fact Finder, U.S. Census Bureau.
  9. "U.S. Population 2007 Data Sheet," Population Reference Bureau.
  10. "State Rankings by Acreage and Rate of Non-Federal Land Developed," Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture.
  11. Selected Housing Characteristics: 2005 Data Set - 2005 American Community Survey, American Fact Finder, U.S. Census Bureau.
  12. Haya El Nasser, "U.S. Neighborhoods Grow More Crowded," USA Today, July 7, 2002.
  13. Randy Capps, "Hardship among Children of Immigrants: Findings from the 1999 National Survey of America's Families," Urban Institute, 2001.
  14. "North Dakota State Factsheet," Migration Information Source, Migration Policy Institute.
  15. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.


Other Resources  

State Local Reform Organizations

State Representatives Voting Record


Updated February 2012