West Virginia


Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 1,855,413
Population (2000 CB est.) 1,808,344
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 25,846
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 19,390
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 1.4 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 1.1%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 12,579
Share Naturalized (2012) 48.7 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 7,034
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 175
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 5,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $30,763,769
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 1,854,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of West Virginia in 2012 was 1,855,413 residents.

Between 2000 (population 1,808,344) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 3,842 residents. That was an annual average change of 0.2 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 1,793,477) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 1,487 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 West Virginia was about 25,846 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 1.4 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 527 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 3,842  people. That is a 13.7  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 33.3 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 2.8 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 575 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 1,100 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 28.7 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 48.0 percent of West Virginia's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 35.7 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in West 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 2.7 percent to 2.4 percent. In 2000, 29.5 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 31.0 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 44.3 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 52.0 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 12,579 residents of West Virginia, or 48.7 percent of the foreign-born population in West Virginia, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 10,446 residents, or 53.9 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 West Virginia's population resulting from net international migration has been about 1,465 people. It was 63.4 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 West Virginia were 58 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 491 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 774 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 West Virginia between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 30,261 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 West Virginia was 406 (127 pre-1982 residents and 279 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 West 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 http://www.dhs.gov/files/statistics/publications/yearbook.shtm) then select the desired year, click Legal Permanent Residents, data and then select "supplemental table 1."

Chart of Immigrant Admission by Fiscal Year


West Virginia has received 175 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 19 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

West Virginia Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $14.70 47.7%
LEP educ. $3.00 9.7%
Medicaid+ $1.60 5.2%
SCHIP $0.50 1.6%
Justice $1.30 4.2%
Welfare+ $3.50 11.4%
General $6.20 20.1%
Total $30.80  
Tax receipts $2.10  
Net Cost $28.70  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of West Virginia 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 West 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 <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 West 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 West Virginia, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 1,560) was 150.1 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 96.9 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected West Virginia's population in 2050 likely would be between 1,842,000 million and 1,854,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (1,786,000) 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 West Virginia as 2,681 in 2013.

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

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

Immigration Impact


Water: West Virginia has a daily, per-capita water demand of 105.1 gallons.1

Traffic: West Virginia highway traffic increased by 29 percent between 1990 and 2008. 2 As population growth put more traffic on the roads, the average commute for West Virginia residents increased from 21 minutes in 1990 to 26 minutes in 2005.3 About 14 percent of West Virginia commuters had a commute of 45 minutes or longer in 2008.4

Disappearing Open Space: The amount of developed land in West Virginia increased by 518,400 acres from 1982 to 2007, growing at a pace of 19,290 acres per year over the last ten years of that period.5 State agriculture officials estimate that West Virginia has lost 223 percent of its apple orchard land since the early 1900s due to sprawl.6

Crowded Housing: An estimated 57,816 of West Virginia's housing units were classified as crowded in 2008, defined as units with more than one occupant per room. This amounted to 1.0 percent of the state's housing units. In addition, 2,004 were severely crowded, with at least 1.5 occupants per room.7 5 percent of the state's children live in crowded housing.8 Nationwide, children in immigrant families were three times as likely to live in crowded conditions as children in native families (27 percent to 9 percent).9

Air Pollution: As population increases, pollution usually rises along with it. Of the nine West Virginia counties assessed for risk of high ozone exposure in 2010, seven were graded "F," one received a "D," and one earned a "C."10 One in four West Virginians breathes air so smoggy that it fails federal quality standards and worsens such diseases as asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.11

Poverty: Immigrants in West Virginia are more likely to be poor than natives. In 2008, 17.8 percent of foreign born households were poor, compared to 17.0 percent of native households. The poverty rate among natives has decreased by 13.2 percent since 1990, while poverty among the foreign born has risen by 39.1 percent.12

Solid Waste: West Virginia generates 0.97 tons of solid waste per capita each year.13


According to the Governor's Office of Fiscal Risk Analysis and Management, West Virginia employers hired 52,000 illegal aliens in 2002, costing the state $13.7 million in lost payroll taxes alone.14


  1. U.S. Geological Service, 2000.
  2. The Road Information Project (TRIP), "Key Facts about West Virginia's Surface Transportation System and Federal Funding," May 2010.
  3. "Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000, Census 2000, U.S. Census Bureau. "Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 1990, 1990 Census, U.S. Census Bureau.
  4. American Community Survey, 2008 Estimates, Custom Data Table.
  5. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, "Summary Report: 2007 National Resources Inventory."
  6. "Suburban Sprawl Threatens W.Va.'s Remaining Apple Farms," Associated Press, October 28, 2002.
  7. American Community Survey, Three-Year Estimates 2006-2008. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool.
  8. Kids Count Data Center, Kids Count Data Center, 2008 American Community Survey Data.
  9. Kids Count Data Center, 2008 American Community Survey Data.
  10. American Lung Association, "State of the Air 2010."
  11. "State of the Air 2005: State", American Lung Association.
  12. State Fact Sheet, Migration Information Source, Migration Policy Institute
  13. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.
  14. Lawrence Messina, "Undocumented Workers Cost Millions in Lost Taxes," Charleston Gazette, March 21, 2003.