African immigration to the United States

In recent years, The number of immigrants has exploded all over the world reaching a record high of 21.3 million people in 2016 drawing alarm in many countries. Consequently, one in every 33 people in the planet today is an immigrant. The report by the World Economic Forum (United Nations, 2018) shows that more than 19 million Africans moved within the continent compared to 16 million who immigrated outside the continent in 2015. Moreover, the study revealed that, 19% of the world’s migrants in 2015 preferred moving to the United States. However, stories of African immigration have swamped the media painting a picture of mass exodus, suffering and migrants stranded in transit countries like Libya. These stories highlight the serious human rights abuses and the dangerous situations African immigrants face when they undertake illegal immigration.

However, evidence has shown that these depictions in the media are often sensational and not balanced. A huge number of African immigrants make safe journeys and follow legal protocols when obtaining entry into the United States. Moreover, Black African immigrants today represent one of the fastest growing segments of the immigrant population in the United States. A report by (Capps, McCabe, & Fix, 2012) notes that African immigrants to the United States generally integrate better than other immigrant groups and have higher college completion rates than even United States natives. African immigrants are also more likely to get American citizenship and be proficient English speakers. They end up forming a vital workforce that drives the economy and adds a huge chunk to the cultural diversity of the United States. Therefore, although media reports paint a grim picture of African immigration, many countries like the United States and Australia are reaping huge benefits from the influx of immigrants.

However, it begs the question why Africans choose to leave their homelands and opt to live in the diaspora. Many leave behind families, extended relations and permanently reside in foreign lands all over the world. This article seeks to find out the reasons why Africans in modern times leave their homes and settle in the United States.


Job opportunities

Firstly, the most common precursor to immigrate is the search for better employment opportunities and better living conditions in the West. Most African countries suffered colonization and their systems are still trying to catch up to the advancements of the West. Therefore, many African residents find it difficult to sustain a livelihood at home and search for greener pastures in the West. Africans with advanced education are more likely to land jobs in the international job market than back home in Africa.


Education opportunities

Secondly, many Africans move to the United States to obtain advanced training. The United States’ education system is one of the best in the world and most African parents prefer their children to get an education in the United States to secure their future. However, after completing their studies many African students tend to seek citizenship and permanently reside in the United States because of the better living conditions and better employment opportunities.



Other African immigrants flee from their homes because of political instability and conflict ending up as asylum seekers. In 2016 for instance 9 million refugees were displaced from sub-Saharan Africa, a 100% increase from 2010. The inadequate education systems and economic deprivation in most African countries have made unstable African countries a ripe breeding ground for terrorist and extremist groups like Al shabaab and Boko Haram. For instance, recent migrant arrivals are those escaping persecution and terrorism in Somalia Central African Republic and Nigeria. A Pew research found that Asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa tend to be highly educated and they join the labor force more quickly than those born in the United States. Refugees are not always happy to leave their homes but civil strife and war force them to seek greener pastures abroad.


Diversity Visa Lottery

The United States also offers permanent resident visas through the State Department’s diversity visa lottery. Every year, 50,000 people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States are granted permanent resident visas and African immigrants make up 46% of the recipients. To be a green card holder all you need to do is apply on the State Department’s website if your country is eligible. You can also view an article here on Afrikagora on how to register and increase your chances of qualifying for the green card lottery.


Family reunification

Finally, many Africans immigrate to reunite with their family in the United States through the family reunification programme. Immediate family members such as children, spouses or parents may request for reunification. When one immigrates, they tend to leave their families behind to pursue better life and often provide for their family back home. For a resettled African immigrant, families back home may be living in abject poverty or dangerous environments and reuniting with their family in the United States is a good choice that may ease their burden. Moreover, most refugees are given a sponsor to take care of them as they await for their resettlement agencies to help them through family reunification process.



In conclusion, African immigrants resettle in the United States mainly in search of better employment and living standards. Also, world class education opportunities attract many young Africans to immigrate as international students. Sadly, political strife and terrorism today displaces many Africans and they are forced to seek asylum in the United States. Finally, The Diversity Lottery programme and family reunification programme are other reasons why Africans immigrate to the United States. However, despite the route one takes to get to the United States, Africans in the diaspora are valuable assets to the countries they reside in and they offer billions of remittances to the African continent thus fueling economic growth worldwide.


Dickson Soire

Afrikagora Magazine

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